I read something today—a friend’s status on Facebook–that really hit a nerve in me to the point where I felt (and still feel) it was necessary to speak up. And so I did. And now I’m saying it here as well. Why? Because I feel that it’s important; that it needs to be said. This was the offending status:
For starters, I want to point out that I’m a firm believer in the first amendment. I am. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and to voice those opinions in whatever manner they choose, including and especially on their own social media pages. Having said that, normally–I wouldn’t say anything. In fact, I make it a point to NOT get involved or comment for the fact that it—at least in my experience—usually tends to lead to conflict and drama that to be honest, I really have no interest in or patience for. After all, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that most people don’t appreciate being told they’re wrong…or that some people tend to take great offense to being called out and having their opinions and beliefs questioned and challenged–especially when that calling out takes place in a public setting such as Facebook or other social media. However– if we’re being technical–it should be pointed out that those offended individuals really have no leg to stand on, so to speak. I mean, yes—it is their opinion and their page and therefore they can do and say and post whatever they like—but they also have to be mindful of the fact that not everyone is going to like what they have to say or agree with them…and that some are going to be a little more vocal–insistent even–about it than others. As such, they really have no place to take offense—if they put it out there for people to see and respond to. If they didn’t want to be disagreed with or have their opinions challenged…then they probably shouldn’t have posted them on social media. That’s just simple logic.
So…no doubt, I’m sure we’ve all heard the story by now—how this past weekend Harambe, a silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, was killed by zoo officials when a 4-year-old boy breached the barriers and fell into the gorilla enclosure. You’d have to live in a cave to have not heard about it. It’s been trending all over social media for days. It’s the talk of the town, so to speak…internet-style. Everyone and their mother’s got something to say about it. No surprise there. And of course, people are split on the issue. There are those that stand behind the zoo officials’ decision to kill the gorilla…and then you have everyone else: the animal rights activists and the average citizen who—predictably and understandably—have voiced their disagreement with, contempt for, and pure outrage over the decision that was made. Now, I’m no expert on gorillas, nor was I there so it’s really not my place to say whether or not the right decision was made, but I can understand some of their talking points as far as the animal rights issue goes. However, given the seriousness and exigency of the situation, I think the zoo officials did what they felt they had to do in order to ensure that child’s safety–and I’m sure they didn’t make the decision lightly.
Personally, I can’t say that I’m leaning more towards one than the other. The video going around isn’t damning in any one particular way, in my opinion. Also, it doesn’t show the incident in its entirety, so you don’t have all the facts. Yes, it showed the gorilla not-so-gently dragging the little boy through the moat and tossing him around a bit. But overall–from what I saw–it didn’t look as though he was trying to hurt the little boy per se— it almost looks as though he was maybe trying to protect the little boy from the other gorillas in the enclosure and from all the people that were watching. At one point in the video the gorilla looks like he’s holding the boy’s hand and tries to pull is pants up. With a doubt though, it was still a dangerous situation that could have easily had a disastrous end. I do think that maybe if they’d gotten those screaming, iPhones out & video-taping people out of there, the gorilla might not have been as agitated as he so clearly was. But again, I’m not an expert and I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. I’m no hardcore, card-carrying PETA member or anything, but I do take issue with using animals for our entertainment (I was totally that weird kid who hated going to the zoo when I was little). It just feels wrong to me. We shouldn’t be capturing and keeping and ultimately breeding these animals in captivity just to draw in a crowd or make a few bucks. We should just let them be free, as nature intended.
This whole thing could have been avoided, that much is absolute fact. But it wasn’t and it happened. And now, it’s one huge, social-media-trending mess. Because of that, someone or something has to be at fault, to blame—but whom/what is that…? Personally, I think the blame should fall with both the zoo and the child’s parent. The Zoo—because they really should have better strategies in place for these kinds of incidents, including the use of non-fatal tactics that they can use to diffuse the situation and the animal without the loss of the animal’s life. Also, structurally, none of their exhibits or enclosures should even have barriers wide enough for a child–or anyone for that matter–to breach and get through. Why they’d design barriers that way in the first place is beyond me. Even so, the Zoo officials can only do so much. They are NOT babysitters. It’s not their job to watch out for every child that comes through its gates. That’s the parent’s job. Is that little boy’s mother partly to blame for what happened? Certainly, yes. She should have been doing a better job of watching her child and not have taken her eyes off the boy—especially when witnesses alleged the boy had been insisting on wanting to “swim in the water with the gorillas”. But from what the media is saying, she had other children to watch and likely was distracted. She probably only took her eyes off the little boy just for a minute. The problem is—and anyone with kids or is around kids on a regular basis knows this—that a minute is all it takes and more than enough time for a determined child on a mission to get themselves into trouble. There’s a lot of should’ve’s where the mother is concerned going around online. How she should’ve been watching her child. How she should’ve had him on one of those child leashes or something, or at the very least, have brought another adult to aid her in watching the other children she had with her, including the little boy. Had she done those things, she likely wouldn’t have been too distracted to notice her 4-year-old wandering off and falling into a gorilla enclosure. But…I’m not going to pass judgement on the woman or insult her or call into question her ability to parent her children as so many have done and continue to do so since the incident. It’s not my place—or anyone else’s place, for that matter—to do that. Accidents happen. Kids do wander off. Parents aren’t perfect. I don’t know her so I don’t know if she’s a good mother or not, but I don’t think it’s altogether right how some people are crucifying her and demanding she be charged with child neglect and prosecuted, sent to jail, or even to the extreme—have her children taken away from her. That’s a little much, don’t you think? I mean, I’m sure the woman didn’t intend for a trip to the Zoo with her kids to turn into a viral rage-fest literally overnight. And as far as her being a crappy parent–well, you don’t see a lot of “bad parents” taking the time to bring their kids to the Zoo, do you? Most ”bad parents” wouldn’t even be bothered.
Any one of those issues I can justify an association to this incident with. But to drag race into it and make loaded statements such as the one in the above status—is just plain wrong. And I told my friend so. I couldn’t help it. He’s a close friend and I love him dearly, but he is wrong in this. So wrong. What happened in that Zoo and the outrage it sparked in the animal rights’ community and across the nation had absolutely nothing to do with the little boy being black. Nothing at all. Not one person or media outlet has spoken a word about the color of that kid’s skin. Not one word. Not that I’ve heard anyhow. People are angry that a beloved, endangered animal was killed as a result of an incident that could have been prevented. No one is saying that little boy’s life didn’t matter or that it mattered less than the life of the gorilla. No one is saying that at all. I’m pretty sure all people were focused on when they were watching that video was that huge gorilla and that itty-bitty little boy between his legs—that child. Not that black child. Just that child. In fact, the first few times I watched it, I didn’t know the little boy was even black, not until I saw pictures on the news of close-ups of the boy. The footage was shot from a distance and other than recognizing that it was a small child, you could barely make it out.
I’m going to be blunt when I say this. I’m sick and tired of black people playing the race card. I’m sorry, but I am. It has got to stop. I think too many people of color have lost sight of the true meaning behind the Black Lives Matter movement…and now they’re just using it as a crutch and an excuse for anything even remotely involving someone who’s black. There’s so much hypocrisy. Black people are so quick to cry discrimination, and yet the Black Lives Matter movement has gained the ground it has, in great part, on the very basis of that discrimination against the Caucasian race. Black people discriminate against white people all the time, it just doesn’t always make national news or the front page. What really irks me though is when slavery gets brought into it. That’s throwing down the figurative gauntlet for me. I’m sorry but…hell no. That doesn’t fly with me at all. Slavery was abolished over 100 years ago. Which means the slaves and the people that owned them have long since passed on. I’m not saying you aren’t allowed to sympathize with the plight of generations that have come before you or to feel strongly on the issue, especially if you have ancestors that were slaves themselves. By all means, sympathize away. But DON’T hold accountable the present generation and white race in general for atrocities that were committed 1.) Well before you and this generation were even born and 2) Weren’t actually done to you personally. And for the record, it wasn’t just white people who owned slaves. Blacks owned slaves as well. But for some reason, but no one seems to care about that. We’ve all heard the saying, “the sins of the father”. How can we as a generation be responsible for things that were done over a hundred years ago? And how are we as a generation/society/race ever supposed to heal from those wounds if there are people out there looking to try to stir up that fire by adding fuel, and fan it’s flames instead of trying to put them out and move forward? The answer is that we can’t. It just keeps us stuck where we are, with nowhere to go and no way out.
Honestly–I really wish people would just shut up about race altogether. And while they’re at it–put an end to this whole Black Lives Matter movement. I mean, what has it really accomplished? Because as far as I can tell, all it’s done is perpetuate the hate and the animosity and the prejudice. I’m not saying that racism is a non-issue or that it doesn’t exist in some factions of society. Because it does. I know it does. I’ve seen it. I’ve watched people discriminate and judge others because of the color of their skin. I know it happens. But it’s not as one-sided as the movement seems and likes to purport. So often people of color allege discrimination and point out the stereotyping by the white race against their race …but they don’t seem to realize that they’re doing the exact same thing to white people with all their nonsense and their casting of unjustifiable, slanderous accusations of discrimination. Not every white person is racist. Just as not every black person is a thug or a criminal. Not everything bad that happens to or involves someone that’s black needs to be made a federal case of. Or vice versa. And not everything has to be made a platform of for the Black Lives Matter movement. By throwing the race-card into this particular incident as well, is exactly what that’s doing–it’s intending to start trouble and stir up animosity where there doesn’t need to be any. It’s like some people of color are just trying to start a fight and/or to get people to march and protest and riot in the streets. It’s keeping the conversation going instead of changing it, like we should be doing. It’s inciting discord and conflict between our two races instead of uniting us equals–and isn’t that what #BlackLivesMatter is all about? Or what it was supposed to be about. I mean, you’d think people would be sick of dealing with and hearing about racism. Hell, I know I am. It’s 2016, people!! We have all these rights and liberties and opportunities for greatness that people–both white and black–never would have dreamed of having 100 years ago. So then why do some people have to keep harping on the past and blaming generations for transgressions made well before their time? Are they really that clueless? Do they really not see or get it–that this hate and pointing fingers and casting blame and unjustly accusing people of being prejudiced–how is it any different from the hate the KKK and white supremacist groups perpetuated and spread (and continue to spread)? The answer is that they apparently do not. But it’s not any different. And if someone of color wants to take offense to that, well so be it. In fact, I hope he/she does. Because at least then I know that it’s being heard and (hopefully) it ruminates. Racism and discrimination and prejudice…it’s a two-way street. Both sides share blame. And both sides need to work together to change the conversation…if the nation has any hope of obliterating racism once and for all.
When I started working with my friend on “3 Blind Boys” and with Moving4ward (his production company), I actually thought the movement meant something. I believed in both the movement’s message and in what he was trying to convey in his project…and the fundamental values the company stands for. It’s been such a rewarding experience…but it’s also been a challenge. With the exceptions of some of our interns and myself—my friend, the team and anyone that’s been involved in any of our projects is black. And that’s deliberate on my friend’s part. His entire vision for the company is wrapped around the empowerment of individuals of color, which is an incredibly respectable vision, but conceptually and financially-wise–it’s very limiting. Not to mention, it makes the few of us that are white feel ganged up on—whether it’s intentional or not. It’s not a good feeling, and it makes it hard to believe in a project—to be in it 100 percent—when your heart just isn’t in it. I’m hoping my friend will come around eventually—that he’ll start to broaden some and stop limiting himself and the company with the paranoia that all white people are out to make black people feel inferior. I honestly do think it’s the only way he and his company are going to be a success…if he appeals to the whole audience, and not just a section of it…and if he stops just expecting discrimination just on the basis of him being black. He’s deeply religious and big on faith, yet for the most part, it’s as though he has little or no faith in any race other than his own. That’s not only unfair those of us that don’t give a damn about the color of a person’s skin, but it’s also very, very sad. I’d hate for him to remain so cynical…and to circumvent his own success–both on a personal and professional level because of it. He’s better than that. I know he is.
To conclude and to reiterate, not all white people are racists. We’re not the enemy out to get you. Some of us really DON’T give a damn about the color of your skin. We’re not The Boogeyman. So stop making us out to be. Please.
‘Til next time.