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By now you’ve probably heard about Cecil the Lion, one of the oldest and best-known big cats in Zimbabwe, who was killed by an American hunter. Cecil’s death caused an international firestorm with many calling his killer, Dr. Walter J. Palmer, straight up evil.

After reportedly luring Cecil from his protective sanctuary, shooting him multiple times, cutting off his head, and removing his skin, Palmer has been skewered in the media for being barbaric. Things have gotten so bad for the Minnesota dentist he was forced to temporarily close his practice and hide out from the public.

The outrage has been relentless. Late night host Jimmy Kimmel was so distraught over Cecil’s untimely demise he was moved to tears.

During his popular show Kimmel wondered, “Why are you shooting a lion in the first place? I mean, I’m honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that. How is that fun?”

https://youtu.be/_LzXpE1mjqA

While Cecil’s death is tragic and senseless, I can’t help but marvel at the difference in the reaction to his slaying versus that of Black victims murdered by so-called neighborhood watchmen, cops, security guards, and those who claim to be in fear for their lives.

It’s not lost on me that the outpouring of love for Cecil, and the swift condemnation of his killer, is much more pronounced that the calls for justice for Renisha McBride or Rekia Boyd or Aiyana Jones.

I’m not the only one who has noticed the support for Cecil has trumped that of Black victims of violence, however; or saw the call for Palmer to be held accountable for his actions by those who question why activists have continued to assert, “Black lives matter.” The tweets are watching as well.

I wish I could say I’m surprised a lion’s life has engendered more outrage and sympathy than dead Black people, but I’m not.

In 2007, when Michael Vick was accused of killing the dogs he bred to fight, the outrage was swift and fierce. Many argued he should be locked up for life for mistreating animals, and others said he should never be allowed to play football again. Seven years later, in 2014 when Vick was signed by the New York Jets many objected, citing his previous animal cruelty charges. While Vick has never quite been able to shake the stigma of being a dog killer, police officers who’ve killed unarmed Black people have largely escaped without much harm.

America has always struggled to see Black folks as fully human and deserving of respect and equality. Since before America was a nation, Black folks have been called beasts incapable of feeling pain, expressing emotions, or thinking rationally. Even today, research shows white folks think Black people can tolerate more pain.

Let’s not get it twisted, America was built on the foundation of chattel slavery, which relied on white folks ability to view us as inhuman, because how else could you possibly rationalize parading people through the streets like cattle, selling off their children, and desecrating their bodies?

As I watch the outpouring of support for Cecil the lion and the call for donations to wildlife organizations that work to protect his species, I wonder if dead Black people’s lives would matter more if they dressed like lions when they were killed, as Elon James suggested.

Would Jimmy Kimmel give a teary-eyed plea to donate to anti-racism organizations if Sean DuBose or Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland looked like a lion? Would Black Lives Matter or the NAACP or the Dream Defenders or the Black Youth Project receive a flood of donations if they advocated for lions and not Black people?

If all lives actually mattered I wouldn’t have to ask these questions. But sadly, we know the truth.

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