In America, Blaming Parents of Black Children For Animal Tragedies Is Not Incidental. It’s heritage.
Late Tuesday night in Orlando, FL., a 2-year-old boy on vacation with his parents and 4-year-old sister at Disney World was snatched by an alligator after wandering about 2 ft. into a lagoon — marked “No Swimming” — stretching along one of Disney’s many family resorts.
The toddler went missing for over 15 hours.
Police, undertaking a “search and rescue” mission, intervened, but not without casualties. Five alligators were killed, including the alligator that actually attacked the child.
The whole ordeal was horrible, a nightmare beyond words. By Wednesday afternoon, the parent’s worst fears were met — although police had found the child’s body intact, he was pronounced dead.
One news host, during a CNN report, said that she couldn’t “imagine what the boy’s parents were going through, right now.” Many of us can’t. It may be too hard, too excruciatingly painful to let in.
But, I suspect everyone is trying. I’m convinced everyone is making an effort to withhold judgment and place themselves in those white parent’s shoes.
No one believes that the child’s death is the parents fault for not keeping the small boy out of body of water marked “No Swimming.”
No one believes that someone should call Child Protective Services to inquire about having the 4-year-old girl removed from the parent’s custody.
No one believes we should conduct a personal background check on the mother and father.
No one is posting the parent’s criminal record to Facebook and Twitter.
No one is painting the parents as “thugs” and criminals.
No one is pushing a story about “parental negligence.”
No one is creating “JusticeForAlligators” hashtags.
No one is coming for the parents, even though 5 alligators were killed.
This is as it should be. We are, and should, identify with the aggrieved. We should be compassionate and hopeful in the knowledge that they are possibly drawing some sense of comfort from society’s prayers and condolences.
In America, however, this doesn’t always happen. Whether or not it does depends very much on the racial background of the parents enduring a tragedy involving an animal.
Remember Harambe? The 440 lb. lowland, silverback gorilla Cincinnati Zoo officials were forced to shoot three weeks ago to save a 3-year-old black boy who had fallen into the ape’s moat.
Remember the country’s reaction to that incident?
Zoo officials argued that killing the ape was the right call. The public disagreed. In fact, everyone — virtually the whole world — was livid about the murder of Harambe. And not just with zoo personnel.
Most of their ire — all of it, really — was reserved for 3-year old’s Black parents.
It got ugly.
Social media blew up. No one seemed relieved by the fact that a black boy-child was safely returned to his parents. Instead, people were outraged that a gorilla was killed to save a black boy.
They demanded #JusticeForHarambe.
To be fair, some experts did question zoo protocol for dealing with incidents of visitors getting past safety barriers and into an animal’s enclosure. Some critics argued that zoos should not exist at all and insisted that all animals be liberated.
However, the real culprits, by all accounts — clearly articulated in petitions that circulated online — were the toddler’s parents.
Animal lover’s called mother and father “shitheads” who should be arrested for child endangerment.
People combed the web and dredged up the father’s criminal record. They called him a “thug” and accused him of being an absentee parent.
He wasn’t. But, that made no difference.
It was a witch hunt and character lynching of the first order. Worse still, for 24 hours, the mainstream media had a field day running with this lynch-the-parents story.
I can’t imagine how mortified those Black parents must have felt.
In all this passionate frustration over the killing of Harambe the gorilla, I cannot recall seeing anyone — not one person — issue a prayer for the family of black toddler, thank their God for granting the child’s safe return to his parents.
I cannot recall seeing any posts expressing empathy for the mother and father of that Black child.
I cannot recall anyone blaming the zoo in the way that people are blaming Disney for not warning tourists about the presence of alligators in the lagoon.
The sad, painful and frustrating truth is that no one seemed capable or willing to identify with those Black parents.
Like every other institution in America informed by race, that inability to identify with pain and suffering of black families involved in animal tragedies is neither accidental nor incidental. It’s national heritage.