#JusticeforHarambe: The Wagons Circle Around Black Family

Harambe at Cincinnati Zoo. (Photo: Google Image)

Harambe at Cincinnati Zoo. (Photo: Google Image)

A couple’s son is missing in Japan (right now) because they left him in the wilderness to teach him a lesson, but folks want to start a petition to have the child who wandered into the gorilla pit at Cincinnati zoo removed from his house? While I can’t tell you anything about the couple that left their son in the wilderness who is STILL missing other than the fact they’re probably Japanese, I can tell you everything about the parents of the boy who wandered into Harambe’s pit, and is lucky to be alive I might add, including their race and the criminal history of the boy’s father, who by all current accounts was not present at the zoo, but a doting father.

This situation reminds me of when Laura Ojediran, 40, a frustrated mother in Chesterfield County (Virginia) popped her 13-year-old son (and 8-year-old) with a flip flop, and put the teen out of the car to make him walk home after he behaved badly. She literally circled the block to come back and get him, but folks at a local business had already called the police. She was charged with assault and battery and had her children removed from her home. Two months later, Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, two 14-year-old boys boys went missing in Jupiter, FL and were never found (presumed dead) after knowingly being allowed to go boating unaccompanied by their adult parents ( Pamela Cohen & Nicholas Korniloff and Blu Stephanos & Carly Black). Their boat was found capsized and their life vests were found by cadaver dogs, but the bodies of the boys were never recovered. The parents weren’t charged with crimes because authorities said they had “suffered enough.” Two dead children sounds like punishment enough to me despite the bad decision made by those parents on that day. What’s the difference in the outcomes of these cases? Race. Mom with the flip-flop? Black. Parents with two dead children? White.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and I’m going to keep saying it, the policing of black bodies is as American as apple pie. The unwillingness of people to see a little black boy as a little black boy is as prevalent. Yes, traumatizing an already traumatized 3-year-old boy by removing him from his home and bullying his parents online and in person, who I’m sure are also traumatized by this event, sounds like a great idea (voluntary eyeroll) to those who think these black parents haven’t suffered enough.

I’m sure the parents feel horrible, scared and alone – yes, like Harambe. I am an animal lover – in fact I think animals are far better than humans, which is another post for another time. Watching that little boy get dragged around the pit by Harambe, I understand why the tough, albeit devastating decision, was made by zoo authorities. I also find it fascinating that people now care so much about Harambe who was ostensibly being held in captivity. Zoos do incredible and necessary research and study, but the display part is highly problematic, not to mention the horrible treatment of animals at some zoos, including and not limited to confining them to inadequate premises and beating them. One example was highlighted by the Blackfish documentary which showed the tiny enclosures huge killer whales were kept in, and the destructive impact this had on their wellbeing. The consequences of this were fatal for the keepers who were eventually attacked by the animals as an act of what can only be perceived as either vengeance or an escape attempt. Surely it is time to stop holding animals in these confined spaces and instead enjoy them and learn more from them in their natural habitats. For example, a san diego whale watching trip would be fascinating and far more enjoyable than watching these poor creatures perform in enclosed pools.

Folks have decided they now care about Harambe and the rights of animals to such an extent that they’re calling for the heads of the parents? Are folks going to be this angry about the treatment of animals in zoos and circuses, I might add where animal abuse is systemic? Nah, the zoos will be packed tomorrow. It’s all kicks and giggles until the opportunity to become “armchair perfectionists” and “parents who’ve never made a mistake,” online as brilliantly stated by Maria Guido for Scarymommy.com, emerges. Are most of these perfect parents going to sit their kids down and explain animal cruelty to them and how they can get involved to help end the abhorrent practices when the circus comes to town? Nah, bring on the cotton candy and animal tricks because the animals are displayed for our pleasure, despite the pain they endure getting to that point. Are we going to now care about the lives of little black boys in danger? Nah, let them suffer and be killed in the streets or hell, an animal pit, even when they are merely guilty of being a kid. If they happen to survive, punish their parents because no parent has ever lost sight of a child, especially at a zoo.

While I’m happy that people are calling for #JusticeforHarambe, which they should have already been doing while he was 17 years at Zoo Miami, where he was born and and at the Cincinnati zoo, I find it frightening that some of the same folks have not called for #JusticeforTrayvon or #JusticeforTamir, because after all, they’re just young, black boys in the wrong place at the wrong time, kind of like this little boy that folks would rather mourn the loss of than celebrate his second chance at life, despite the unfortunate killing of Harambe. There were two victims today — Harambe and this little boy, but America can only see one and if the boy can’t be punished, then punish his parents because losing sight of your child and finding him being dragged around and nearly killed in an animal pit isn’t traumatic enough. In true American fashion, the wagons are circling around this black family because authorities are now compelled to create more victims by investigating the boy’s family and to what end? Investigating or breaking up this family won’t bring back Harambe, won’t stop abuses against animals at zoos, and won’t make humans better parents. It will satisfy the thirst of a country drunk with power over black bodies which can never do anything wrong like lose sight of a child. I would encourage readers to interview the managers of a grocery store chain, retail giant like Walmart or Target or amusement park to see just how many perfect parents make imperfect decisions involving their children on a daily basis. Lost and found isn’t just for keys and umbrellas.

Just like the mother running frantically through a packed Target screaming her child’s name on a Saturday morning, this 3-year-old’s mother, who clearly made a terrible decision, needs time to heal, be thankful for her son’s safety and recovery and reflect on how to avoid situations like this in the future. I’m thinking making sure her son is okay physically, emotionally and spiritually should be at the top of the list, not fending off criminal investigations. Investigating the family beyond what happened at the zoo is an overreach at best and downright racist at worst.

Thankfully, the 3-year-old ‘s fight for his life is over. As he recovers from a concussion, the fight for keeping his family intact now begins. And that makes me sad but not sad enough to overlook the obvious — punishing black folks unnecessarily or harshly, even when they have clearly “suffered enough” like this family, is status quo. Using Harambe’s death to justify the investigation of this family outside of the zoo incident is despicable. Perhaps if folks cared about Harambe’s safety, they might have insisted that he be in a secure space to protect wandering 3-year-olds from him and him from wandering 3-year-olds. It ‘s an all around tragic event and I’ll be praying for Harambe, the little boy and the survival of his family, because they’re all going to need it.

This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.

Follow The Burton Wire on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/theburtonwire.

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