An American dentist’s killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe has drawn much ire — and many comparisons to more persistent debates back home from ongoing police brutality against black people to new allegations against Planned Parenthood.
The outcry against Walter Palmer, the Minnesota man who shot and killed Cecil the Lion, has been so severe that he was forced to close his practice.
Many took to Twitter to compare that level of outage to what they believed to be more muted responses to the killing of unarmed black people by white police officers. Some took up the hashtag #AllLionsMatter as a satirical reference to #BlackLivesMatter, the rallying cry for those seeking justice for the deaths of young black people from Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland.
— Aamer Rahman (@aamer_rahman) July 30, 2015
Twitter users invoked many of the arguments used to delegitimize what many see as a nationwide phenomenon of racism in policing. By relating death of Cecil to the deaths of black people, the #AllLionsMatter hashtag attempted to compare the unequivocal worth attributed to an animal when so many people feel they aren’t offered that sort of recognition. That effort is at the very heart of the rather straightforward rallying cry. Activists have sought to impress upon mainstream America the simple fact that black lives matter. They matter unequivocally and, as many have pointed out, it is wrong to attempt to diminish that fundamental fact with allegations of drug use or socio-economic issues.
Many used the death of Cecil to specifically poke holes in some of the more ridiculous claims that have been made to explain — or worse, excuse — the killing of black people by white police officers with the systemic nature of inequality in America.
— Smaug Life chose me (@sockrocker24) July 30, 2015
— Bae Grylls (@TheAuracl3) July 31, 2015
— D. Wesley (@DAMMIT_WESLEY) July 30, 2015
Some used the case of Cecil to make more pointed references to the Sandra Bland, who died in jail after being arrested for a routine traffic stop in Texas earlier this month. The video of the 28-year-old black woman’s interactions with the officer show Bland as defiant of authority — a stereotype that many have attributed to black people. But many, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, believe that the video shows that Bland and many other black people are not treated with the “same professionalism and courtesy that other people may get from the police.” Even those celebrities who berated Palmer for killing Cecil were seemingly given a free pass, while athletes who expressed support for black people killed by police officers were overwhelmingly rebuked.
"Cecil was resisting capture and he was arrogant. What did you expect the dentist to do?" #AllLionsMatter
— Mbokodo Travels (@mbokodo_travels) July 30, 2015
Others used the #AllLionsMatter hashtag to the counter the “All Lives Matter” claim which undermined the efforts made to point to unfair treatment of black people by the criminal justice system. Those who rallied under the this broader claim glossed over the fact that black people are three times more likely to be killed by police officers than white people. By speaking to the colorblind approach of “All Lives Matter” to the all species, one Twitter user was able to show how absurd the notion is, since, as ThinkProgress has pointed out, people don’t care about all species equally. And sadly, not all people who are killed in America draw in the same concern — or garner the same level of justice.
#AllLionsMatter ? Why the division? Smh. I don't even see species forreal. They're all part of one race, the animal race.
— Imani (@OhHeyImani_) July 30, 2015
Others used the death of Cecil to as a way to address what they saw as a lacking virulence over videos alleging that Planned Parenthood has profited on the sale of fetal tissue.
“[H]ow in the world can you get teary-eyed and misty-eyed and sad over Cecil and, at the same time, participate in burying what’s happening at Planned Parenthood?” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh asked in a recent episode of his show.
Florida Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio made a similar point on Twitter.
Look at all this outrage over a dead lion, but where is all the outrage over the planned parenthood dead babies.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 29, 2015
The videos have drawn no small amount of shock for both their content and for the suspect ethics behind them. Some states have already cleared Planned Parenthood from charges of illegal activity and a bill has proposed to curb trophy hunting of endangered animals. As for the case of Sandra Bland, the head of the Texas state troopers said on Thursday that there was no reason to pull her over.