Justice for Kubby. Justice for Harambe. No Justice for Black Lives.
Almost 200 days after Breonna Taylor’s murder, we finally have a verdict — wanton endangerment. Basically, the courts charged Brett Hankinson (not Jonathan Mattingly or Myles Cosgrove) with “wantonly engag[ing] in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person…under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” The issue with this verdict is that he wasn’t indicted on charges for murdering Breonna. He was charged because “the shots he fired had passed through Ms. Taylor’s apartment walls into a neighboring apartment, endangering three people there.” So, he was charged because he could have hurt other people, not because he did assist in murdering one.
Once again, the justice system shows us just how little Black lives matter. Sadly, although I saw a few posts enraged about this verdict, the number was much less than the number of Black solidarity squares I saw a few months back. The response reminds me of the penultimate episode of Hulu’s Woke.
In episode 7, Keef finds himself on a journey to a lawyers office after he learns he no longer has rights to his cartoon. However, during the ride, Kubby the Koala escapes from the zoo, causing increased traffic and city-wide panic. The passengers on the bus are forced to remain in the vehicle as the search for Kubby ensues. Phones light up with news updates and geo-tracking notifications of Kubby’s whereabouts. A GoFundMe account amasses $12,000 in seconds. People collectively recount how great an animal Kubby is and hope he is found and safely returned to the zoo. Later, the people stare in horror as a video of a police officer lethally shooting Kubby goes viral.
Of course, right after Kubby’s murder, there are vigils. There are protestors marching through the streets. Justice for Kubby shirts are being sold to passersby. Someone holds a sign that says Oscar, Sandra, Eric, Trayvon, Kubby. They call for justice to be served in light of this horrifying display of police violence, and the whole scene is oddly familiar.
On May 28, 2016, a 4-year old boy climbed into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. Seeing the danger, the zookeepers called the gorillas inside, but one gorilla, Harambe, decided to stay. Harambe could’ve hurt the child as he dragged him through the caged area, so people panicked. Onlookers held their collective breaths, waiting to see if the zookeepers would kill an innocent gorilla whose home was violated by the child. Then, just like Kubby, Harambe was shot and killed.
The entire incident was recorded in a viral video that was uploaded to YouTube. What followed was… puzzling. People protested and held vigils because they believed the gorilla was killed unnecessarily. More than half a million people petitioned to seek justice for his murder. Scientists debated about whether or not it was just to hold gorillas in captivity. A Cheeto that looked like Harambe sold for $100,000 on eBay. Harambe’s death even overshadowed the human lives of 1000 migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea that same week.
Even in the midst of state-sanctioned racial violence in 2020, Harambe sympathizers commemorated the 4th anniversary of his death. Their collective mourning brought #Harambe back into the spotlight while Black people were being executed in the streets and in their homes. I guess #BlackLivesMatter just wasn’t important enough to overshadow his memory.
I’m holding Kubby and Harambe in my mind right now because I’m still waiting on the same collective outrage for injustice against Black people, especially Black women. Across political lines, white people collectively engaged in more action for Harambe than for Breonna Taylor, Rekia Boyd, or Shelley Frey. Collectively, white people were more willing to vilify the police for killing Kubby than they would’ve been if Keef had been shot and killed on that bus. I’m waiting for the day when, across political lines, people will collectively show outrage for the murders of Black people in the same way they fought for Harambe.
I long for the day when zoo animals won’t receive more empathy than Black and Brown people.