The killing of a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo has taken on stark racial overtones in social media and mainstream news. The gorilla named Harambe was shot after a child fell into its enclosure and the animal began to pull and drag the child. Zookeepers felt the child was in imminent danger and shot Harambe. As the story began to unfold, animal rights activists became infuriated at the decision to kill the highly endangered western lowland gorilla.
The conversation turned racial when it was discovered that the family involved in the incident was Black. Suddenly Michelle Gregg, 32, who has four children, all by her husband Deonne Dickerson, 36, became a target of stereotypical hatred. Gregg was being characterized as an unfit mother who had no control over her children.An online petition called on police to investigate the living environment of the children to determine if they were in danger. While the harshest criticism fell on Dickerson, an employed and hardworking father. It was revealed that he had a criminal history that included drug and weapons charges and served a one-year stint in prison in 2006. Since that time he has by all accounts turned his life around.
Now the Cincinnati Police Department has been instructed by the Hamilton County prosecutor to investigate the shooting of the gorilla. The investigation will determine if criminal charges will be filed against Michelle Gregg and Deonne Dickerson. According to Cincinnati Police Department spokeswoman Tiffaney Hardy, “The investigation is regarding the action of parents and family that led up to the incident and is not related to zoo operations.”
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said in a statement, “The incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving the young child who fell into the gorilla enclosure is under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department. Once their investigation is concluded, they will confer with our office on possible criminal charges. When the investigation and review are complete, we will update the media.”
Incredibly, no attention is being given to the operations and procedures at the Cincinnati Zoo. Isaiah Dickerson, 3, was somehow able to get through a protective barrier and fall 15 feet into a moat of water. It was then that the 450-pound gorilla went to the child to investigate and physically handled the toddler.
Activists say the zookeepers acted too quickly, that the animal was playing and protecting the child. In no way are these activists concerned about the Black child, just the gorilla. Why is it when it comes to a Black life vs.an animal’s life there is even a debate over which should be protected? There seems to be greater outrage among animal activists for a gorilla than it was for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed for playing with a toy gun. Now a Black family is under attack simply because of an accident that could have caused their child to be killed by a gorilla.