Gator v Gorilla: Empathy For White Parents, Condemnation For Black

Photo: Getty Images / The Mirror
grief loss

A gorilla attacks a black boy. An alligator attacks a white one. Who's investigated?

On May 28th, a 3-year-old told his mother he was going to crawl into the gorilla exhibit at the CInncinnati Zoo. She was "momentarily distracted by other children," claimed a witness, according to CNN, and her son did just that.

He exploited a weakness in the enclosure's fencing and crawled inside. Then the nightmare began.

For 10 whole minutes, the boy was dragged and pummeled by endangered gorilla, Harambe. Finally, zoo officials made the difficult decision to kill the animal because tranquilizer darts would have taken too long to take effect, and they feared for the boy's life.

Their quick action saved his life.

The boy's mother was investigated for, presumably, child endangerment. However, local prosecutor Joseph Deters said that, "By all accounts, this mother did not act in any way where she presented this child to some harm ... She had three other kids with her and turned her back ... And if anyone doesn't believe a 3-year-old can scamper off very quickly, they've never had kids."

These remarks are in response to a public that has called for her arrest, questioned her parenting skills, decried the number of children she had with her (four), and mostly screamed about the death of an endangered gorilla. The mother is black.

On Tuesday night, 2-year old Lane Graves was wading in less than a foot of water at Disney's Seven Seas Lagoon, with "No Swimming" signs prominently posted. The parents were not in the water with the child when he was snatched by a 4- to 7-foot alligator.

His father, Matt, suffered minor scrapes as he tried to pry the animal's mouth open; his mother also tried to save the boy, who was dragged off. His body was found Wednesday 10 to 15 yards from where he was taken, in six feet of murky water.

The public has not called for the parents' arrest. While some have decried their parenting, the hysteria heaped upon the black mother hasn't burdened them. Most people have called for prayers. This despite the "No Swimming" signs, the perfect storm for an alligator attack (a dark night in May or June in shallow water).

They argue the parents had no way of knowing about the alligators (Disney, unlike some other resorts, did not have signs posted) and that their parenting wasn't lacking or neglectful.

"Accidents happen," says a popular status going around Facebook.

Matt and Melissa Graves are white people from Elkton, Nebraska. The public reaction to these animal attacks again show the racial fissures in American society.

The black mother, who watched a gorilla pummel her child for 10 full minutes, actually had her parenting investigated by the Hamilton County prosecutors.

There has been no talk of charging the white parents, who were watching a movie at the time and keeping their daughter in a playpen 20 yards from the shore.

Why do we question the black mother's parenting? Her momentary glance away must be justified over and over. Why do we cry for the white parents? Most people gloss over Graves allowing their toddler to wade in a "No Swimming" area while they stood outside the water, at an unspecified distance.

This shows, in stark detail, the way America views black and white parenting. Black mothers have too many children; they're seen by the bulk of society as neglectful and incompetent. A child is attacked by an animal; we castigate the black mother for her neglect and we mourn for the heroic white parents.

The black mother has suffered a savaging on the internet and television.

If people remember that the black boy lived, it's only because the gorilla didn't: an endangered gorilla people have said was worth more than the life of a black child. Society wants to carpet-bomb the Florida alligators for hurting a white boy.

The Graves family should thank God they had the privilege to be born white. Through no virtue of their own, they'll be spared the investigations and castigations suffered by their black counterpart. They won't suffer as much in the court of public opinion; the bulk of the public is mourning Lane, not blaming them for his death.

As it should be: Lane's death, like the unspecified boy's injury, was a tragic accident no one saw coming. And as it should be for the black mother, who's now cleared of all unspecified charges.

I'll say it, because few others have: Bless her and her baby.

Hopefully he's free from lasting damage.

A white mother can break injunctions and still get sympathy. God forbid a black mother turn her back.



Explore YourTango