(The Guardian) – After massive protests in the streets of Baltimore to raise awareness about Baltimore City police practices and to demand answers and accountability in the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man whose spine and neck were severed in 4 different places while in police custody – eventually resulted in the destruction of property and serious injury to some police officers, the protesters’ frustration prompted many white people (on blogs and in social media) to refer to black Baltimoreans as “animals” for their actions.
But “animals” is a misnomer. People – including police officers – are punished for killing or doing harm to domestic animals. Baltimore has busted dog fighting rings and sent offenders to prison for animal cruelty. In 2014, former Baltimore City police officer Alec Taylor was sentenced to a year behind bars for killing a dog. That might not seem like much, but it is longer than the sentences given to the killers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd or 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
“Animals” seems to have become the new epithet to use to refer to African American: we have gone from being called “niggers”, to “predators” in the 90s, “thugs” in the 2000s and now “animals”.
If African Americans were indeed animals, perhaps they would have organizations like People for the Ethical Treatement of Animals to stand up for their “ethical treatment”. Peta has 3m members and a yearly revenue of over $30m; it engages in multi-pronged attacks on what it calls “speciesism”, and its influence has made many people spring into action and even adopt vegan diets (despite questionable health benefits). Though Black Lives Matter has white middle class and celebrity support, I do not believe very many white people have changed their entire lifestyles in order to ensure the dismantling of racism.