If Harambe was just a Gorilla, then am I just a Racist?

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May 28, 2016: A date that shall forever live in infamy. This is the day that a beautiful life was snuffed out, like a candle in the wind. Harambe the gorilla died, but was he just a gorilla? If you believe it, then maybe you’re part of the problem. Harambe was my everything, and when he died a piece of me died too.
Alas, this is not why I write today. Today I put on my keyboard warrior gloves to talk about labels. It is too easy to shrink a life down to one simple aspect. Harambe loved, laughed, and swung children like toys, but we call him a gorilla, rather than acknowledging that he was a person with both positive and negative traits. When people call Harambe “just a gorilla” it bothers me because I, too, am a victim of labels.
All my life I have been a lover of the arts, travel, athletics, politics, and occasionally the burning of crosses on stranger’s lawns. And yet, it is this last thing that people tend to cling to. When people talk about me, they don’t want to know that I came in third in my local Tuesday night pottery class competition, or that I can speak three languages aside from English, or that I practice public speaking on the weekends. All people seem to care about is that I have “racist tendencies”, whatever that means.
I’ve ran three marathons and a triathlon, and I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. Yet nobody cares. It feels like my entire life has been ignored by the a large percentage of the people I meet. It hurts when people only focus on the acts of hate I have performed on specific minority groups, and choose not to embrace my whole self – the good, the bad, and the racist.
Overall I think that this culture of labeling has to stop. Both for me and that majestic silver-backed Gorilla, and everyone else who gets reduced to “just a gorilla”, “just a woman”, “just a glue sniffer”, “just a racist”, or anything else. I hope that one day we can get past my racism, but until then I will simply say goodbye to Harambe, and to civility. Goodnight, sweet prince.

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