Empty apologies are being handed out left and right nowadays, especially those that pertain to race relations. The following information comes from the Atlanta Black Star.
A zoo in The Bronx, New York, The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), has apologized for keeping an African man in a “monkey house.” Ota Benga, a member of the Mbuti people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was put on display for multiple days in September 1906. He, along with other Africans, were initially recruited by anthropologist Samuel Phillips Verner in 1904 and brought to America to be put on display at the St. Louis Zoo. Two years later, however, Verner brought Benga to The Bronx.
Ota Benga’s teeth, which were filed to sharp points because of his tribal culture, were mocked and used to present Benga as “the wild man of Africa.”
Visitors of the zoo would taunt Benga by chasing, tripping, laughing, and poking at him. He was kept inside a cage with a baby chimp and a sign that read “The Missing Link.” It was supposed to allude to an evolutionary link between humans and man’s ape-like ancestors.
It wasn’t until local Black ministers shut down the display and transferred Benga to an orphanage that the charade stopped. But a decade later, while in the orphanage, Benga committed suicide at the age of 33.
In an official statement on the WCS’s website, the following was advised:
In the name of equality, transparency, and accountability, we must confront our organization’s historic role in promoting racial injustice as we advance our mission to save wildlife and wild places.
First, we apologize for and condemn the treatment of a young Central African from the Mbuti people of present-day Democratic Republic of Congo. His name was Ota Benga. Bronx Zoo officials, led by Director William Hornaday, put Ota Benga on display in the zoo’s Monkey House for several days during the week of September 8, 1906.
A petition has been started to pressure The Wildlife Conservation Society to build a memorial plaque where Ota Benga was displayed.
This story is one of many horror stories that took place in our country’s history. And to be frank, I’m not interested in apologies rooted in fake political correctness. The only reason a statement is being issued out is to protect the zoo’s bottom line. If you want to apologize, cut a check.
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Until Next Time…