A Team’s Meme Dreams

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The men's volleyball team holds an unofficial

The men's volleyball team holds an unofficial "Animal Cruelty Awareness Night."

Donovan Reynolds

Donovan Reynolds

The men's volleyball team holds an unofficial "Animal Cruelty Awareness Night."

Cole Mier, Opinions Editor

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“Hey Cole!” “Yeah Mom?” I replied. “Isn’t Harambe the gorilla that got shot?”  she asked me. “Yes, yes he is,” I replied. “Alright,” she retorted, “then why is he on my Facebook feed and why are people pulling their-” I’ll stop the quote right there. I had this conversation with my mother in August of this year and immediately wrote it down due to its hilarity. After explaining to my mom the context of this massive surge in Harambe’s popularity (luckily I had taught her what a meme was several months earlier, so she was well versed in the realm of “Dat Boi” and “Pepe the Frog”), I sat back and reflected. Our differences in opinion and perspective on new cultural developments were astounding. While we were born into the Internet age, our parents saw it created. Theoretically then, they should have had more time to become accustomed to these massive shifts in what is and isn’t socially acceptable that occur online. Yet suddenly, I stopped this train of thought. “Huh. Well that’s pretty stupid,” my mind said. It’s just a meme. There are no big undertones. At that point I thought that a thirty minute lecture to my mother was the most absurd thing regarding Harambe that would ever come to affect my life. Well, once again, I have been proven wrong.

        This is a difficult subject to write about. The fiery outrage of the student body has come and gone; we as a collective unit have moved on, waiting for the next outrageous controversy to arrive. Passionate volleyball players maintain lingering bitterness over the school’s decision to suspend the varsity team captains for one game due to their holding an “Animal Cruelty Awareness Night,” (which, according to team member Robert Zhang (`17), still held strong “Harambe themes,”) after being told not to host such an event.  The details of these suspensions cannot be discussed in an accurate manner due to a lack of proper evidence amidst the proliferation of rumors. But regardless, this issue has to do with much more than volleyball; the real piece of contention is that of Harambe. While the students should not have disobeyed the directions given to them by the school, the school should never have cancelled Harambe night in the first place. This is because – brace yourselves – Harambe is in no way, shape, or form a racist symbol or one touting white supremacy.

        Harambe is the perfect storm of a meme. Originally, I believed memes were only images with white text over them. In reality, a meme is any societal or cultural trend, usually originating online. The “Cult of Harambe,”- both the literal group and the collection of memes made surrounding the dead silverback gorilla- is made of several components. Actual outrage is the first step. The death of the animal truly angered many, for they felt it was unnecessary and cruel to kill this member of an endangered species. The second component is more outrage. As this incident began to gather national media attention, the consequences of Harambe’s death were spread worldwide. The next part is political satire. Many supporters and members of the Black Lives Matter movement began to create comical images and political cartoons comparing the death of Harambe to the death of black men by police. Theirmessage was clear: How can people become this outraged over the death of a gorilla while overlooking the death of African American citizens of this country? This is true; the only racial component of this meme is one in support of minorities, not against them. Finally, the absurdist members of the Internet took over. These are the people who saw the outrage become so blown out of proportion that they in turn made it into an even bigger deal as a way to mock the outrage that resulted. The manners of mocking this outrage all vary. Indeed, some of these memes even do have sexual components. Regardless, Harambe is not just a gorilla. He is a sign of something much larger. Harambe represents this generation’s way of coping with issues. When extreme tragedy hits us, we simply view it in a mocking light. While some may find this cynical, I disagree. Harambe shows us how to find the humor in all situations. It is a way to make you smile despite the hardships people endures. Sure, some racist people have taken the meme and applied it to black people Michelle Obama or comedian Leslie Jones, and that is wrong. Yet, the Ku Klux Klan uses the crucifix to inspire fear and we don’t call the Christian cross a racist symbol. By calling the meme racist, one disregards the actual call for change that it is displaying and the joy it is bringing. Giving into this use of the meme and calling Harambe offensive is, in fact, giving credence to the racists. Listen Maggie Walker- Harambe is certainly not a racist symbol, and the hijinks of the volleyball team are not meant to be offensive. If I still haven’t convinced you, please hear the plea of Donovan Reynolds (`18), “Don’t we have freedom of religion? Let me just worship Harambe in peace.”

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A Team’s Meme Dreams