Harambe and His Impact

Czarlyn Ria Trinidad , Staff Member

Harambe. Most people have heard of him, whether it be through the news, through social media, or even through lunch group conversations. Harambe was a gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo.

On May 28, a three-year old boy was found climbing into the gorilla enclosure. The zoo officials tried to get Harambe and the two other gorillas in the enclosure to stay away from the child, but Harambe hesitated. Instead, he actually approached the child. (Whether or not he was approaching to protect or harm the child is still being debated). Zoo officials, worried about the safety of the child, decided that shooting Harambe was the best course of action.

There were many critics of this decision, and of course where do the biggest critics come from? The internet of course.

After the incident, the internet took to making memes in honor of Harambe; these memes are a way of keeping Harambe’s memory alive. “I love Harambe memes because they keep him alive not only on the internet but in our hearts,” said senior Melissa Curlee. Harambe memes went viral on all social media–most notably, Twitter.

Twitter, well known for its hashtag feature, blew up with multiple hashtags such as #RIPHarambe and #JusticeforHarambe shortly after the death of Harambe. Through these trending tags, Twitter users started sharing their own Harambe memes.

Most memes usually die down within a couple of weeks to a month, but you can still find a plethora of people still talking about Harambe and posting memes about him four months later. What does this mean? What significance do Harambe and his memes have?

The death of Harambe holds a great significance. Senior Kristen St. Cyr said, “Harambe is a figurehead. I view his death as a symbol of the harm humans to do animals. Harambe’s death also, to me, brings awareness to issues like child neglect and zoo safety.” Senior Madison Sauviac also agreed, saying, “Harambe is becoming a symbol of revolt and justice.”

However, there’s always a darker side to things. Some people have used the Harambe movement to perpetuate racist messages. In the past, whites compared black people to gorillas as a way of calling them less than human. Many Harambe memes have racist undertones. For example, “Harambe Lives Matter” mock the Black Lives Matter movement, which is a movement that was created due to the injustice many African Americans face from police brutality.

The Internet, known for its baffling trends, has turned the death of a gorilla zoo, Harambe, into so much more than just a story you hear in the news. It has immortalized Harambe in its memes. But, the internet has taken the memes, something originally meant to honor, and has turned them into something that breeds hate. While its original purpose was wholesome, the end result is far from it.