While most of the media coverage regarding Netflix’s Tiger King has focused on the plight of Joe Exotic and his cast of characters, Senior Writer Michael Harriot scored an exclusive interview with one of the seemingly forgotten victims of the limited docuseries that has taken the country by storm.
Hello, thank you for agreeing to meet with me.
Tiger Queen: You’re welcome. I don’t have a lot of time. I have quite a busy schedule so let’s make this quick.
I’m just kidding. I’m a tiger. What else do I have to do? With this coronavirus thing going on, my schedule has been pretty clear, although I have been sheltering in place my entire life. I don’t know why, but whenever I come around, everyone wants to practice social distancing.
I understand. Let’s start with the basics. What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Tonya the Tigress, the Queen of Black Tigers.
Wait...You’re a queen?
Yes! I am a direct descendant of Tony Luther King, Jr.
Is that the same Tony the Tiger from the Frosted Flakes cereal?
[Growls] Do not mention that company around me! Yes, that was my father. He began the big cats’ civil rights movement in the early 1900s. He was one of the most feared animal justice warriors in history.
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I didn’t even know there was a civil rights movement for tigers.
TLK created non-biting resistance to fight injustice and inequality but they tried to neutralize him with the Cat Instinct Taming Program. Most people still think COINTAILPRO is a harebrained conspiracy theory but it was very real. I’ve seen the documents.
After he was assassinated, they turned my dad into a lovable cartoon character. Now, white people love to quote him for their own purposes. When my father said “It’s greeeeeat,” he wasn’t talking about no damn cereal. He was talking about freedom and equality (and also how people taste when he mauls them).
That’s very interesting. Is that how you became the Tiger Queen?
No, my mother was royalty from Wakanda. She was a black panther who was stolen by Tony Stark when we allowed white people to visit during the great war against Thanos. Most people don’t know that Tony is a big animal collector. Yeah, bruh. Stark Industries is one of the largest big cat importers in America.
So how did you get to be the property of Joe Exotic?
You see, back in those days, interracial relationships were looked down upon so half panther/half tiger cubs were very inexpensive. Joe Exotic bought me for $400 and a toucan named Sam. You probably know him from Froot Loops, that sellout.
Anyway, I’ve been here ever since.
Tell me about the worst part of being here.
Well, it was all good in the beginning. Although there should be laws against cub labor, I didn’t have to do a lot. Every morning, they’d drag me out of my cage to let a few rednecks pet me and I was done for the day. I don’t know why white people love to touch our hair, but it didn’t bother me too much until I got older.
What happened when you got older?
That’s when things changed. As I grew up, I noticed how they began to see me differently—almost as if I was a threat. If I told them the milk was spoiled or asked for extra meat, they would act as if I was the proverbial “angry black tiger.” And then I began to notice the discrimination.
Yes. This whole animal park is rife with white supremacy. Haven’t you noticed how they treat the snow leopards and the albino tigers? Their cages are bigger. They get first dibs on the spoiled Walmart meat. They get steaks and prime ribs while dark-skinned cats like me eat chicken nuggets and turkey necks. Not to mention the education disparities.
Wait, there are education disparities?
Let me put it this way: Have you ever seen who gets to jump through hoops during the main show for the visitors? They say it’s because African tigers aren’t as smart as the Asian ones, but it’s really because our tamers are underfunded. They get trainers with advanced zoological degrees while we get meth heads who looked like someone played musical chairs with their teeth.
That’s also why we must support HBCUs.
You went to a historically black college?
No, dummy, I went to a Historical Big Cat University. I have a Masters in Business Administration but I’m always overlooked for the management positions. Sure, occasionally Joe will give a darker cat a shot. But everyone knows Bengal Carson is a sellout. And don’t even get me to talking about those twin cougars—Diamond and Silk. I’ve heard him call them liggers behind their backs.
Yes. A domesticated feline will groom a human’s feet instead of attacking it. So, rednecks refer to bootlicking tigers as “liggers.” It’s very disrespectful.
But don’t you think that Joe Exotic loves all the animals equally?
Hell no! He’s a white man with a mullet. His supporters will tell you that he loves all animals, but they’re racist too. If you watch the Netflix series, you’ll notice that his rallies are mostly filled with white people who believe he is “making animals great again.” I called it the “MAGA” movement.
They don’t care that he wants to put our children in cages. They see us as dangerous thugs, terrorists and animals who will attack their daughters. I don’t even like white girls like that! They taste like expired potted meat from Walmart. They don’t realize that they are much more likely to be killed by a machine gun-toting crystal meth addict than a panther who just wants freedom and equality.
He wants to build a wall to protect people from us. You think we want to spend our lives hanging around white people? A wall won’t protect you. Have you ever seen a tiger? Doesn’t he know that we climb trees? Plus, we can pounce like a motherfucker!
Apologists like to say that their anti-black cat stance is just “taxonomic anxiety” but it’s really just bite supremacy.
He’s that bad?
Didn’t you see the special counsel’s report about how he colluded with that dictator down in South Carolina? Didn’t you hear the phone call when he offered financial aid in exchange for investigating his rival, Carole Baskin? He claims the phone call was “perfect”; then why won’t they air the full transcript?
So you like Carole Baskin? Would you like to live in her sanctuary?
Fuck her, too! She’s no better than Joe.
She’s also part of the tiger industrial complex, too. She wants you to think she is for animal justice reform but she is one of the biggest supporters of cat incarceration. I haven’t forgotten when she called us “superpredators.”
When she allegedly fed her husband to a Bengal tiger, the FBI didn’t even look at her emails. That’s why I’m calling for a thorough investigation into Bengal-zi.
Lock her up! Lock her up!
So what would you like to come out of this Netflix documentary?
Well first, I want reparations.
They stole our ancestors, made us work for free and then they segregated us for years. We built this land and have never been paid for it. The reason discrimination exists is because they don’t teach cat history.
Secondly, I want to end the inhumane treatment of my species.
Whenever someone mentions feline brutality, someone brings up what Scar did to Mufasa and whines about cat-on-cat crime. They love to ignore all the big cats who have contributed to society—like my homeboy who coexisted peacefully with a witch and a wardrobe or my uncle who helped Dorothy get home. (He was not a coward, by the way; he just had Wizard Anxiety Disorder.) They tell us to stop resisting when we are the ones who are being whipped and locked up. They forget about all the cats who haven’t mauled a single soul and point to rare cases like what happened to Siegfried…(Or maybe it was Roy. They all look alike to me.)
Finally, we have to enact some animal justice reform. So many of my brothers and sisters are in prison for nonviolent offenses. There are innocent lions in prison right now for simply walking down the street. It’s just an irrational fear. Every time a white person sees an innocent jaguar or bobcat in their neighborhood they call the police, but white people did nothing to the man who killed Cecil the Lion.
Cat lives matter.
You’ve given us a lot to think about. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I’d like to wish a speedy recovery to my second cousin Nadia, who recently tested positive for coronavirus. And tell Tarzan that I ain’t forgot what he did to my cousin in Sabor.
We never forget.
I thought elephants never forget.
I pledged Delta.