Abolition, Liberation and Veganism

I'm glad The Vegan Police has a post discussing "Abolitionist History 101: Animal Abolition and Racism." In the post, The Vegan Police challenge the post-racial appropriation of "abolition." The post seeks to challenge readers ignorance and encourage us to dig deeper and learn something about the past and present abolitionist movements with regard to the historical and ongoing captivity of Blacks and other people of color in the United States. (Read more...)

The Garden: A Model for Change

I highly recommend watching Scott Hamilton Kennedy's documentary The Garden. This film brilliantly illustrates the following concrete realities as they are experienced by oppressed communities within the United States:

  1. It shows how the existing power structure is poorly suited to serving the interests of oppressed peoples.
  2. It shows how the existing power structure works extremely well at serving the interests of the owning-class.
  3. It shows how the existing power structure is bolstered throughout by White supremacy. (Read more...)

Get Help or Get Lost

Yesterday, Breeze Harper posted on the Sistah Vegan blog about her frustration with White self-identified vegans who think race and racism isn't an issue. Breeze says:

I'm at the point that if I have friends who are not willing to engage in anti-racist activism and aren't questioning "whiteness as a pathology"( because it truly is part of the fabric of the USA foundational beliefs), I am going to start kicking them to the curb. Seriously, if you haven't noticed, your friend Breeze here is B-L-A-C-K! If my real lived experiences of racism STILL don't convince you that it's a problem in the USA ... I can no longer be your friend until you seek therapy for your pathology.

Luckily, there are several self-help resources available to assist those of us who are White in managing our individual, cultural and institutional racism. Read more...

Race, Species and Dehumanization

From the headlines of yesterday's Democracy Now! comes this report of a speciesist and racist "joke" dehumanizing President Obama:

GOP Candidate Jokes About Hunting President Obama

An Idaho Republican gubernatorial candidate is claiming he was only joking when he said he would buy a license to hunt President Obama. At a rally in Twin Falls on Tuesday, Rex Rammell was discussing hunting tags, when an audience member shouted a question about "Obama tags." Rammell responded, "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those." Rammell says he sees no reason to apologize, because he was joking.

Racist and speciesist New York Post cartoon depicts two cops with guns drawn and a dead chimpanzee with gun shot wounds. One cop is saying: This is not the first time violence against nonhuman animals was employed to communicate a threatening racist message against the president. In February of this year, immediately after a chimpanzee who was being kept as a pet was shot and killed by police, the New York Post published a cartoon depicting the killing with one of the cops saying, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," in direct reference to President Obama.

(Read more...)

Oppression in the Background

On sunday, brownfemipower made a very insightful comment on the Vegans of Color blog. In her comment, BFP makes two major points: 1) there is no shortage of insensitivity in our society towards the oppression of people of color; and 2) exposure to extremely violent images of others being oppressed does not translate into respect for those who are being oppressed. These are both important points that deserve further consideration by vegans and other nonhuman animal advocates.

How PETA Exploits Black Men

The juxtaposition of the lynching of Black men and the slaughter of a bull, from a PETA exhibit in 2005, offends many Black people and anti-racist activists who object to the juxtaposition as dehumanizing and representative of White supremacy. Many of those (mostly White) nonhuman animal advocates who defend the comparison counter that those who object to the exhibit are just being "speciesist."

Racism on Animal Planet

I come across an interesting post from Fair Weather Vegan, via apoc of IllVox, discussing the racism of programs like Animal Planet's "Animal Precinct" and the colonialist gaze of its other "wildlife" programing:

All the 'Animal Cop'-style programs present owners who are mostly poor, and many of them are black or Hispanic, and this is never addressed or considered as a possible mitigating factor, or as some sort of structural problem which might be ameliorated in order to help the treatment of animals. The problem is presented as one of individual pathology, no matter what the situation. Needless to say almost all the ASPCA officers and vets portrayed, the population of professionals which 'deal with' these personal responsibility lapses, are white. The one exception is Detroit, and although some of the officers and staff are black, an even larger percentage of the offender population is also black and receives the same type of narrative treatment (They shoot dogs! Those barbarians!). The issue only gets more stark as Animal Planet films internationally, where one would think it would be difficult to avoid some sort of diversity. Yet there is not a single one of its international wildlife shows, that I know of, that focuses on a protagonist of color. Be s/he scientist, preservationist, vet, or volunteer, s/he is almost always a young, conventionally attractive white person, except in rare cases when she is an eccentric older white living in Africa, or, more rarely, South America or Asia. The message is always the same: whites save animals. Natives threaten animals, or at the very most provide manual labor for whites in their efforts to save animals. The network is particularly tone-deaf in the matter of Chimp Eden, which is set in South Africa for heaven's sake, and yet the sanctuary staff's racial makeup or history is not considered worth noting.

Feminism Beyond Transphobia

I no longer feel that continued education about trans issues within women's communities would change their oppressive behaviors in any significant degree, unless they are actually willing to change. It is not the lack of knowledge or information that keeps oppression going; it is the lack of feminist compassion, conscience and principle that is. -Emi Koyama, "Whose Feminism is it Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate"

When it comes to asking, "What are we going to do about transphobia among feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists?" Emi Koyama just about sums it up. These are people who currently dominate the feminist discourse on nonhuman animals; as authors, speakers (in some cases very well paid speakers), and academic they have a vested interest in continuing the status quo. (Read more...)

Being an Ally: Taking a Bullet

I can empathize with people's refusal to accept their privilege. That is, I can understand their situation, feelings, and motives for wanting to hold on to the privileges that come from oppressive systems. I struggle with confronting my own privileges everyday. However, since I feel working to divest ourselves of privilege is so important I have to admit I don't have much sympathy for those situations, feelings, and motives that lead us to believe that giving up privilege is too extreme or impossible. I can't accept excuses for our privileges that need interrogation and intervention. In terms of veganism and human privilege, the backlash goes that being a strict vegetarian who refuses to consume flesh, eggs and milk products is asking too much. But if we want to end human supremacy and speciesism, I think that a radical plant-based diet is only the beginning. After all, it's not like we're being asked to take a bullet for nonhuman animals.

However, I think in a way that confronting privilege – be it the privileges of being human, White, male, rich/middle-class, heterosexual, cissexual, citizen, able, adult, and/or colonizer – really needs to come to the point where, as anti-oppression allies, we're willing to take a bullet for those who are being exploited. After all, those privileges we enjoy are the result of the violent assault of oppression the target others. So, in a way, privilege isn't so much an invisible knapsack, as it is a form of bulletproof armor. At least in a figurative sense (but sometimes literally), the privileges we enjoy are bullets of exploitation that target oppressed groups.

While promoting a White anti-racist study group, my co-facilitator and I had a conversation with a Black woman who rightfully expressed skepticism about the sincerity of White folks organizing a study group on racism. She justifiably doubted that we would give up our privilege. At one point during the conversation she asked us if we were willing to "take a bullet" for her. I was honestly caught off guard by this, and since I wasn't prepared for that kind of question I stammered something that only betrayed my insincerity and internal confusion. My partner in organizing the study group was obviously better prepared than I and said he is working on it.

What really unnerved me wasn't the question – it wasn't that I thought I would have to literally "take a bullet" for this woman – it was how I felt exposed for being hypocritical. I knew that because I'm White that White supremacy in a sense makes me bulletproof to the everyday racism that she experiences as a person of color. I also knew that being an ally and working to divest myself of White privilege means reducing the effectiveness of my bulletproofed Whiteness. It means putting myself in the line of fire, instead of standing on the sideline while oppression continues. Being an ally actually means I'm no longer willing to allow others to be the target of bullets for my benefit.

When we're bulletproof it's too easy to sit back while others are being blown away; it's too easy to ignore our privilege. Being bulletproof makes us insensitive to oppression others experience. As long as we're attached to our privileges we'll be compelled to hold on to those systems that protects us from the very oppression and violence those same systems directs at others. I think being an anti-oppression ally means divesting ourselves of the privilege that requires others to take bullets for our benefit. It means dropping our bulletproof armor so that we become more sensitive to the affects of oppression on others.

Anti-Oppression and Law Enforcement

By way of Emily's The Partial Muse, I came across a comment Tim Wise left on Racialicious that backlashes against veganism. Wise's comment on Racialicious shows some confusion over anti-oppression work and law enforcement, not to mention a need to learn more about human supremacy and the oppression of nonhuman animals. (Read more...)