Animal Whites 2008

A couple months ago I posted about the assumption of universal Whiteness built into the scheduled program for "Animal Rights 2008" (AR2008), a national conference that took place this past weekend. In a blog posting on the conference, Debra Erenberg of Rainforest Action Network wrote about the ways Whiteness played out over the weekend:

This might be a harder decision for an AR group to make – but at a minimum, the AR movement needs to come to terms with its own whiteness and start to build more of an anti-oppressive lens where other people are concerned. For example, the People of Color caucus that met earlier today asked to read a statement – calling for anti-oppression and anti-racist workshops at future AR conferences – and was denied the opportunity to speak. If we can’t allow space for people of color to be heard within our own movement, how can we expect movements representing people of color to collaborate with us?

I couldn't agree more about the need to address issues of Whiteness and take a serious anti-oppression approach. However, according to the Website for the AR2008, it is "the world's largest & oldest animal rights gathering, hailing back to 1981," and I don't see Whiteness or anti-oppression on the horizon any time soon.

Debra also writes: "Often, when I talk to AR activists, I get the feeling that the question they're asking isn't 'How can I be more collaborative with the environmental movement?' It's really 'How can I get the environmental movement to promote veganism?'" This is also my experience, and is exactly how the program for the conference read with respect to other movements. So I'm not at all surprised that the People of Color caucus was denied an opportunity to speak.

I was recently accused of "finding yet another way to divide an already divided movement." But I don't consider myself a part of the "AR movement" that is represented by the AR conferences. I consider myself part of the vegan movement. To me the appropriation of veganism by a "movement" of single-issued non-profits working on piecemeal issues related to nonhuman animal is dividing the vegan movement.

That is, anti-oppression and environmental justice are part and parcel of veganism. The founding statement of the Vegan Society in the mid-1940's clearly stated that the movement seeks to support the liberation of human and nonhuman animals, as well as an equitable and responsible use of the Earth's resources. So the compartmentalized mindset that thinks, "How can I get the environmental movement to promote veganism?" is fundamentally flawed. If we're not promoting environmental and social justice, then we're not really promoting veganism.

Re: Animal Whites 2008

I think most vegans are opposed to racism and other oppression of any kind. At AR2008 I attended a session called "Commonalities of Oppression." But I would have liked to have heard the statement from the People of Color caucus, and I do agree that we need more people from other races represented in our movement.

Re: Animal Whites 2008

I was at AR 2008.

I'm curious to know where you see racism in the event?

I can see a person of color feeling uncomfortable there as most people where Caucasian, but I didn't hear an racist comments.

It seemed to me as if everyone was friendly.

I would be interested to read your views about where the racism is.

Steve, read the linked posts

Steve, read the linked posts at the top of this entry. The presumption of universal whiteness is a fundamental problem. I'm glad to see it pointed out.