Speak Out!

In his article "Beyond Diversity," Paul Kivel writes, "The first step in diversity work is assessment—determining who has access to power and resources, who is safe and who isn't, who participates and who doesn't." As Kivel advises, we should begin by talking about "how we got to this point where diversity is an issue."

I believe the problem with the a many of the projects, campaigns, and policies I write about on this blog is the lack of any prior claim by oppressed people whose exploitation is being criticized. If, for instance, the oppression of people of color or transgrender people is considered from the start with their full participation then there really shouldn't be much need for criticism.

I admit that I don't go to those being criticized privately before hand. This is based on my own assessment of power and participation. I've done so in the past, but with heartbreaking consequences. I'm usually dismissed because in nearly every case I'm coming as an outside with criticisms of insiders who have a lot more power and connections in nonhuman animal advocacy circles. So I've found that going to these people privately simply works to support their power and privilege as opposed to challenging it. Now, rather than lobbying the elites at the top, which has never worked for me, I prefer to make my criticism public so they can hopefully empower others to speak out and rally together.

For example, if I believed in a principle of first privately taking all critiques to the people at the top, then I'd have to believe that the organizers of AR2008 are justified in denying the people of color caucus a voice at the conference because they didn't follow this same principle. This reinforces a structure based on backroom lobbying that requires the elites, as one conference insider offered, "interacting with the conference organizers at the behest of the people of color caucus" for the very fact that people of color aren't allowed to interact on their own behest. That is, by treating criticism as a private matter, the POC caucus would be limited to reaffirm the existing power held by insiders while they remain locked outside the decision-making process.

This is why I believe if we really want to support nonhuman advocacy work that is both diverse and anti-oppression-based, then we have a responsibility to speak out publicly on oppression whenever and wherever we find it. If that means being seen as disruptive, divisive, disloyal to the "movement," or a trouble-maker so be it. I'd rather be all these things than remain silent while others are being exploited "for the cause."