Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Rights or Liberation August 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 3:53 am
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I have always loved words. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t amazed by the power of words, both written and spoken. I’m big on word meanings and the idea of animal rights hasn’t sat well with me for a while, at least not since I gained an interest in both anarchism and black liberation.

As I read more and more about anarchism I realized that the State isn’t the be-all and end-all for change. But it was my own readings into both the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power/Liberation movement(s) that my eyes really opened. I had learned every February for 13 years about the Civil Rights movement, about how it won all these rights for African-Americans. But I read about and saw with my own eyes that it didn’t solve all the problems facing Black folks. Thats when anarchism and the Black Panthers entered my life.  Black Panthers weren’t depending on the State to create change in their communities, but they weren’t going to silently take care of their communities– the State heard their complaints loud and clear (by the way I know this piece focuses heavily on Black folks, and I don’t mean to marginalize other people of color, because my readings of Yellow, Red, and Brown Power movements also helped me develop my thoughts). And though a ton of shit still needs to be done for liberation of all folks of color, and the Black Panthers were far from perfect, the Black Panthers presented ideas that were revolutionary in scope and that could lead to real radical change.

So what does this have to do with animal rights? And why do I have a problem with it? Animal rights don’t sit well with me for several reasons.

Animal rights are dependent on the State. Only the State can give rights, and as we’ve learned, from history, law alone doesn’t change things. By relying on the State we give up some of our autonomy for creating change. The other problem is the laws on the books don’t protect a lot of animals, despite the sort of discourses Animal Precinct may create. The law doesn’t change people, at most it puts people in cages, and puts animals in different ones.

Animal rights also get co-opted by consumerism. If we think boycotting this company or that company to force cruelty-free products (dubious phrasing for the most part) is all we need to do then again we are falling short on creating real change.

Animal rights also compartmentalizes suffering. If we can get specific laws passed then the animals will be slightly better off. When we get a law passed the image becomes that now things are ok. When a corporation bends on one point, its a victory to be celebrated. An example for this is the KFC  Canada/PETA thing. PETA has basically advertised for KFC by telling folks to go buy the new vegan option, and though it is wonderful that KFC now has a vegan option, and more “humane” conditions for the chickens it kills, i still kills chickens in the same numbers as before. The only ones who benefited were vegans with a new option at KFC.

Animal rights, being dependent on a rights-base discourse, also has a habit of ignoring other issues. Intersectionality doesn’t even enter the discourse, because when you are fighting for a new law or rule, one has to be specific. This specificity in discourse means you can care a helluva lot about animals, but be sexist or racist (or engage in supporting any sort of system of oppression) and yet again PETA pops to mind.

I prefer animal liberation (despite the fact that I hate Singer’s book). As I learned, from the Black Panthers, liberation encompasses the tactics used in rights-based discourses but isn’t limited to them. One can write to a politician or corporation and whether or not something is done a that level, change will be sought anyway. I also feel that liberation struggles are linked in a way rights are not. When fighting for liberation one is actively engaged with dismantling the system(s) of oppression, and if oppressions are linked (which a lot of us seem to think they are), then one can fight several battles with the same action. I think that liberation is more full, where as animal rights creates legal change that forces people to treat animals differently, animal liberation is a fight for a paradigm shift, for political, legal, social, psychic, an material changes in how we all interact with animals.

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27 Responses to “Rights or Liberation”

  1. supernovadiva Says:

    I really dug this entry. The answer is for us as a people to take the responsibility. I’ve been trying to get people to grow their own food, but no one wants to do the work. What does that have to do with the subject? If people take control of their own food, they would up their standards. They will think about what they put in their mouths. The slaughtering of animals is all about money. I’m not saying that everyone would stop eating animals if they took control of their food, but the factory farms (animal and veg) would be less profitable. It’s very easy to take the approach of a baby- you want it now, no matter what. But corporations feel no need to change. They will change the labels to suit the trends (green, no trans fat, etc.), but they won’t change production. Maybe I’m way off subjectwise, but the Black Panthers did teach me to not wait for the handout. Handle it yourself. So KFC has a vegan chicken patty now. Why do you need a faux chicken patty?

  2. Great post, Royce. It really gets at why we need to change our whole worldview and not just add more regulation. Supernovadiva, I think it’s great to encourage people to grow our own food. I could certainly stand to do that but, so far, I have never been able to keep so much as a houseplant alive! :)

    This might be a bit off topic but it goes with Royce’s points about rights vs liberation. One thing that’s dangerous about the whole local/grow your stuff thing is, I feel like it’s just exoticizing and commodifying more animals. It’s still okay to use animals as long as they eat grass and have plenty of room before they’re killed. I just declined an invitation to a food blogger picnic in large part because, not only were cow burgers on the menu, but I’d also have to be around grilled local, “humanely” raised pheasant, venison and a whole host of other animals I didn’t even eat as a meateater. Uh, no thanks.

  3. supernovadiva Says:

    yeah the grow your own garden isn’t for everyone. buying local is the other option (which i do also). i have this argument with friends all the time about ‘humane’ meat. it reminds me of school teachers (20+ years ago) saying ‘not all slave masters were mean.’ really?! in this information age, still we rather lay back in ignorance, but we call it “convience.”
    but my question is how do we go about the change? how do we engage the community?

  4. Eric Says:

    I’ve always loved words myself. One I’ve spent a lot of time explaining lately is “rights,” or more specifically the term, “animal rights.” I’m in the midst of writing an AR101 series for ananimalfriendlylife.com, and the whole point is to address this confusion over the meaning and implication of animal rights. So let me try to do the nutshell version in response to your post, as I think it’s very important to clear up some misunderstandings I saw.

    I notice that your site has a link to Bob Torres’s blog. Bob is an avowed anarchist and animal rights proponent who wrote the book explaining the connection between the two in Making a Killing. I highly recommend reading his book to see that it can actually be a comfortable fit, State be damned.

    There’s at least two things I want to clear up. Probably 3. Will see how this goes without editing. It’s late and I have to be up at 5:30, but this is important.

    1. Rights are frequently misunderstood. You yourself fail to distinguish between moral and legal rights, and then there are privileges, powers, and immunities, which separate categories distinct from basic rights, such as the right not to be treated as property. This particular legal right is what was needed to give slaves the ability to be freed/liberated to begin with. To be someone’s property is, of course, not to be free. Granted, this one basic legal right did not solve all problems overnight, nor will it do so for nonhuman animals, but for nonhumans to be even categorized as right-holders who can then be protected with subsequent legal rights, their property status must first be abolished, as both Bob and Gary L. Francione discuss at length (as do I at my blog). The rights view is itself radical, in that it gets to the root of the problem…

    2. It is the human perception of nonhumans as things for our use, as property, that contributes so primarily to their oppression in the first place. By focusing on the injustice and immorality of using animals as resources, abolitionist animal rights advocates are not actually promoting legal rights. It is far too premature. We are simply working to help people wrap their heads around the idea that, because animals have interests that merit moral consideration, they have moral rights. This view is very consistent with treating animals as individuals and respecting their autonomy. If the majority of people in our society view animals not as resources, but as beings whose interests in avoiding pain and death are worth protecting, then legal rights become the formality that entrenches that view, and protects them from those in the minority that would continue to do them harm. Again, we would likely find more laws necessary in order to protect nonhuman interests, just as we do to protect humans, and it would be speciesist to deny the same protection to nonhumans that we do to humans.

    3. What you have a problem, with regard to “animal rights,” is misdirected. First of all, only legal rights are “are dependent on the State.” Not “Only the State can give rights,” as animals and humans alike have moral rights by virtue of their sentience. Legal rights are, of course, also dependent on the recognition that animals have moral rights in the first place. We often expect our laws to eventually catch up with our morality. As I conceded, the law alone doesn’t change things, but the law itself won’t change until society changes. Liberation will not begin with some truly impossible act of legislation. Liberation begins in the mind. Every person that comes to realize that animals are right-holders whose interests deserve equal consideration with our own and decides that this means they cannot violate those animals’ rights and must therefore go vegan is contributing to the liberation of animals. Only after a large majority of people in society have already liberated animals by no longer eating or wearing them, or otherwise contributing to their exploitation, will legal rights even be a consideration for animals. Anyone who thinks we can legislate legal rights for animals without a massive social justice movement that recognizes the moral rights of animals first doesn’t understand legal rights, which brings me to point 4 (so much for 2-3).

    4. You write: “The other problem is the laws on the books don’t protect a lot of animals, despite the sort of discourses Animal Precinct may create. The law doesn’t change people, at most it puts people in cages, and puts animals in different ones.”

    The laws on the books are regulations. They are not rights, and they never will be as long as animals are property. They purport to take animals’ interests into consideration, but animals’ interests will never count for as much as humans’ interests as long as they are our property (we are the right-holders, and they are legally things), so they will always lose. Everything animal activists do to strengthen these laws is a step deeper into welfarism and continuing to use animals, and has nothing to do with animal rights. Please be clear on that.

    Related to this topic, I totally agree with how “animal rights” (vegan advocacy in particular) gets co-opted by consumerism, but you must realize after everything that I’ve written here that nothing the “animal rights movement” does is related to animal rights. It’s all about animal welfare for them. We have a massive humane movement, spearheaded by PETA and HSUS, not an “AR movement.” They’ve co-opted the term!

    Veganism is not a boycott. It is the practical expression of abolition in one’s daily life, a total rejection of the belief that it is acceptable to use animals for our own benefit. Treating veganism as a boycott, as PETA does (and as Vegan Outreach more or less does), implies that the problem is the level of cruelty, not that animals’ rights are being violated.

    Their approach actually reinforces the property status of animals, and is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the traditional welfarism that accepts the use of animals as justifiable. These organizations promote a sort of utilitarianism disguised as rights, but Karen Dawn, Peter Singer, and others have acknowledged that they use the term “animal rights” loosely, as a catch-all term for any type of pro-animal activism, which has corrupted and morally bankrupted the entire “animal rights movement.” As Gary Francione says, there is no animal rights movement. There are too few people actually promoting the rights of animals at this moment to even figure out who they are. Fortunately blogs have sprung up, Gary’s work has received renewed interest, and there may well be a nascent AR movement coalescing right now.

    Unlike these so-called “rights” activists, abolitionism does not compartmentalize suffering. You would be correct to say that regulations create “the image becomes that now things are ok,” but this could not happen with rights, because legal rights would prevent us from using animals as resources. One of the greatest problems with the humane movement is that, because they have co-opted the term “animal rights,” they have confused people into thinking animal rights activists support campaigns like controlled atmosphere killing of chickens, which is absurd. Honest-to-goodness ARAs would no more support CAK of innocent chickens than they would CAK of innocent humans.

    PETA likes to claim it is the largest animal rights organization in the world, but please, please, please don’t take their word for it. They are a welfarist organization, and they do nothing but confuse the issue, and your post is proof of it. They even have you believing that vegans benefit from having a new (non-vegan) option at KFC Canada. Truly the winners here are KFC. The animals lose, as you suggest, and so do vegans, particularly those who are vegan for rights-based reasons.

    I would address the following:

    “Animal rights, being dependent on a rights-base discourse, also has a habit of ignoring other issues. Intersectionality doesn’t even enter the discourse, because when you are fighting for a new law or rule, one has to be specific. This specificity in discourse means you can care a helluva lot about animals, but be sexist or racist (or engage in supporting any sort of system of oppression) and yet again PETA pops to mind.”

    But by now it should be clear that you have been fooled into believing any of this stuff has anything to do with rights. Rights are radically egalitarian. They are rooted in the sentience of ALL beings. We all have interests, and we are morally obligated to give those interests equal consideration to our own where they are similar, regardless of race, sex, species, age, and so on.

    The concept of rights is more closely related to justice than you realize. It is quite clearly about justice for individual beings, and I would strongly encourage to tread up more before writing about the topic further. I suggest everything Gary L. Francione has written (starting with Introduction to Animal rights or his new book, Animals as Persons, if you’re short on time), not to mention Making a Killing, which I brought up much earlier in this comment.

    Gary and Bob explain this much better and in more detail than I possibly could here.

  5. Royce Drake Says:

    Eric–

    I’m glad you have things to say, and conversations are good for shaping ideas, but this comment/response seems excessively long. Since you have your own blog, perhaps writing a response there would have been a better medium. I’m assuming you’re White (your response really makes it seem so). In fact your response reeks of a colonialist attitude: instead of simply arguing your points, you say multiple times that I am mistaken, or misinformed, or misunderstanding. I remarked on what I see and what I have noticed– in more than just animal rights and animal liberation, but in rights and liberation models in general.

    Somehow from my post you seemed to gather that I argue for legal change first, which is false. Personally I don’t think we should rely on the law for anything.

    I find your contention that some form of rights was necessary to free slaves to be offensive, and belittling of the fact that many slaves didn’t wait for a Proclamation of rights to liberate themselves.

    I ignored moral rights because I was focusing on ideas behind strategies. I also personally don’t believe in moral rights, which are still dependent on an Authority.

    In summation… please check your privilege at the door, and don’t assume I misunderstand what I’m talking about, and that you have all the answers.

  6. Eric Says:

    Well, thanks for making this about me and my whiteness, Royce. It seems to me that you’re reading quite a bit into what I wrote, rather unfairly, and with much judgment and presumptuousness yourself. Not only do I not presume to have all the answers, nor do I suggest as much, but I also do make an effort to check my privilege everywhere I go, Royce. That isn’t to say I’m always entirely successful (or even remotely), but I do what I can, given my limitations. In the meantime, I read what I can about the subject of privilege, as well as talking frankly with my non-white/non-hetero/non-male friends all the time to better understand my privilege in this culture, to learn how it affects others, and to find ways for me to actively be aware of and sensitive to that, and to avoid having my privilege harm others to the extent that I am able to understand it and do something about it from my own necessarily narrow point of view as a heterosexual white male brought up in a culture that privileges people “lucky” enough to be born that way. My reading includes this very blog, Sistah Vegan, Vegan Ideal, SuperWeed, slither.net, and more, and I’m sure it will continue for many years to come, as I seek to understand it–as I sought to understand animal rights.

    Ironically, I have never felt much in common with the people I grew up with. I was born into that world and was of course led to believe that it was the desirable norm, just like everyone else, but I never fit in or even liked it all that much. Sure, shiny things are pretty, but I long ago turned my back on the very easy, even more privileged life I could have had if I hadn’t started questioning my worldview and its assumptions, and seeing life from other points of view. Once I started letting go of that privileged view, I didn’t care about making hundreds of thousands of dollars, traveling, etc. I wanted to do the right thing. Living a values-centered life meant moving where my wife wanted to be so she could pursue her ambitions, it meant running an abolitionist vegan association for absolutely no pay and in order to help the most oppressed and voiceless beings on our planet. I am doing what ever little bit I can, and learning/re-learning along the way. I dedicate my life to this stuff instead of leveraging my privilege. But because my comment ‘reeks’ of my colonialist education/brainwashing, i.e., I have the temerity to suggest that someone is misunderstanding a concept (which is different from having an alternate opinion), that I personally have a colonialist attitude, which suggests all kinds of nasty little things about me. Thanks for that, Royce.

    Privilege is not something I ever went out of my way to secure and hold over others to dominate them (unlike some). Quite the contrary. I’ve rejected it, and it’s something I’m trying to deconstruct, difficult as it is for someone that was so immersed in that culture from birth. I find it rather presumptuous of you to assume that I am leaning on privilege as if I’d never even thought about it before. I am doing what I can to deprogram myself and to see the world for what it is. It’s not easy, with so much deprogramming to do, but I earnestly try, I listen, and I grow, and I’ll keep getting better. So, come off your own pedestal for a minute here. Your comment was certainly a great way to shut down conversations that might shape ideas, you know. Perhaps your holier-than-thou attitude about my privilege is meant to shame me into not responding, but it’s quite the opposite, as you can see.

    As for length, it didn’t start out that way, but the ideas rolled out. I recognize that I can be verbose (witness this comment). However, that in and of itself is no reason to post my response at AAFL. I think this discussion does belong here, and why not? I commented underneath this post for a very specific reason, and I don’t really see you addressing much of the substance of my critique, busy as you are insulting me with your assessment of my privileged status. I also never suggested that *you* thought we should argue for legal change first (I think I was pretty clear on your rejection of legal change and authority in general), but that you suggested that animal *rights* activists are arguing for legal changes ahead of more fundamental changes, and they aren’t. Not genuine rights activists. The welfarists are.

    When I see you equating PETA’s ‘advocacy’ with animal rights, then I think it is more than fair for me to question that, as it is simply not true (and it is also offensive). I am not the Authority that dictates what is or is not animal rights work, but I have been coming to understand it much more clearly over the past year and a half or so. It’s pretty clear from reading, analyzing, and discussing the work of rights-based thinkers like Regan, Francione, and others what the term ‘animal rights’ actually means, and so I think it’s all the more critical that the rights view is distinguished from what the so-called AR movement is doing. For you to blend the two and then condemn animal rights based at least in part on what PETA and others are doing (in the field of welfare) is incorrect on the face of it. I’m sorry. If this is not what you were doing, then I misunderstood that part of your post, and I simply don’t know *what* you were doing by saying that PETA engages in animal rights campaigns when the examples you gave were clearly not rights campaigns. If you do not misunderstand rights v. welfare, and know that PETA engages in welfarism and not rights campaigning, then perhaps you are conflating PETA and animal rights knowing full well that they do not promote rights, in which case the example would be intellectually dishonest instead. Regardless of what is really going on in this post, it seemed to me that someone needed to clarify what rights are. People can decide for themselves whether they want to believe in rights, but they ought to understand them before they make up their minds, don’t you think?

    On that note, moral rights do not come from some Authority, though legal rights obviously do. Moral rights exist as a concept based on the idea that sentient beings have interests that are morally considerable, and that those interests ought to be protected, not necessarily by some higher, centralized authority, but by others with no greater authority over one another than anyone else, other than perhaps the ability to ignore or violate those interests. You can recognize my moral right not to be cause me pain simply because it might benefit you to cause me pain (though I know you don’t believe in moral rights, but go with it), and I can recognize the same. There is no Authority there. Just a recognition of justice and fairness. This is true also when extrapolated more broadly to a society, regardless of how that society is structured. Did you read Bob’s book? I’d be curious to see what you have to write about his discussion of animal rights and anarchy. Also, just to wrap up this general rights v. welfare discussion, did you read the substance of my post after taking umbrage at my perceived colonialism? I write that liberation begins in people’s minds, and I think that actually meshes with what you are saying in your post, unless I misunderstand you. In my comment, it should be clear that I agree that laws (rights, in particular, as opposed to regulations) don’t liberate beings, people do. Laws regulating the treatment of nonhuman animal property will never change people’s minds about using animals as our property, as people like Austria’s Martin Balluch have bizarrely suggested. People’s minds have to be opened up and changed first. Laws are kind of like that person that always comes in after others have done all the hard work and takes credit for it. Still, without laws, I would have no recourse if someone were to ignore my morally significant interests, such as avoiding pain or suffering. Though most of us agree that is wrong to ignore these interests, people still do it all the time, for any number of reasons, and at least the law gives us some sort of recourse that I imagine most of us would miss quite a bit if it were taken away.

    Finally, I understand that you are offended at my “contention” that the legal right not to be property is what was needed to give slaves the ability to be freed/liberated to begin with, but I think you are misunderstanding me here. I certainly meant no offense, though that is no doubt not the point. As I wrote, to be someone’s property is, of course, not to be free. To not be considered property is to be free. Yes, some slaves freed themselves physically from their situations, but they were still regarded as property by the Authorities of the land, and recaptured slaves were treated as such. Yes, life after slavery was fraught with injustice, and still is. No, abolition did not solve all the problems inherent with having made Africans and other people of color into slaves in this country in the first place. But abolition did legally remove slaves from the class of things and into the moral community of persons, and that was a very important start. It’s hard to see what other ways out of slavery are conceivable for the 19th century, given the stranglehold of oppression wielded by white, property-owning American males.

    Perhaps a massive slave uprising that would have forced their owners and the law to recognize their (moral right, or whatever, to) freedom. Not sure how this would have panned out, as it is likely that the hand of oppression would have come down rather strongly (with brute force, as it often does in our police state), but let’s say it worked out this way. Without toppling those in Authority completely (and, realistically, crushing them in such a way that they could not devise a way to claw their way back on top of some power hierarchy), slaves would still have been legally regarded as property and so, in the historical context I was describing, they still would not truly have been free without the law of the land recognizing their interest in not being used exclusively as a resource by others.

    Yes, I recognize that some people think the whole system has to be replaced if we are going to achieve a truly just society (I’m not sure people are that infallible, but that’s another topic). At any rate, I never said that the way it happened was the only way it could have happened. What I wrote was that the abolition of humans as property was what was necessary for slaves to be freed, and in the historical context of our culture, that is what it took (again, not that it couldn’t have gone down a totally different, and better or worse way). I also want to just add that, by “freed,” it should have been clear from the context of my post that I meant slaves were freed from their status as legal property, which is what happened. That is an observation, not a contention.

    (FWIW, I recently started reading All on Fire, a biography of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, so I will be interested to see what insights are offered with respect to Northern views of slaves a property, if any)

    Sincere apologies for another “excessively” long comment. I really don’t have time for all this, either, but the conflation of rights and welfare is a real push-button issue for me lately, and you have to expect that–when you call a privileged colonialist someone who is taking the time to subscribe, read, and post at your blog in the course of a career seeking permanent and meaningful protection of the most violated and oppressed beings on the planet–he is going to want to respond. I’m sure this is not the simplest or even easiest to follow comment I could have written, and I’m sure I have not by any means found a good framework for having this conversation, much less ending it here (and is there an ending point, really?). Given your comment, I don’t know if you really want a conversation with me so much as to put me in my place as a privileged white colonialist, but perhaps I am misreading you.

    I wish I had time to find out, but I don’t think either of us are ready for more extended comments. Besides, I really need to focus on preparing for the animal rights conference I’m speaking at next week. If you are coming (I know, you don’t believe in rights), I’d be eager to talk with you more about all this in a format even more conducive than a blog (much less comments on a blog): a personal dialog. I really do enjoy communication and growth. I think I could learn a lot, and I want to. Your comment didn’t really leave the door open for that, but I suspect that you’d be up for a real dialog under the right circumstances.

    Thanks for helping me to see veganism and the world from your own personal point of view.

  7. Eric Says:

    Something I wrote above was nagging at the back of my mind:

    “I dedicate my life to this stuff instead of leveraging my privilege.”

    Actually, I’m sure that my work in animal rights and vegan advocacy does leverage my privilege. It’s doubtful that I would be able to do the work I do were I not in a privileged position to begin with. It’s something to think about.

    So, with that, I will conclude. I have a lot more reading, listening, experiencing, and learning to do about the subject you raised, and I so I will shut up and keep doing just that.

    However, I hope that none of this detracts from my message that animal rights are about protecting the morally considerable interests all sentient beings with moral and legal boundaries (rights), regardless of age, sex, race, sexual orientation, or species. Animal welfare is simply about reducing the suffering of sentient beings that we use as our resources, mainly by negotiating/passing regulatory reforms or welfare laws.

    All the best,

    Eric

  8. Royce Drake Says:

    Eric–

    I won’t be responding to any comments you leave on this post after this, but I have to point out that your self-righteous response to my observations continued to show that you may work on your privilege on your own terms, but not when someone points it out. I saw some classic wite magik attax in this second response: the seeing eye frog, oversensitive, and the appeal to melanin. Also I never called you a colonialist, but thats beside the point.

  9. Eric Says:

    Royce,

    I hope you’ll consider responding long enough to explain some of the terms you’re using. I’ll trying Googling them, too, but you used them, so it would be helpful to know what you mean by them.

    As for oversensitive, I find that observation ironic in light of other claims about me (which paint me as not sensitive enough), though I must agree that I can indeed be oversensitive. I suppose that’s why I accidentally shifted to stating that you called me a colonialist later in the same post where I referred to colonialist education and the reference to colonial attitude. My bad.

  10. Eric Says:

    Oh, damn. Sorry to post again. I forgot to reply to this:

    “I have to point out that your self-righteous response to my observations continued to show that you may work on your privilege on your own terms, but not when someone points it out.”

    I made a very clear request to speak to you further. Personally, even. I don’t know what you mean by the above (probably more privilege on my part?). It’s the fact that you took issue with my approach in the first place that made me realize I was not communicating effectively with you, and that I obviously needed to re-dedicate myself to examining and deconstructing my privilege.

    If you’d like to take on the job of helping me out, fine. I’m sure you have a lot you could share with me. But I sincerely doubt from your responses that you are interested in doing so, nor do I expect it.

    Besides, I can take responsibility for my need to educate myself, and much of what I have read online so far about de-constructing white privilege tells me more or less not to turn random people of color into my own personal Google, but to go learn for myself (books, other websites, etc.). That’s exactly what I plan to do.

    Peace,

    Eric

  11. Noemi M Says:

    I think this place has to be respected. If someone says that they will not respond/answer or further a debate, their wishes should be respected. Maybe there should be some ground rules?

  12. Noemi M Says:

    My response was probably more for the bloggers of VoC.

  13. johanna Says:

    Whoa, Eric, you need to chill instead of leaving more tl;dr comments… when someone suggests that you need to think about your privilege, it’s appropriate to bow out of the discussion & do so (or, as Royce suggested, take it to your own blog)… not get ever more lengthily defensive.

    As it turns out I just wrote about the right to stop the conversation for IBARW, go figure.

  14. [...] this weekend I found that POC spaces are harder to maintain virtually. My post on Vegans of Color got invaded by some white dude with a god complex. This motherfucker chose the wrong weekend to [...]

  15. Luke Says:

    After reading this post I agree that someone needed to clarify what “rights” are and also further examine PETA’s rhetorical (and wrongful) use of the term “animal rights” in reference to their overall ideology and campaining, and, if Eric had not tried to do so, I would have given it a shot.
    I think it’s shameful that this was not discussed without “the race card” being so quickly and readily drawn. That sure is a constructive discussion ender, eh?
    And, Johanna, I can’t say that I agree that someone (just white someones?) should “bow out” of “the discussion” (any and all discussions on, or having to deal with, the topic of race?) if their racial privilege is questioned, especially if the person is simply replying to the subject matter in the original post here and then is just defending themselves after being arbitrarily accused of consciously using their white privilege and having a “colonialist attitude” just by generally disagreeing with a few things that were said.
    I agree that Eric’s comments were quite lengthy (bordering on annoyingly long) but isn’t this the comments section of the blog? Why not close the comments section if comments are not welcomed?

    Peace

    P.S.-Royce, I would also recommend reading Bob Torres’ book, Making a Killing, if you haven’t already, to further explore the connection of anarchism and animal “rights”.

  16. johanna Says:

    Luke — Anyone who comes in here making comments like yours that accuse bloggers here of bringing up the “race card”? Needs to step back & check themselves STAT.

  17. Royce Drake Says:

    I agree with Johanna.

    I was completely willing to discuss with Eric the merits of his arguments, but I also pointed out the invasive, colonial tone, as well as pointing out his privilege, and why he thought it was appropriate to use such a tone. See Eric, and you as well Luke, use your privileges (no one said consciously– most of the time you don’t even know).

    Perhaps you don’t realize how you say things is just as important as what you say. I am fine with talking to someone, but not being talked down to by someone.

    Also I agree that people should bow out of conversations– you should respect the fact that some don’t want to have long drawn out conversations.

    And perhaps I’ve failed to mention this but I have read Torres.

  18. Eric Says:

    Royce, I think it’s clear from my responses that you have freshened my awareness of how I use my privilege unknowingly. I wish we could have had that discussion in a less negative, personal way and actually had that discussion on whether a CAK campaign is a rights or a welfare campaign, but this is your space, not mine, and I need to do a better job of respecting that.

  19. I found the books “Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance” (edited by Shannon Sullivan and Nancy Tuana and “What White Looks Like: African American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question” (edited by George Yancy) incredibly helpful. The books articulate how being “racialized” as “white” or “non-white” deeply influence how those of us (at least here in the USA) develop our consciousnesses and MODES OF COMMUNICATION. I think these books are excellent because they really dig deep into revealing how one, who sincerely believes they are approaching a dialogue “objectively” and with “good intention,” can end up being hurtful without even realizing it. The African American scholars of philosophy in the Yancy book point out (through personal experience and qualitative academic research) how many “white” folk feel that “racialization” in the USA has NOTHING to do with how one learns to communicate, especially if “they are academically trained in [european] logic and rhetoric” that is supposedly “colorblind”. However, this falsely “teaches” them that their training is “colorblind” and void of ever being influenced by gender, class, nationality, processes of racialization, etc.

    These two books may be a good start for you, Eric, if you sincerely want to understand why your mode of communication was perceived as “colonial” and “condescending” in tone by some people of color on this forum. I am not saying your intention was “colonial” and “condescending” in tone, but I’m hoping you are curious enough to deeply try to understand what histories and “non-white” experiences have led so many people of color in the USA to “raise a red flag” when we FEEL that unconscious acts of “colonial” modes of communication are taking place. What are the “triggering” wors that suddenly make us feel that a certain space for POC is unsafe? I use the word “trigger” or “triggering” because certain phrases and modes of communication are “triggering” for descendants of the colonized that many well-intentioned white folk may simply be unaware of because of being racialized as white in a society in which that means you most likely will not have those “triggers”. I usually try to think of this in context of a “collective” post traumatic syndrome that Dr. Joy Degruy Leary brings up in her new book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” She speak of the “triggers” that millions of people of African descent collectively have because of slavery, Jim Crow, etc. I also believe it can be “generational” specific, as some of the words and phrases that “trigger” feelings of colonialism and racism for my grandparents, differ for my parents, which often differ for me. And still, many of the “triggering” words remain the same, spanning generations (“lynching” and “n*gger” being two hot button words).

    As a woman of African descent born and raised in the 1st World country (USA) and “academically trained” at two Ivy league universities and am now in a Phd program at UC Davis, I am admitting openly on this forum that I must “check myself” when I return home to speak to my family who have chosen a path of knowledge, wisdom, and rhetoric that is not based on the graduate level Eurocentric philosophical systems that I am expected to engage in, as a “scholar”. Hence, I literally need to transition to a tone that I know my parents can embrace and receive without me sounding “colonial” in tone. I need to honestly understand that the graduate training I have received has created a ‘type of speaking’ in me that is often unconsciously ‘offputting’ and ‘condescending’ to my parents (and grandparents)– even when I sincerely feel I am coming into our dialogues with love and good intent!!. For example, I have to be mindful of using the words “moral” and/or “objective” because the word triggers, in my mother, something deeply hurtful: it reminds her of growing up in Jim Crow and constantly being reminded that black people are NOT and can never be capable of being “moral” and “objective” by European white standards. So, if I say to her, “Mom, you should be ‘objective’ about this…” She becomes infuriated because when she hears ‘objective’, her SENSE and FEELING of that word is connected to an era in her life that is connected to the rhetoric that “blacks are not ‘objective’ and are ONLY ‘emotional’ and hence “inferior”. It triggers in her the memories and feelings of racism and racialization that probably can never understand at the visceral level.

    Though one cannot expect to be a mind reader and know what each person’s “triggers” are, I think the Tuana and Yancy books help to understand this better so that we all can be more mindful of how we communicate with each other and be open to understanding why some of us are being “accused” of “white privilege”, or “USAmerican privilege”, or “heterosexual privilege”, “Anglophonic privilege”, “academic elitist privilege”, etc, when all we think we’re being is “cordial” and “objective” in a new dialogue. I have quite a few privileges that I MUST be mindful of when communicating. I have been told many times by my family (in a joking by still ‘serious’ manner) that I can be ‘elitist’ or ‘snobby’ at times, when engaging with them. Whether this is ‘true’ or not, I don’t know; what I do know is that if I decide NOT to investigate these feelings they have, or if I decide to be UNMINDFUL of these feelings and simply blame them for internalizing classist notions they have about their “place in the word”, then I don’t think I/they/we can ever continue growing. I also hope that they too engage in deep reflection as well. As we have grown in dialogues together, we have discovered that yes, I can be unconsciously “elitist” at times and yes, they THEY can engage in internalized racism and classism when it comes to how they see their place in the world. However, we would have never been conscious of this had we not pushed to reflect and investigate these “accusations.”

    My life’s work (and PhD work) is in racial healing, understanding unconscious racism/ethnocentricism, processes of racialization and how it affects communication models around plant-based dietary philosophies (veganism and animal rights for example). I do hope this post was helpful.

  20. I meant to say, “It triggers in her the memories and feelings of racism and racialization that I probably can never understand at the visceral level, because I didn’t grow up during American apartheid as a socio-economically poor black girl in the 1940s and 1950s like my mother.”

  21. Vanessa Says:

    Thank you so much to Breeze Harper for a reasonable and informative comment. Although I understand how Eric’s reply may have seemed ‘colonialist’, I found the tenor of Royce’s replies, valid though the fundamental complaint may be, to be out of order. Johanna and Noemi’s suggestions that Eric bow out of the conversation (dialogue on a public forum) were simply beyond the pale. So thanks again to Breeze for her explanations and recommendations for further reading. Her patience and insight are much appreciated.

  22. Noemi M Says:

    what does “beyond the pale” mean?
    so patience and giving insight are required of us now for having this space for vegans of color to talk about being vegan?

    and bringing the “race card”
    I mean, do you understand what this blog is about?

  23. Vanessa, you’re welcome that my post was helpful.

    I do want to clarify that I my post doesn’t mean I believe that all VOCs are “required” to respond in the way that I did. I personally do this type of communication as part of what I feel is my spiritual path in terms for racial healing in the USA. It is “my” path and just wanted to ask people to be mindful that VOCs are not all the same and that my response doesn’t mean that VOCs “should do that same thing.” I am engaged in using principles of Zen Buddhism to figure out communication analysis and modes amongst vegans of color, white vegans, and vegans of socio-economic class privilege.

    I know that MANY POCs suffer from intense physical and emotional stress because of the burden of having to constantly be “the one” to educate white people about racism, whiteness, colonialism, etc. There have been dissertations and thesis and articles written about these. If you’re interested, I can share this bibliography. Within the context of these histories and writings, I feel that Royce, Noemi’s and Johanna’s responses were not “out of the order” or “beyond the pale” if you are familiar with the context of which they speak and probably decades of being expected to cater to the emotional health of white folk at the expense of their own health and happiness. As also having experienced this “stress” personally, I honestly must tell you that their responses make sense if you have experienced this and/or are well-read in these histories, critical race theory, Edward Said, Frantz Fanon (to name a few). But, I perceive it this way simply because of my own personal experiences and becoming “ill” because of having to “adjust”/”mask” my real feelings of hurt and pain in order to “fit” into models of communication and education rooted in “whiteness” and “keeping order”. Due to your own personal experiences, may be what transpired is “out of order” and/or a “strange” way to communicate that you’re not familiar with?

    This is the work I do. It’s challenging and tough but I want to understand the anger and frustrations from all sides of these conversations within veganism and animal rights. I empathize and sympathize with everyone and “where they are coming from,” but do give special attention to compassionately trying to explain to [white] people (or people unfamiliar with the histories I speak of) why our responses seem “angry” or “out of order” (whose order?).

    I do implore you to read as much as you can about critical race theory, whiteness, anti-racist modes of communication, etc so you can get a “feel” of what I’m referring to when I say I don’t feel that they were “out of order”. I am not saying that you will suddenly “agree” with the literature, but perhaps you will have a better understanding of why people are responding the way that they are. I had to do the same thing to understand the communication modes of the white-racial status quo as well; I have had to teach myself in order to figure out this particular communication and “system of logic” and thinking of “whiteness”… and am still learning.

    I apologize if my mode of communication it “offensive”, but, like I said, this is the path I have chosen so I can figure out how to “translate” the anger and frustration I have encountered, collectively, between VOCs of white vegans. I am always going to be learning and will “make mistakes” along the way.

    Best
    Breeze

    There are those who do not like my approach.

  24. Sorry. I wrote this rather late.

    I meant to say

    “I apologize if my mode of communication it “offensive”, but, like I said, this is the path I have chosen so I can figure out how to “translate” the anger and frustration I have encountered, collectively, between VOCs and white or “colorblind” USAmerican vegans. I am always going to be learning and will “make mistakes” along the way.

    Best
    Breeze

  25. Vanessa Says:

    Noemi- ‘beyond the pale’ means beyond what is acceptable. as Breeze points out to me, though, our standards of what is acceptable might differ. you also mentioned the ‘race card’ and i genuinely don’t know what you’re referring to in my post…i didn’t mention the race card or mean to imply it in any way, so i don’t know how to respond to that. also, what did i think this blog was about? i stumbled upon the blog a couple of months ago. i’m Latina and vegan, am cognisant of the fact that i’m one of those single-issue vegans, wanted to correct that and added this blog to my reader in an attempt to get educated. i realise now that this is more of a safe space, or, if that’s not the intention, that is how i perceive it at this point in time. i’ve not yet read through every single post and comment.

    Breeze- thanks for ‘bridging the gap’. you’re right, not everyone should be expected to reply as you did, yet i still can’t help but feel that Eric deserved a little more politeness (i can hear groans here). although i had no idea about triggers (more on that in a sec), it’s evident (to me, anyway) from reading Eric’s blog or listening to his podcasts that being vaguely condescending/dry/pedantic is the dude’s M.O. i’m not saying that Royce’s observations or feelings weren’t valid, just that it was perhaps all taken a little too personally (or is my saying that just another manifestation of white magix attax?).

    about triggers- thanks so much for writing about this- i’d never heard of this. i’ve never really experienced it (don’t think that feeling frustration at Whites’ ignorance of basic South American geography counts) and basically the whole concept just never crossed my mind, so it’s had me thinking and wondering how i’ve participated in this during the course of my life. my friends are of all colours and stripes and this is a subject that has never come up. i should also say that i know jack about critical race theory- my background is in literature, languages and information studies, so i am aware that my theory here is deficient. i’m just being honest about my perceptions and observations as one of the uninitiated.

    i know what you mean about having to change your tone when speaking to your family, i do too, but for me, there’s another layer that makes the job easier, and that’s because we speak in Spanish. i literally can’t take the same tone, so perhaps that’s another reason why i’ve never thought about this. i’ve always felt like a stranger everywhere that i’ve gone (and since 2005 i’ve lived outside of the US, in a region where English is not the dominant language and integration can be tricky- sorry for the vagueness but it’s the Internet), so although i’m very familiar with the feeling of being the ‘other’, i’ve never experienced stress or trauma at having to ‘explain’ myself and consequently never imagined that such a thing could exist for others. although it’s sometimes hard, i mostly enjoy inhabiting this weird interzone.

    i would like to learn more about anti-racist modes of communication…could you recommend a classic text or two?

    take care,
    Vanessa

  26. breezeharper Says:

    Vanessa,

    Here are a few titles mixed with a few that focus on the stressed, triggers, psychological effects of racism on the psyche . I am a specialist in African Diaspora in the USA, so the psychoanalytical stuff will be more focused on black trauma and racism.

    To understand anti-racist modes of communication, I have included works on colonialism, decolonial theory, and post-colonialism. I think one must first investigate “colonialism”, as I believe anti-racist mode of communication are tied to understanding how it’s the opposite of a colonial or colonizing mentality (** note, people of all colors, not just white folk, can also have a colonizing mentality and not even realize it.)…

    Except for the books, I have all these files available, so write me at breezeharper (at) gmail (dot) come if you want any of these.

    Anthias, Floya, and Cathie Lloyd. Rethinking Anti-Racisms : From Theory to Practice. London ; New York: Routledge, 2002.

    Calliste, Agnes M., George Jerry Sefa Dei, and Margarida Aguiar. Anti-Racist Feminism : Critical Race and Gender Studies. Halifax, N.S.: Fernwood, 2000.

    Fanon, Frantz, and Richard Philcox. The Wretched of the Earth. 1st ed. New York: Grove Press : Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2004.

    Griffin, Anya T. “Racism, Stress, and Health in African American Females: The Impact of Stress Experienced from Perceived Racism on Cardiovascular Reactivity in African American Adolescent and Adult Females.” Dissertation. Fielding Graduate University, 2005.

    Leary, Dr. Joy Degruy. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. Milwaukie, Oregon: Uptone Press, 2005.

    Markovitz, Jonathan. Legacies of Lynching : Racial Violence and Memory. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

    Mignolo, Walter D. “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of De-Coloniality.” Cultural Studies 21.2/3 (2007): 449-514.

    Quijano, Aníbal. “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies 21.2/3 (2007): 168-78.

    Shome, Raka, and Radha S. Hegde. “Postcolonial Approaches to Communication: Charting the Terrain, Engaging the Intersections.” Communication Theory 12.3 (2002): 249-70.

    Williams, David R., and Ruth Williams-Morris. “Racism and Mental Health: The African American Experience.” Ethnicity & Health 5.3/4 (2000): 243-68.

    Wing, Adrien Katherine. Global Critical Race Feminism : An International Reader. Critical America. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

  27. breezeharper Says:

    In addition, here are several more titles and books that deal specifically with communication theory, anti-racisms, and/or postcolonial theory:

    Anthias, Floya, and Cathie Lloyd. Rethinking Anti-Racisms : From Theory to Practice. London ; New York: Routledge, 2002.

    Ashcraft, Karen Lee, and Brenda J. Allen. “The Racial Foundation of Organizational Communication.” Communication Theory 13.1 (2003): 5-38.

    Broadfoot, Kirsten J., and Debashish Munshi. “Diverse Voices and Alternative Rationalities: Imagining Forms of Postcolonial Organizational Communication.” Management Communication Quarterly 21.2 (2007): 249-67.

    Grimes, Diane Susan. “Challenging the Status Quo?: Whiteness in the Diversity Management Literature.” Management Communication Quarterly 15.3 (2002): 381-409.

    Ratcliffe, Krista. Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Carbondale: Southern illinois University Press, 2006.

    Simpson, Jennifer Lyn. “The Color-Blind Double Blind: Whiteness and the (Im)Possibility of Dialogue.” Communication Theory 18 (2008): 139-59.

    Wasserman, Herman. “Globalized Values and Postcolonial Responses: South African Perspectives on Normative Ethics ” The International Communication Gazette 68.1: 71-91.


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