Vegans of Color

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

Cages, Vick, and Cherry July 26, 2009



I remember, as do most people, a couple of years ago when Michael Vick was sentenced to prison. I also remember that a lot of the talk about him revolved around him being a brute (beast/monster/animal/Black) who gained pleasure from torturing dogs. The nail in the coffin for Vick was of course his abuse (murder/torture) of animals that Good people cuddled with, instead of the numerous animals that most of americans are cool with killing for pleasure (meat tasting so good and all). It was, of course, many of my fellow herbivores who went nuts with the racialized and brutal imagery.

The monstore of lore

The monster of lore

A 17 year old Black girl from the Bronx is going to jail. She did a horrible thing: baking a cat (yet again if only it had been a chicken). Everyone really dislikes her because Cherry also isn’t remorseful. Do I find it strange that a woman from Levittown would travel to the Bronx to watch a Black person (“monster”) sentenced to prison as if it were an event for celebration. Nope, it actually seems quite in character.

Vick is out of prison (his cage). He’s also working with HSUS to stop dogfighting or something (help his image, reach ‘troubled inner-city youth’). If you look around you notice a lot of things. Vick has been thoroughly pathologized (You hear? He’s a psychopath!). He’s still a monster, just like Cherry. Static, unchanging. It is impossible that he could have possibly changed (because he is a brute/animal, a Cartesian automaton?).

“We are all Michael Vick.” He is humanized by Gary.

Cheyenne Cherry will never be humanized in the press. She is too defiant as she goes to prison. “It’s dead, bitch!” And a sticking out of the tongue. Morally superior folks hate when there is no begging, no remorse. She’s too uppity/rebellious/evil. More ‘sympathy’ if Cheyenne is apologetic (speaks in yessuhs, yessums?).

I grew up in a neighborhood where dog fighting happened. Imagine riding the school bus every day with kids your age who raise dogs to fight each other. I’m still afraid of strange dogs. These kids, my friends and neighbors didn’t think it was a big deal, not any more or less strange than hunting or eating meat. I would also never want these folks, my folks, to be thrown in something as horrible as the prison system.

The celebration of the incarceration of Black bodies is not something I can ever take part in. An animal liberation (rights/welfare/abolition) movement can not attempt to abolish cages for the cute and furry and then celebrate the prison system. I’m tired of cages period. An anti-speciecist politic that doesn’t include prison abolition can never include me.

“How fucking silly can you be, trying to free Willy– motherfucker free me.” — Da Lench Mob


67 Responses to “Cages, Vick, and Cherry”

  1. johanna Says:

    Thank you for this post.

    I am waiting for the usual anti-intersectional freakout vegans to come roaring in here (cynical, me?).

  2. b Says:

    I also wonder if being female doesn’t make Cherry less sympathetic in that she should act in “submissive” ways according to most. Women are told to apologize – overapologize in many cases – and publicly repent in a way I’m not sure men are forced to do (politicians who give teary “I’m sorry I cheated” speeches aside).

    I find it really telling – and sadly unexplored by the reporter – that in the article, it is stated that Cherry fled the scene so she wouldn’t have to hear the cries of the kitten. Brings it right back around to the Francione piece for me b/c so many people can ignore suffering by just turning away. I know many omnivores who are disgusted and horrified when they hear about slaughter but who openly choose to ignore information about animal abuse and pain. I’ve recently told a few select loved ones that my position is now: if you aren’t ready to walk into the field and slaughter the animal for dinner, you aren’t ready to eat meat – meaning don’t participate in something you couldn’t yourself do or condone if forced to watch/participate.

    Really important, thoughtful post. Thanks for putting this out there.

    • Royce Says:

      I’m certain gender also makes her dehumanization more intense. Not only is she suppossed to repent, but she broke from public myth by not being caring in the first place and entering the male (man-the-hunter) realm of animal exploitation.

  3. jenna Says:

    thank you so much for this post, royce.

    i remember reading that article and being horrified: not only by the crime, but also by the way cheyenne was completely dehumanized by the journalist. (“monster?” seriously?) you made some really important parallels between the abuse of animals for food and the abuse of animals in this particular case. it’s so easy to scapegoat and lock up a person of color for crimes of which many, many other people are guilty. it kills me that anyone would come to the courtroom to watch her sentencing, call her “ugly” and flip her off as she is escorted to prison. i wish we would all check ourselves.

    there are enormous problems with the (in)justice system and incarceration in this country, and i don’t think sending more people to jail is the answer. just as i don’t agree that hate crime laws are going to do anything to reduce the amount of prejudice and hate in the world, i don’t think sending a 17-year-old girl to jail is going to stop anyone from abusing, eating, or otherwise oppressing animals. it’s just one more brown body languishing in the prison system.

  4. Jaycee Says:

    Thank You for writing such a great, multi-faceted piece! There are plenty of folks who raise pitts in order to fight them. Pitts are vilified in the press as psycho dogs and there is a school of thought that believes they should be killed and outlawed. So why the thing over Mike Vick? Maybe it’s like you said….He was an arrogant Nigga, Flippin people off, wearing cornrows and looking like a general thug not a multimillionaire.

    Pride goeth before the fall

  5. I’m wondering, what ever happened to Huckabee’s sons for killing a dog:

    And does anyone remember when the little USAmerican white 5 year old boy last year (or perhaps it was 2007), killed a bear with his grandfather and CNN “applauded” him by giving him a cameo and having him talk about his masculine rite of passage?

  6. Anonymous2 Says:

    Please elaborate how this is intersectional. The Florida Cat Killer is white
    facing over 150 years in prison, is being labeled a sociopath, and by most of the comments is being villified, hated etc.
    AND Yes I want him in prison.

    Are you saying that the subjects of your article are being treated extra harsh because they are POC and how is this related to intersectionality? …because the white, cat killer is facing 150+ years and that is not a light sentence.

    Point 2 of your article: when you said In reference to dog-fighting ” I would also never want these folks, my folks, to be thrown in something as horrible as the prison system.” IMHO, that is very sad as a vegan you would say this. You could consider reading up on dog-fighting and the resultant underground crime and then you might see why it is different than hunting or eating meat. The people involved all should face some jail time, regardless of race, nationality, gender etc.

    • Royce Says:

      IMHO sometimes people don’t historicize. That’s your prerogative. If someone can’t see the intersectionality of the increased publicity behind certain folks over others I can’t make them.

      IMHO I don’t need to prove how ‘good’ of a vegan I am to you, or anyone.

      IMHO a hierarchy of animal oppressions doesn’t do any good for anyone, human or otherwise. Imagine: telling a cow she isn’t as important as pittbulls.

      IMHO prisons should not exist. (echo) An anti-speciesist politic that doesn’t provide for prison abolition ain’t for me. (We don’t have the luxury of being single-issue).

  7. Anonymous2 Says:

    Royce, I’m shocked that as a vegan you would not want people thrown in jail for dog fighting ( which essentially leads to dog killing ). Do you have some other punishment in mind?

    Second, Can you please elaborate on what you prefere society to do with criminals ( rapists, murderers, child molesters, animal abusers etc ) if you want prisons abolished?

  8. Anonymous2 Says:

    Royce, are you saying independent of causation there should be no punishment for crimes?

  9. Anonymous2 Says:

    Correction..I meant “are you saying independent of causation, and regardless of the severity, that there should be no prison punishment for crimes?”

  10. Anonymous2 Says:

    Royce, I missed the inside joke you are making on straws. Its one thing to say the “prison-industrial complex” needs to be drastically changed and we need to get at the root of the problems that lock up so many millions and it another thing to say that nobody should go to prison ( as in lets not have any prisons ). Im not sure “Fundamentally, our thinking and actions need to radically transform the underlying racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and other structures of dominance and oppression” as per your reference could solve true narcisistic or sociopathalogical problems in humans such as Dahmer or Manson and I wouldn’t want those individuals back on th street if we just abolished prisons. Secondly, in the case of the white, alleged cat killer who has serious issues, one could argue that his priveledge puts him outside of sexism, racism, etc and yet he still committed the heinous crimes. Would you want that alleged cat killer to receive NO prison time if he were convicted?

    • Royce Says:

      Anonymous2, I understand your need for the last word (and I’m certain if I give it to you, you’ll go and wait under the bridge for the Brothers Gruff). But…

      You are correct. There is a difference between changing the prison-industrial complex and getting rid of it. The former is reform (eww!) and the other is abolition (huzaah!). I’ve been pretty clear where I stand (despite your constant argument lane changes).

      Maybe I don’t believe that sociopathy and narcissism are some objective conditions that exists outside of social and cultural devices. And maybe I don’t believe that people are static beings that cannot change.

      What I would prefer is that systems are in place to allow restitution and rehabilitation. I ain’t saying it’d be easy, I’m saying it’d be better. What I would prefer is that we started being more imaginative and caring in our treatment of our fellow beings who have done horrible things.

      Riddle me this:

      Putting a dog who had been used for fighting in a cage for a while (months, years, forever), or rehabilitate? Which is easier for you. Which is better for the dog?

      Putting a person in prison for a while (years, decades, forever), or rehabilitate? Which is easier for you? Which is better for the person (and everyone connected to them)?

    • Royce Says:

      Also, in terms of straw jokes. Maybe it wasn’t as explicit as I thought, but I hope you get it now.

  11. Anonymous2 Says:

    Royce, two things, First I need to correct my terminology, In heat of debate, I said the wrong terminology and need to give a correction. The Florida teen at this point is only accused of the crime, he was not on trial yet or sentenced. Second I will answer your questions:

    Putting a dog who had been used for fighting in a cage for a while (months, years, forever), or rehabilitate? Which is easier for you. Which is better for the dog?

    > I have worked with some animal rescue, and unfortunately for some dogs, rehabilitation is impossible as the dogs cannot be rehabilitated to be around humans or other dogs again and they often are kept alive but all alone. In this case it might be less cruel to just euthanize the dog. I’m not the dog expert, they are …but when I see them isolated I’m not sure that is a good life. And It would be horrific for me to make that decision as it is not easy for the animal rescue people to make either.

    Putting a person in prison for a while (years, decades, forever), or rehabilitate? Which is easier for you? Which is better for the person (and everyone connected to them)?

    > This is more tough…Obviously it is better for the person who was convicted of the crime to be rehabilitated. But considering the current state of expenditure on pre, during and postprison rehabilitation, post-prison monitoring, and knowing that some criminals repeat crimes ( IE some child molesters, rapists etc ), I think it is better for society to not have these people on the streets. Although one could argue…’whose society’, I, for example, would not feel comfortable if convicted child molesters were walking around in any neighborhood regardless of race, class etc. To keep people in prison for periods of time might be an easier decision for me as for me there are some clear cut cases of where people should not be allowed to intermingle for some time with society for society’s protection..IE child murderers, rapists etc. Fortunately, I am not in this position to have to decide someones fate, and I guess this is why at some point, we pay judges and have juries to make the tough decisions.

    • Royce Says:

      But you seem to assume there is some innate essential child-molesting quality that this person will always have regardless of what sort of help they could get to change. They would still be dynamic persons capable of change.

      And yes. It’s easier to lock them away. But easy ≠ right/better/good.

      • Jesse Says:

        The inane ramblings of Royce on this post and others have finally convinced me that you (Royce), and any blog which would allow itself to be represented by somebody with such odious opinions coupled with such a distasteful manner and gross disrespect for the right to disagree are truly doing a disservice to people of color and our issues.

        I actually wonder if you are a white Republican, and if this blog is a joke put on by all of you to sideline and ridicule the actual struggles and discussions we need to be having.

        I am a vegan of color and I am abhorred by the simply — for lack of a better term — stupid positions espoused in what is supposedly the interests of myself and my people. You guys are pseudo-intellectuals at best and ridiculous caricatures at worst. Every post and the comments contained therein boil down to the same tired formula:

        1. A proposition so extreme that to implement it would mean that every single person on earth would have to reverse their every notion about how society functions. If you disagree that this is the solution to everything it’s because you support the white patriarchy. No explanation is needed as to how this is actually a solution to anything.

        2. If you challenge the necessity or even appropriateness of 1 then you simply do not understand how any number of -isms actually have the same root. That root is always some combination of white people and people who have penises. Even if you are the exact opposite of that definition, if you disagree then you are part of the conspiracy to undermine people of color.

        3. Finally, after enough back and forth between 1 and 2, the tired tagline is trotted out: “we don’t have the luxury of being single issue.” If you can’t get behind 1 or 2, then it’s because you are resting on some unspecified laurels which prevent you from perceiving The True Cause behind everything.

        If you disagree in any manner, no matter how respectable you attempt to be, no matter if you exhibit actual, genuine intellectual curiosity, you are a troll.

      • johanna Says:

        Oh noes Jesse, you figured out our plan!!!!1

      • Jesse Says:

        Well, I wouldn’t call it a “plan,” per se, as a plan suggests that there will eventually be an action. It’s pretty clear that you guys are only interested in the highly theorized, most abstruse, and utterly useless conversations. I’m guessing you’re all still in college.

      • Royce Says:

        Why so serious?

        So our analysesof power and the roots of oppression are different. That’s cool. Then again I would never associate patriarchy with penises or white supremacy with light skin. That seems a little simple.

        I don’t know anyone who would ever think that people of color are a monolith who can represent each other. That also seems simple.

        Also maybe people should reverse their views on how society should function– or do you think the current paradigm works well?

        Am I inane? Maybe to some, not to others.

  12. Joselle Says:

    I’m wasn’t familiar with the incident involving Cheyenne Cherry until I read the news link. It absolutely breaks my heart that a child has become so disconnected that they can torture an animal. We’ve failed her. The animal activists who showed up at the trial did more to humiliate, scar, and torture this child than they did to protect any nonhuman animals. Reading about the cries of the kitten in the oven and how they ran away from it makes me cringe. But I can’t see how protesting at her trial and condemning her does anything but create more destruction.

    The most heartening aspect of the Michael Vick trial for me is what has happened to several of the the dogs that were rescued and what has now become of them. They are loving dogs and most importantly, loved. They were rehabilitated after a life of pain and torture and objectification. If only we aimed to rehabilitate people in the same way these few dogs were.

  13. supernovadiva Says:

    why do we keep entertaining this troll?

    this may be a ‘what about our daughters’ type answer, but black women are considered to be titty bearing, rump shaking, sex crazed, castrating harpies. not even the ‘black community’ consider us worth protecting or saving. but still we carry all responsibility. we are the cause and the effect. so there’s no way we can or will be considered innocent and are never given chances to be as such in the media. blacks are always expeted to apologize even when we’re right because it makes people uncomfortable. ex: there’s always a demand for obama to apologize, never this with bush.

  14. viprisonproject Says:

    Great post, Royce.

  15. J.R. Boyd Says:

    This reminds me of how our first black president can blow up poor families color in other countries like a champ — and then the Feminist Majority shows up saying this is necessary in order to advance women’s rights.

  16. Jim Says:

    “‘It’s dead, bitch!’ snapped an unrepentant Cheyenne Cherry, sticking her tongue out after a plea bargain that will put her behind bars for a year in the May 6 killing of tiny Tiger Lily.”

    I consider anyone unrepetant about baking a cat “as a joke” to be a disgusting human being, regardless of whether they are white or black. The way in which they are raised is no excuse.
    Is there a double standard for house pets vs. farmed animals? Yes. Does that make her actions any less despicable? No.

    • Royce Says:

      Do folks really believe she thought putting the cat in an oven was a joke?

      Who said anything about the way someone was raised?

      • Jim Says:

        “After her arrest, Cherry told police the cat killing was ‘just a joke.'”

        What am I supposed to believe when she herself said it was a joke?

        In your own post, you talk about growing up in a culture where dog fighting was just as common and accepted as any other form or animal abuse, and since it was concluding your blog post about Vick’s dogfighting and Cherry’s cat killing, it made sense that you were drawing parallels to the way you grew up and the way they did. So really, you said something about the way someone was raised.

        I’m sixteen. Granted, I was raised in an environment with much more respect for animals, but I believe Cherry is at an age where she is old enough to differentiate between right and wrong, regardless of what’s been taught her. I agree with you on the rehabiliation rather than jailing her, but excusing her actions is something I refuse to do.

      • Royce Says:

        Maybe it’s just me, but I would tell the police anything to get out of trouble. It’s pretty common to say one is just joking around or goofing off and it wasn’t serious. Even if one doesn’t believe it. I’ve told authority figures, including police, that something was a goof to attempt to get out of trouble– even if I didn’t believe it.

        I grew up where dog fighting was common. I don’t know Vick or Cherry. I would never make claims on how someone else was raised, because I don’t know. I provided the tidbit to make it clear that people who abuse animals aren’t monsters– they are friends, family, and loved ones.

        It is great that you grew up in a place with much more respect for animals, and I’d love to grow up in such a vegan mecca. Yes folks should be able to differentiate right and wrong, and no one should make excuses for that (and I fail to see where I did).

        I feel you missed the point of the post, but maybe not.

        • Royce,

          I actually had the same interpretation that you did: that Cherry was telling the cops “it’s a joke”, to minimize the crime that she did. But, that’s just my interpretation.

      • Jim Says:

        (Why won’t it let me reply directly to your post? Anyway)

        Maybe I did miss the point of the post. It seemed like you were excusing their actions simply because they’re commonplace, or that’s the way they grew up, and to me the fact that she’s seventeen doesn’t excuse her actions.

        My family eats meat, but they support my veganism. But my point was that if I baked a cat, my actions would be no more or less despicable than Cherry, that regardless of what she was taught or not taught growing up, it’s common sense that the brutal murder of a human or non-human is wrong. I thought your post was suggesting otherwise, so I apologize if I misinterpreted it.

        • Jim, I don’t read Royce as excusing anyone’s actions. If anything, he’s trying to broaden the dialogue and contextualize why torture and killing of non-human animals happens as if it were “commonplace” in certain cultures or communities.

          • Jim Says:

            Yes, I misinterpreted the post. But I still don’t believe you can say (as seems to be the argument by some here) that you can equivocate throwing a cat in an oven to buying lobster from a store. Most people don’t make the connection between animal abuse and food consumption; some, despite all the evidence, still believe chickens and other farm animals are “humanely” killed (as though any killing is humane). This girl, on the other hand, deliberately set out to inflict harm on a sentient being, and that’s truly fucked up.

            • Royce Says:

              I’m just going to refer to the “Speciesism, it’s complicated,” post I did a day after this. I refuse to believe it is any more fucked up to eat an animal than to put it in an oven– you participated in its torture and murder, just some torture and murder is more acceptable.

              • Jim Says:

                In terms of harm to the animal, I agree that it’s essentially the same; we’ve all seen the videos of slaughterhouses. That being said, some people still operate under the illusion that they aren’t directly responsible for any harm done to the animal, or that the animal was not, in fact, harmed. If it were up to me of course I’d prevent both, but one takes a little bit of education about vegetarianism/veganism and factory farming, whereas the other is outright murder.
                As for speciesism…that is where the hypocrisy of meat-eaters absolutely escapes me. I’ve heard the argument that because some animals like cats and dogs are “domesticated,” they somehow deserve better treatment than other animals. Bullshit.

                • Royce Says:

                  If you pay someone to kill a person for you– it is still murder. I don’t see where your distinction comes in.

                  • Jim Sullivan Says:

                    If you aren’t aware that throwing a cat into an oven is as much torture as what happens to animals on factory farms, that you honestly believe they’re killed “humanely,” that’s where the distinction comes into play. It’s not a black and white issue.

                    • Royce Says:

                      I’m sure livestock would be pleased to know that because people don’t know it is as bad, they matter less than a cat.

  17. I am anti-cage, period. I don’t believe anyone – human or non – should be locked up.

    I’m frustrated by our system of “justice” that cares more about punishment and retribution than about education, reform, prevention, and peace.

    Cheyenne Cherry makes me sad. I don’t see her as “too uppity/rebellious/evil”, I see her as a young person who has experienced too much violence and hate and not enough safety and love. I am angered by the hateful reactions to her… she’s just a CHILD.

    I do NOT think Francione “humanized” Vick. Unless you think the criteria for human is an interest in sadism. No, Francione’s point is that Vick’s crimes were evil and so is the crime of animal-eating, hence his reference to Simon the Sadist.
    In fact, a reading of Francione’s article as ‘humanizing Vick’ is more a justification of animal-eating than a promotion of veganism.

    • Royce Says:

      I wish folks wouldn’t use a discourse of good and evil.

      But.. Francoine certainly humanized Vick, by saying that he was no different from the majority of people. Therefore human, and not a monster.

      • Elaine Vigneault Says:

        OK, sure… and Simon the Sadist – who tortures dogs in his basement for fun – isn’t a monster either. Sure.

        Francione’s point wasn’t that Vick and Simon are human. His point was that condemning their cruel actions without also condemning animal agriculture is inconsistent.

        Only a severely misanthropic perspective could view Francione’s piece as “humanizing.”

      • Royce Says:

        It was humanizing.

        “Let he who is without sin…”

        We gotta lose the (w)holier-than-thou thinking.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Elaine, I’m curious if you feel that Cheyenne can be truly reformed in her heart and soul as opposed to her convincing or tricking the people whom are to determine her level of reform. Since you don’t believe in cages, at what point would you allow her near animals? Who determines when she is ‘safe’ enough to be near animals and in what cultural context? The reason why I mention this is because one contributor here mentioned that they grew up in places where dog-fighting was common. If Cheyenne is to be reformed, and the reformation is back relative to the cultural context of where she grew up, she might not be reformed at all relative to what other people consider animal abuse. While, Im not trying to assume her upringing or neighborhood, this gets into what does it mean by reformed, In what cultural context, and who is doing the reforming, etc.

      Personally, I feel she should not be allowed animals for a very very long term ( if ever ). But since we cannot prevent this, I’m hoping that she gets some level of eye-opening compassion education so that she understands why she did it and to not repeat it.

  18. Royce Says:

    I have realized that some of the talk of rehabilitation and reform have almost authoritarian undertones. So I want to make it clear that my views would also depend on methods of helping someone change themselves. Rehabilitation with autonomy and without pathologizing.

  19. yejide Says:

    I’m curious if these same people that would throw cherry under the jail want the same thing done to their chicken-eating relatives?

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Vick was a multi-millionaire, who owned and operated a company that exploited and killed dogs. Ironically, black professional athletes have, as a whole, voted strongly in support of the Republican Party—that is, against their race but for their class. It would be interesting to see, despite all of the hubbub, how many of these rich individuals actually switch sides and voted for Obama. My guess would be not near as many as one might think.

  21. Jim Says:

    Um, where the hell did I say livestock matter less?
    In terms of cruelty to animals, yes, it sucks equally for both. But what I’m saying, for the 20th time, is that people shouldn’t be held as accountable for simply eating meat since most are oblivious to factory farming, whereas most know it’s inherently wrong to throw a cat in the oven. One can be changed through education, the other is done by people who enjoy cruelty.

  22. Kanika Says:

    I do notice that the animal activist outrage towards these two is a bit out of control & have questioned the motive behind this unbridled anger. Basically, I do believe that it’s racially motivated…

    I do not agree with what Michael Vick did, however the amount of non-stop harrassment that he is receiving is beyond nutty. Vick has served his time and will do community outreach to speak on the consequences of pitbull fighting. Leave him alone and stop trying to prevent him from finding work. They are focusing so much on him, that they are ignoring others who are currently engaging in illegal animal fighting.

    RE: Cheyenne Cherry. That child has some serious sociopathic tendencies there that needs to be addressed by a mental health professional. At 17, she already had a pretty violent criminal record before this current incident. She needs psychiatric help while she’s serving her time. If they let her out without any kind of treatment, I fear she will do something more grizzly in the future.

    As far as comparing what she did to eating chicken, I just want to point out that most chickens/cows/etc are already dead before they hit one’s oven. She baked this kitten alive.

    • Royce Says:

      dreaded comparison remix:

      Northern textile manufacturer pre-Civil War who profited from slavery are less horrible than Southern slaver owner pre-Civil War? One committed torture directly through slavery, the other gained from and promoted it.

      Perhaps it is hyperbolic to compare roasting a live kitten and roasting a dead chicken, but in my opinion not by much.

      • Kanika Says:

        So are you implying that people who cook chickens for dinner are of the same mindset as Cheyenne Cherry? If that’s the case, then we as a society are certainly doomed.

      • Royce Says:

        I didn’t say they have the same mind set.

        That said they are just as responsible for the death of an animal.

        Are you saying that because some people don’t kill animals directly they aren’t as responsible?

  23. Carol Lipton Says:

    I noticed that while both the comments on the Florida teen, who intentionally and with premeditation decapitabed & disemboweled 19-24 cats & kittens (while being white & affluent & with a family that immediately hired a lawyer for him) did condemn him, I saw no blogs publishing his home, work & cell #’s, nor those of his family members, nor blogs condemning his community or family for having produced him. Nor references to him being a straight-haired vs. nappy-haired killer. I am very interested- do any cases of white teens in NYS ever make front page news, or is this relegated only to black teens? Cheyenne Cherry may be highly disturbed, or sociopathic, but she did not commit the premeditated killing of cats, as did the FL teen. She committed a “crime of passion”. To make her the poster girl for cat killers is to me racist. I am greatly perturbed that (white) animal rights activists got worked up to the point of hysteria, yet those same activists seem to operate under the unspoken presumption that it is not necessary, or even out of their focus, to become enraged when the police kill another unarmed, innocent black man, be it Amadou Diallo, or a rookie cop. There are many battles to pick and choose among, and to make the horrific & agonizing death of this one kitten somehow the moral equivalent of Bergen-Belsen, the bombing of the Bach Mai Hospital, or the wholesale murder of 1 million Iraqis, seems severely disproportionate.

    I did not receive any emails from other white A/R activists or supporters when it was front-page headline that black women in prison on Rockefeller & other non-violent offenses are routinely shackled to their beds when giving birth. It was a non-issue.

    I agree with those posting here- the reason that white A/R activists by and large, even while advocating progressive views, do not join coalitions to protest all that our society does to disenfranchise people of color, and the disproportionate impact of the current economic crisis on these communities (i.e. mortgage foreclosures, Detroit 50% unemployment), is that they are not impacted the same way. It is white skin privilege and immunity from police control and presumptions of guilt and violence.

    I found myself at the receiving end of a horrific outpouring of wrath for refusing to join in the letter-writing campaign (which as an attorney, I have serious problems with), for not wanting to mete out some Giulliani-style justice to this teen. One person was horrified that I told her that many of her precepts of the criminal justice system (her ignorance as to what juvenile imprisonment is, something that Gov. Patterson’s report has exposed), and the view that Cheyenne Cherry & other teen offenders are incapable of being rehabiliated.

    I think a very good thing would be a public forum and discussion on this topic.

    • I too have found it interesting when I hear collective white middle class perceptions of the Criminal Justice System. There seems to be an ignorance of understanding of how criminality has been racialized (and attributed to the very poor) and that PIC needs the very poor and non-white racialized minorities to be a “successful business”. I too have heard folk tell me that non-white racialized minorities are ‘out of control’ and can never be ‘rehabilitated’ and need to simply be locked away for life when they commit horrible crimes, etc. It would be interesting for someone to write a paper or book about this subject because it seems to be incredibly necessary.

      I think in general, when white class privileged people commit crimes, they are generally seen , by themselves, as redeemable or that it must be an anomaly, because “White people don’t do these things. It’s not in their ‘nature’. The criminal justice system should be more forgiving of them.” I have heard this theme so many times. No, people don’t directly say, “She’s a little white girl, this angel wouldn’t have done this.” What I hear are things like, “Things like this do not happen in communities like Palo Alto {read:white middle class communities}. This kind of thing only really happens in places like Richmond [read: working class brown, black, yellow community]”. I have plenty of lit that looks at this type of covertly racialized and classed perception of crime if people are interested in citations.

      • Carol Lipton Says:

        Thank you for your response. I am a white attorney in NYC, and have been involved in progressive causes/movements for many years. I have been writing appellate briefs for indigent people for almost 20 years. I was assigned my first juvenile delinquency case and while working on the brief, the Cheyenne Cherry case broke. I had been in the midst of reading in-depth training materials on the juvenile detention system, and learned things I had not known before. It was also around the same time that the story broke about black female prisoners (virtually all convicted of non-violent, Rockefeller drug law offenses) being chained & shackled to & from the hospital to give birth & some shackled round the waist & chained while giving birth. I was astounded that this was taking place in NYC in 2009, & began reading online about the prison system, and the conditions in prison. I read one thing in Mother Jones a few years ago- that the friendly customer service rep you speak with on the credit card companies’ toll-free # may actually be a prison inmate being paid 11 cents an hour to work. That same article stated that MBNA was one of the biggest users of prison labor. And also the single biggest corporate contributor to the Bush campaign. The dots started being connected a bit more for me. I think your idea on a book being written on this subject is excellent. I have been thinking that this is a topic that should be explored, especially with input from the professionals in juvenile justice or groups such as the Urban Institute, who have awareness of the criminal justice system.

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