Tuesday, April 07, 2009

6 Ways to Become a Better Advocate for Animal Rights and an Ally of People of Color

This post is a summary of the statements expressed by people of color and their allies as documented in a five-part privilege series and is intended to assist animal activists, especially those who are identified as white, in becoming more effective at engaging in interracial communication about animal issues.

The following lists are meant to introduce you to 1) why some people of color may become outraged at human:animal oppression analogies, 2) how advocates create negative images of themselves in communities of color, 3) how they alienate advocates of color from the general AR community, and 4) six ways advocates can be more effective anti-oppression allies and advocates for animals. Finally, if you are interested in exploring how and why white and middle-class privilege can obstruct well-meaning efforts to engage with people of color who are and who are not already animal advocates, I have pasted a "table of contents" to previous posts.

Why analogizing human and animal exploitation/oppression often produces outrage and not empathy:
  1. aim to provoke people into debate in contrast to inviting people into a discussion
  2. are sponsored by organizations/people who have little or no history in promoting the “liberation” of the marginalized group whose oppression is being analogized to animals
  3. are insensitive to the existential trauma of and the meaning of “animal” to individuals of the marginalized group,
  4. assume that their oppression is history
  5. infer that their group lacks agency (just like "animals") and thus could not liberate themselves and depended upon an enlightened class of privileged citizens.

How do POC see vegans and AR activists (in general)?
The consequences of the aforementioned errors include the perception that vegans and ARAs
  1. exploit and appropriate the oppression of others for there own ends (without any prior request for consent and understanding)
  2. are racist because they fail to recognize the difference between human and non-human liberation (i.e. humans are self-organizing resisters, “animals” are not) and thus reduce the marginalized group to an “animal” condition of passivity
  3. cater to the white middle-class because they have taken no measures to make POC feel comfortable in their campaigns or abstain from consuming “cruelty-free” products that come at the expense of POC.
  4. care “more about animals than people (or color)” for the above reasons.

How do some white advocates alienate advocates of color from working together?
  1. Stereotype: “Have you ever eaten dog or cat?;” “Do you speak English?”
  2. Instrumentalize: “we need a black vegan for this event;” “if we adopt children of color, there will be more diversity in our movement”
  3. Exotify: “The best part of being vegan is getting to eat all kinds of exotic food”
  4. Marginalize: “Comparing human and animal oppression may hurt your feelings but it will help animals”
  5. Suppress: “Don’t criticize so-and-so because you’ll just be helping animal exploiters”
  6. Blame: “Don’t bring race into this! Why do you have to be so divisive?”
  7. Invalidate: “Get over it!” “You’re upset because you just don’t understand.”

How do (white) vegan and ARAs become better activists and allies?
The actions and their resulting consequences above serve both to hurt and alienate people of color from the animal/vegan movements(s) and construct the movement(s) as white middle-class, thereby creating a vicious cycle insensitivity and alienation. Therefore, a race-sensitive approach to promoting animal liberation and veganism ought to
  1. Be proactive! …don’t assume that POC are disinterested because they are not present
  2. Develop an understanding of POC’s existential condition and (one’s own) white privilege
  3. Humbly invite POC into a discussion (vs. use shock tactics and potentially offensive comparisons)
  4. Actively build bridges between movements and become an active ally in their liberation
  5. Engage with POC in issues they are already interested in (vs. using them as a means to your ends)
  6. Avoid language that alienates them by inferring that they are marginal Others (i.e. exotifying vegan food, homogenizing ethic groups, and scapegoating ‘foreign” cultures and nations).

Table of Contents
    Part 1:
  • Are Animals the New Slaves?
  • What Went Wrong?
  • Racism, Speciesism, and Cross-racial Misunderstanding
  • Are human-animal juxtapositions reductionistic?
  • Part 2:
  • Animal Rights or Animal Whites?
  • Animal White Supremacists?
  • Vegan Colonialism
  • One Word: Empathy
  • Part 3:
  • A Colorful Movement: Debunking the White Lie of White Exceptionalism
  • Making us Invisible: The Epistemology of Ignorance
  • The White Activist's Burden: Engaging the "Other"
  • Part 4:
  • Killing Us Softly: Narratives of Alienation
  • With Us or against Us –or- “Sit Down and Shut Up, Little Brown Girl”
  • Part 5:
  • Eating the Other: "Exotic" Food Fetishes
  • Are Vegans Oppressed?
  • The Police & White Privilege
  • Freeganism: The Privilege of Free Food?
  • Classism & Consumer Advocacy
  • Toward a Mutual Trust: Veganism as a Safe Place

Cross-posted @ HEALTH

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