Sunday, September 22, 2013

More Privileged White Vegans Upset about Marginalized Persons Demanding Inclusion

As of this weekend, this blog that I started at the beginning of 2013 has surpassed 50,000 visits.  Something I find absolutely astounding given my critical (and thus unpopular) stance on the Nonhuman Animal rights movement.  Being a "watchdog" (or, as some would say, a "loudmouth") isn't fun work.  Neither is my job ever done.  It can be exhausting and frustrating, but, the positive feedback I do receive is reassuring me that someone out there is listening.

Though, a lot of people aren't really listening at all and only retort with more offensive nonsense.  Hey, it gives me more to write about.

So, the author of the blog Vegan Soapbox contacted me today in response to my post about the disgusting "Non-Humans First!" campaign.  She directed me to some of her related posts.  I really wish I didn't have so many examples to work with for this blog, but I do.  So, let's make an example.

Here are some of the problematic comments the blogger makes:
There’s not enough time in the day to work on all the issues that need attention. There is not enough money in the movement to work on all the issues that need attention. We have to choose. We have to focus. 
[ . . . ] we must promote veganism in a way that reaches a significant portion of the population [ . . . ]
Therefore I advocate veganism predominantly to the privileged people precisely because they are privileged. They have the most power to affect significant change in our society on behalf of animals, the environment, and public health. 
There comes a point when we need to face the facts and realize our powerlessness. We cannot solve all of the world’s problems. We cannot end racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, agism, fatphobia, and other forms of prejudice and oppression all at once, no matter how hard we try. 
They center themselves and whomever they identify with, push animals to the margins, and blame the vegans for all the problems.
I’m tired of it.
Fact: Everyone has access to the essential vegan options.  
Don’t whine, “It’s too hard.” Just make the effort. 
The author of the blog appears to be a white-identified woman living in the West.  I don't know her personally, but given that the majority of the movement is middle class, I will presume she is not from a poor background, especially since she has time to volunteer for Vegan Outreach (volunteering in that way is often off-limits to struggling people).

My response:

1. WE DO NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE.  There is no reason why we must continue to frame our outreach in a white-centric manner.  There is no reason why we have to keep putting white people on the cover of our  magazines, putting white people in charge of our organizations, focusing on expensive vegan products and expensive vegan recipes, ignoring the reality of health issues impacting people of color and poor persons, ignoring how colonialism and institutionalized racism creates unique challenges for people of color, and, in general, ignoring how whiteness pervades our movement.  There is no reason why we have to keep prostituting women to promote Nonhuman Animal rights.  There is no reason why we have to continue being hostile and dismissive to marginalized people who have a problem with this.

2.  If we want to reach a "significant portion of the population," white people should not be prioritized.  While whites comprise 72% of the U.S. population, they comprise only a fraction of the world's population.  The bulk of the global population resides in Africa, Asia, and India--and they are not white populations.  Furthermore, the "significant portion of the population" both domestically and globally are not middle-class, but are hovering near the poverty line, or, as with many places in the world, living on less than a dollar a day.

3.  Focusing on the privileged is focusing on a group with tremendous power, that is true, but consider the power of the masses.  Guess what, in the United States 1% of the population holds most of the power, but they're only using that power to protect their power and oppress everyone else.  Social movements succeed when they resonate with the masses.  That's great if we get a few more rich white folks to go vegan, but it's even better if we reach out to marginalized communities and get them on board.  Furthermore, it's these communities who stand to gain the most--because veganism isn't just an animal rights issue, it's a human rights issue.  Nonvegan diets are sickening and killing humans in droves and they are destroying communities--especially disadvantaged communities who do not have access to healthy food or adequate health services.  It is these disadvantaged communities, both domestic and abroad, who are disproportionately suffering from the environmental damage of animal agriculture.

4.  Funny how privileged white Western people are telling the marginalized that we are powerless.  No, we're only powerless because the Nonhuman Animal rights movement--which is run by privileged people--continues to frame our movement in a way that reflects their backgrounds and their interests.  What kind of social movement throws up its hands and admits defeat without even trying?  See point #1 again, there is no reason why this has to be a zero sum game.  As someone who lives in poverty and is a victim of rape, sexism, and misogyny, I take extreme offense to some person of privilege telling me to shut up about my own victimization, not only telling me that I'm powerless to do anything about it, but that the movement I have dedicated my life to doesn't seem to give a shit either.  Excuse my language.

5.  This isn't about marginalizing Nonhuman Animals.  This is about recognizing how Nonhuman Animal oppression and human oppression are linked and inseparable.  They aggravate one another.  If you think we're powerless to end human oppression, how in the world do you think we will end Nonhuman Animal oppression?  That is absolutely illogical.  I deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  I deserve to be free of suffering.  I deserve the right to flourish.  This is a right that all humans should have.  If we can't extend that basic right to other humans, our fight for Nonhuman Animals is doomed.

6.  FACT:  Not everyone has access to essential vegan options.  Food deserts and environmental racism are real things, even if well-to-do white people don't know anything about them.

7.  I don't think it's whining, rather, it's marginalized communities asking that they be included in white-centric, patriarchal, middle-class vegan outreach efforts.  If you're tired of the "whining," start examining how your outreach actually reinforces racism, classism, sexism, etc.  For those of you who are interested in what all the "whining" is about, the amazing Sistah Vegan Conference from last weekend is now available online.  Check it out, learn something.