Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blaming Individuals for Structural Oppression: Why I Can't Stand this Vegan Meme

The following meme has been making its rounds on Facebook this week. I've seen it shared by Vegan Publishers, Vegan Outreach, The Thinking Vegan, and even, I'm sorry to say, Carol Adams. Well-meaning as it may be, I find it quite offensive and counterproductive.

The meme reads:
The difference between people who state veganism is easy and those who state veganism is hard, is those who say it's easy are focused on the victims, while those who say it's hard are focused on themselves.
Allow me translate:
The difference between privileged middle-class white people who state veganism is easy, and poor persons and persons of color (who are living under institutionalized oppression and are dealing with structural barriers, environmental racism, and food deserts) who state veganism is hard, is those who say it's easy are ignoring human victims, while whose who say it's hard are focused on themselves, as they're struggling to stay alive.
And the movement wonders why veganism is considered elitist? And why brown people and poor people tend to steer clear of animal rights activism?

If we want to succeed as a movement, we must strive to be cognizant of structural barriers and how oppression restricts the freedoms of millions of people living in the United States and abroad. Blaming marginalized people for their limited choices is unfair and cruel. Instead of tooting our privilege horn, perhaps we could widen our lens and work to dismantle the oppression that hurts and kills humans as well as nonhumans.