Friday, August 21, 2015

I still don't get it.

In a previous post I wrote about objecting to unnecessarily inserting race into advocacy against animal cruelty...and about resistance to that objection. Another bit of writing provided information about coded language. Familiarity with those two posts provides context for what's written here. If you haven't read them you will need to do so before proceeding. Please read them in order, first read "I don't get it" and then this post titled  "Here are two videos".

A month or two after that first disagreement, some new member to the group stuck up, on the vegan group's facebook page, a link to a thug kitchen video with the note that she found it to be "funny". It was up for several hours (before I saw it) with no "likes" or comments by anyone. When I realized what the link led to, I messaged the member and told her that some PsOC (persons of color) find this stuff offensive and would she please consider removing the posting...I also provided a link to an essay by a vegan chef (who is a person of color) detailing his reasons for finding the thug kitchen presentations unacceptable. No accusing or remonstrating...just a request that she consider removing it.

She did remove the link but...she also withdrew from membership on the vegan group's facebook page. I had, at the same time I messaged the posting member, also advised the founding members what I had done...and then...the "fun" started.

I thought about writing a long and elaborate and detailed recounting of all the back and forth that went on but...that's a pain in the ass to do and would likely also be tedious to try to read. This thing will be long enough as it is. I will use one founding members reaction to serve as a summation of what transpired.

I'll call her founder A...she responded within a few hours and wrote that unless something was "blatantly racist" it should be allowed to be posted as long as it advocated for the animals. She also wrote: "I joined xxx to help animals. I love all beings...ALL...black/red/white/spotted/striped/human/animal. But there are NOT millions of black people killed everyday. There are MILLIONS of animals killed EVERYDAY. That is what our focus must be. We are not the xxx xxxx Human Rights Team."    (I put in the xxx to omit the name of the vegan group, the rest is as written by her)


Note...for those of you who might want to educate yourselves...go read this enlightening bit of writing about "purple people" (she said spotted/striped instead of purple...but it's the same notion) meme. You might also note the oblivious contradiction between saying it was acceptable to post racist content as long as it wasn't "blatant" and simultaneously voicing "love" for "all beings". She also presumes that avoiding offensive and/or racist words, actions or images when advocating for veganism is the same as being a "human rights team". 

She also noted that an "influential" person had been upset and quit the group because of my objection. A bit later Founder A wrote that she had contacted and apologized to the posting person and that she (the posting person) was incensed that someone had approached her about something "petty".

I gotta tell ya...when I saw what Founder A wrote and when I saw that the posting person thought it was "petty" to avoid offense to marginalized groups of people I felt like the toxicity of the obliviousness and insensitivity that the founding members and posting person were defending was more than I wanted to associate with.

Silences can, and do, imply complicity...and I watched and waited and waited...and none of the other members objected to what founder A had written. That pretty much did it for me.

The others on the founding committee failed to challenge the ugly obliviousness and racist stance shown by her statement. They agreed (as implied by their silence) that concern with racist and/or offensiveness to marginalized humans was "petty"...well...unless it was "blatant", I guess. I felt my continued association with that committee would taint me with the ugliness I perceived in their position. I do plenty of lousy crap all by myself...enough so that I really don't need or want to be grouped with a bunch of white people who think avoiding offensiveness is "petty" or that racist and hurtful stuff is acceptable unless it is "blatant". 

****As an aside...my ability to opt out of association with the committee/group is an aspect of one of the "benefits" of white privilege. One of the things that white people can do...if they choose to...is to get away from unpleasant race related situations. PsOC have to live in a society dominated and controlled by white people...they can't withdraw or choose to stay away from it in any practical sense because it's everywhere and omnipresent for them. I have/had the option to quit fooling with the group as can people of color...but...they can't quit living in the society that is U.S. America. (short of moving to another country but the problem with that is the fact that racist ideology has infected most humans societies to some extent or other)

This fact of being able to exercise a version of white privilege bothers me and I'm contemplating what to do about this...I have some ideas but they're still forming. This is an all round sucky situation and one that will (I hope) eventually result in some new advocacy avenues. Maybe another group? I don't know right now.

Given the distress and dismay all this has produced in me leaves me profoundly appreciative of the incredible strength and resilience that exists in the spirits of those who have to deal with being targeted by this awfulness constantly. I question my capability to deal with what PsOC here in U.S. America have to deal with on a daily basis. I can't wrap my mind or my feelings around all that. I am in awe of such capacity for coping. We white people rarely comprehend that this country has millions of amazing and astonishing humans living here. I am deeply impressed and humbled by their ability to go about leading their lives without screaming or weeping 24/7. I really have no words for expressing my feelings about this. *** (the *** denotes the beginning and ending of the aside)

It seemed obvious to me that I had stirred up, in these ostensibly "good" white "progressive" people, dynamics that were rallying to defend their "goodness" instead of consideration of the unacknowledged and denied (but readily apparent) racist meanings of thug kitchen and/or the feelings of those who might be offended. I'm not suggesting that these founding members are "bad" people but...their denial and unacknowledged ignorance meant offensive and/or hurtful content on the vegan group facebook page not only would be allowed...it would be defended. That's simply not acceptable to me, I can, and must, do better than that and if they choose not to...well...I really did not want to be complicit in their doings.

This quote from a book about the meaning of whiteness seems to summarize aspects of the reaction I had stirred up.
"While it is certainly ubiquitous, white superiority is also unnamed and denied by most whites. We whites who see ourselves as "against racism" often base our identities in a denial of the racially based privileges we hold. We more often opt to protect what we perceive as our moral reputations, rather than recognize or change our participation. This is why pointing out white advantage will often trigger patterns of confusion, defensiveness, and righteous indignation....." (DiAngelo, 2012, p. 200-201)
After all the responses from the committee members were made, the upshot was that the four of them (all white people) had decided that thug kitchen, albeit 'controversial', wasn't offensive and I was being too "emotional" about race and race issues.

This is equivalent to four men deciding that something that a man did wasn't sexist...even though a woman targeted by his behavior had complained that it was offensive and sexist to her. Victims can say what hurts or is damaging or is offensive, not perpetrators. Perpetrators can agree that something is hurtful or affirm that they wanted to cause harm...but they can't say something did not hurt...because they were not the victim.They may plead ignorance...and that might even be true...but then their task is to remediate their ignorance...not to try to silence the victim or deny the pain of the victim.

Multiple essays can be found online, written by people of color, decrying the ugly and racist implications and content of thug kitchen (go watch the videos and read the previous post) but these four white people believed they had the standing to judge whether this was offensive and/or racist. White people can (maybe) affirm something as being racist...but we pretty much have no business trying to say something isn't racist when there are voices from the targeted group saying something is wrong or bad or painful or offensive. It is not the intent that counts...it is the impact.

We might fantasize about whether something was offensive or not but...we (white people) are not persons of color. We have not lived in a racist society, we don't have years and decades and centuries of being smacked with offenses and put-downs and demeanings and racist ugliness and violence and enslavement. Unless you belong to a minoritized and targeted group (one with little or no social power) then you can, at most, only fantasize about what that experience is like. You really can have no lived experience of that.

It was extremely disappointing to me that none...absolutely none...of the comments among the group members indicated any consideration or concern that PsOC that belonged to the group might have been offended or had their feelings hurt by the thug kitchen posting. It seemed to never enter their mind that one of their responsibilities was to endeavor to ensure that no group members are subjected to such postings. My presumption is that if a group member who was a  POC had dared to complain about the post...based on their reaction to my objection...they apparently would have told the POC that the post was not offensive or that they were being "emotional" or "too sensitive".    

The decision by these four white vegan group founders, that thug kitchen is not offensive, is an example of both white privilege and of white obliviousness and exemplifies, in microcosm, what passes for "normal" in this culture of white supremacy. And...these four are the "good guys"...they don't wear pointy hats or white robes. (but founder A...and the others by their silence...maintain that anything "up to blatant racism" is acceptable...dear god)

As I write this I find I'm wanting to scream. The disconnect from reality is dismaying and toxic. We white people are in deep deep doo-doo and subsequently so are those groups over which we dominate. Those of us who are white vegans are often as warped and ignorant about ourselves and our culture and our oblivious participation in and supporting of oppression as anyone else. Even though you might think that we would know better since we are theoretically trying to help victims of oppression. Shame on all of us who opt for the false comfort of oblivion.

After a lot of thought, I advised the founders that probably I wanted to exit the committee but...before I did I asked that a mutually agreeable statement about why I was leaving be put together and shared with the general membership. I was (and still am) concerned about group members who happen to be PsOC not being aware of the attitude of the founders toward possibly offensive postings. I was pretty sure they wouldn't go for that (even though they would have a hand in the writing of this statement) because their "white goodness" might look a little hollow if all this were brought out into the open.

My wavering about remaining associated with the committee was all they needed...I was advised that they were sorry I felt the way I did but any statement might cause "turmoil" and was a no go and...just to make sure I didn't bother anyone they not only removed me from the committee...they tossed me out of the group altogether and banned me from the facebook page.


Some words from a song I like characterizes this strange situation too well...'kind of funny and kind of sad'. I suspect not many humans have had the experience of being ejected from an organization they helped start...especially for objecting to oppression in a group supposedly devoted to resisting oppression. There are strange and bizarre winds blowing all through this.

I started writing this series of posts as an attempt to share my experiences with some white people who started a local vegan group to support other vegans and to advocate for the sister/brother Earthlings who aren't human animals. As I got into writing about it I realized I had some vague and unformed notion of laying it all out in a somewhat neat and tidy package and saying "see, this is what happened and this is what it all meant". But it really isn't that way (fact, nothing much that involves living beings can be put into neat and tidy packages) and I found the very act of writing about this whole situation resulted in me seeing and thinking about things that hadn't occurred to me previously.

Which means I can, and will, write more about this in the future. It's too rich and condensed and full of not immediately apparent meanings to leave it as is. There is still much for me to learn.

But...this is enough for now. I want to extend my deep gratitude to the friends I have who also happen to be identified as people of color. Their willingness to dialogue with me about this slow motion debacle as it unfolded was helpful beyond words. I feel incredibly honored that they were willing to trust me enough to speak openly and honestly with me. I treasure that trust and their kindness and their acceptance immensely. I am humbled to have the gift of their friendship. I also want to thank other friends, who are identified as white, who were able to go beyond their cultural conditioning and be supportive and helpful and understanding. That too was and is so very valuable.

I spent many hours bending the ears of these terrific people because I knew there was much I didn't comprehend and/or was oblivious to and their patient listening and feedback and reactions were absolutely crucial in helping me stumble through all this. If I've failed to express how disorienting and mind-boggling this has been, and continues to be, it's because I'm a lousy writer. I promise you that it was and is all those things and more.

I'm also grateful that so many rich sources of easily accessed writings and videos are available via the internet. I've linked to many of them and the one thing they do is, for those who can access them, remove any/all excuses for remaining oblivious and/or ignorant. Their richness and the opportunity they offer for consciousness expanding are amazing.

I am infected by unwanted and undesired racial biases. My culture gifted me with them. I detest them and am repulsed by them...but that doesn't make them disappear nor does it make them lack influence. It's my job to clarify them and to struggle against them.

Speaking out against what I saw as harmful and hurtful postings in this vegan group resulting my being banished. That's not an unusual outcome to challenging such harms. Everything that's gone on has been an opportunity for me to learn more about myself, about other white people, about unrecognized and/or unacknowledged insult and injury to people of color and about the power of 500 years of white denial. I console myself with the fact that I'm the one who was the recipient of rejection and disbelief instead of some person of color who happened to see that ugly posting. I belong to the group (white people) who perpetrate and maintain this awfulness and it is appropriate that I catch some heat about interrupting it instead of an innocent person being victimized.

I've no doubt that I've made errors and offenses in the writing of this. I would welcome assistance in my journey of learning if anyone noticing any of these would choose to point them out and push me to fight through my sometimes infuriating and irritating (to me and probably others too) obliviousness. But, if you don't want to put up with an ignorant white guy, I don't blame you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Here are two videos

that were created by a young woman using the excellent name Sensei Aishitemasu. I'm not sure whether it is a pseudonym or not, either way I really like the name.

I found her when I was tasking myself with one of the things many scholars and writers suggest for those who want to expand their consciousness. They recommend becoming familiar with the viewpoints of people of color because...exposing yourself to perspectives and observations from those who don't have white skin is one of the absolutely necessary things that must be done in order to de-center oneself from a white perspective of the behaviors and thinking associated with human societies and cultures.

It's very easy to be seduced into thinking you're learning "just the facts" or watching the "news" or gathering information about world events and believing that what you see/hear/read is some sort of "objective" and accurate presentation of "facts" when...in actuality...what you're getting...at least here in U.S.America is information, almost exclusively, from white people operating off of a white perspective. The media is (networks, newspapers, magazines, cable channels, etc) run by and dominated by white people. Actually not so much white people as white men...the perspective of white women is almost nonexistent. It's really much worse than you might think...for instance...even BET (Black Entertainment Television) is a subsidiary of a white man controlled corporation.

It is white men who select and shape the information that is served up as the "news", that's who determines what is presented and how it is presented. And if you think that perspective doesn't influence what you're presented with and how it is presented...well...that's sort of sad.

In this quest to be exposed to other perspectives and learn about different ways of seeing things I found her Youtube channel and started watching many of her videos. I'm going to share two of them in this post because...while she is not a vegan...she does address some of the issues that plague vegan advocacy. Her first video is...warning...a rant with strong language. She is quite emotional at times in expressing herself. The video is about the thug kitchen phenomenon, which I wrote about in a post back in December. It's a little more than 12 minutes and is very sad and full of pain and anger and is also very enlightening.



She mentioned in the video that she might make a follow-up that was less of a rant and worked toward being more detailed in the explication of what is meant by coded language. This is what she does in this second video. It is an excellent visual essay that includes information about implicit bias and unconscious stereotyping. This video is a bit longer, about 18 minutes, but it is very informative and offers a nifty summation of how offensive and repugnant racial messages are placed in a sneaky package and presented as if they are not what they are.


If you choose to go to her Youtube channel, you'll find many other incredibly informative and enjoyable videos that she has created and...many times she includes links under the videos that will take you to further information about the topics she addresses in her presentations. I'm deeply thankful that I found her. She's become one of my go to resources for my efforts to "de-center" my old white man perspective.

For instance, she did a video wherein she addressed privilege, which can be a slippery and upsetting thing to try to come to grips with. Another video I found to be very powerful was one in which she talks about being white and racism. If you choose to watch these be aware that you might find that they make you uncomfortable. If you're a white person...unless you're a hell of a lot more enlightened than I am...they should make you uncomfortable.

Think of it this way...U.S. America has inflicted harm and destruction and "discomfort" on people of color and on women for centuries. Do you really think, if you're skin is white and/or if you're male, that you're going to be able to resist that stuff and work at opting out of participating in that crap without experiencing some upset and discomfort? For way too long, "discomfort" has been felt by the victims of patriarchal white supremacy...it's time to put the "discomfort" where it belongs...with the perpetrators...not the victims. And that means, if you belong to the perpetrator group(s)...doing some hard to take learning and comprehension.

There's a tremendous opportunity that the internet makes available and accessible...that is to easily delve into and learn from the perspectives of people of color and/or from the perspectives of females. In that process, hopefully, someone (me) can recover, somewhat, from the smog (as I saw it very eloquently expressed) of patriarchal white supremacy. Deconstructing aspects of my socially imposed and constructed 'identity' and perspective(s) is a requirement for opting out of being oblivious.

To not make that effort is, to me, just unconscionable. If I'm going to advocate against oppression...and I want to do just that...if I'm going to advocate for my sister/brother Earthlings and If I'm going to advocate on behalf of oppressed groups of humans...it's incumbent on me to do that responsibly and with precision and sensitivity and in the doing of that to endeavor to not recreate or reproduce oppression. I must...absolutely...educate myself. I will make errors anyway...but...that's ok...you can't learn anything new without messing up at times. The important thing is to learn from the error and work to not repeat it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

I don't get it.

When we attempt to resist or object to the oppression of a particular group sometimes we can inadvertently support or encourage the oppression or degrading of other often oppressed groups. This should never be done unless there is some bizarre and unusual circumstance that seems to call for such activity. Even then…anyone opposing harm to others simply because they are involuntary members of a targeted and minoritized group should absolutely ensure there is no other way to achieve their goal. Because...there usually is. 

A few months ago I was in the middle of a situation that potentially promoted just this sort of an instance of oblivious harming.

Last year I helped start a local group of vegans in central Oklahoma as a way of enhancing advocacy for animals as well as a support group for vegan types. Living and advocating for veganism can be an isolating experience and support and encouragement for such stuff can be really welcome and helpful.

The group flourished, they even visited Heartland Rabbit Rescue as a way of supporting local efforts to provide refuge for some of the victims of human oppression. You can read about one such visit in this previous post. A facebook page for the group was created where members could post things having to do with veganism and such and semi-regular meetings and activities took place. As a founding member I did various things with the group including acting as one of the administrators of the facebook page.

One day I saw that a member (another one of the founders) had shared a graphic detailing some purported neglect and cruelty that had occurred at a municipal shelter in a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. Several people there were calling for the firing of the animal control officer because of this badness and they had apparently created a graphic that detailed the cruelty, named the supposed offender and also they had included a photograph of this man.

Obviously no animal should be neglected and/or abused or treated cruelly by an animal control officer...but...it struck me as a little unusual to include a photograph of the individual...especially since the man was African American.

I couldn't remember seeing a photo of an individual (who wasn't a celebrity or who hadn't posted the photo themselves) used in quite that way before and I was bothered by the fact that using the photo meant that his race was specified when...his race wasn't relevant to objecting to cruelty. If the graphic had simply described the man the written description would not have included racial identification...but...the photo meant race and racial stereotyping and all that involved came into play in what was an attempt to publicize and object to what some were saying was a case of neglect/cruelty.

I messaged the person who posted the graphic and asked her to consider removing the photograph...because of the probability that identifying the race of the purported offender ran the risk of playing into the negative stereotyping of African Americans that has been a central feature of U.S.American culture since the 1600s. Knowing the race of the individual involved had nothing to do with protesting against the incident and it was easily possible to advocate for the victim(s) without bringing this information into consideration.

I really didn't think much about it to tell you the truth...it seemed fairly clear cut to me.

Well...not so fast. The person who posted the graphic sort of dug in her heels and...after some exchanges...absolutely refused to remove the graphic in question. I became disturbed enough (and sort of desperate to tell you the truth) that I posed a request to her to remove it as a personal favor to me at least until we could have a meeting of the founding committee where this issue could be discussed and hashed out face to face. She refused and went so far as to accuse me of trying to protect an animal harmer and, apparently because I had sent her some information about historical and current negative stereotyping of African Americans, of being patronizing toward her.

I gotta tell ya the truth I was truly and well flummoxed....very stunned and perturbed. My view was that objecting to the cruelty was something that should be done...but bringing the race of the individual supposedly involved (the other thing is that no one here had any first hand knowledge of this incident...all this brouhaha was relying on some unknown individuals down in this little town...it could have all been unfounded as far as anyone here knew) simply was unnecessary and well...to my mind... wrong. It risked evoking negative feelings and activating negative stereotypes toward/about a member of a minoritized group that has endured centuries of oppression and harm and denigration at the hands of white "freedom loving" U.S. Americans and I could see no good reason for it.

Using the photograph was not relevant to the objecting to the instance of harm so why use it? I was also a little suspicious of the motives of the creators of the graphic since it originated from an area of Oklahoma known as "little dixie"...that area is so named partially because of the problematic racial attitudes that have long existed there but, in truth, those deplorable attitudes have existed historically not only in that part of the state.

Her stance was that she was "colorblind"...(hereafter I will use "color-oblivious") and treated everyone the same no matter their skin color and she would have done the same thing if it was a white person involved.

I was sort of shocked at that idea (I was rather unfamiliar with the term "colorblind") because while it might look sensible on a superficial level...if you think about it a little it is the same as saying that you'll be "age-oblivious" or "sex-oblivious" or "ability-oblivious" in terms of how you treat someone or deal with someone. I apologize for use of the term "blind". Oblivious is a more accurate word to use instead of referencing some lack of physical capability. Unfortunately "colorblind" is apparently a very common term.

You can't just say I'll ignore everything and make the rules the same for everybody no matter what their particular circumstances or history or capabilities or experience is. Life isn't that way except in some abstract and disconnected imaginary universe. It's poor and faulty thinking to operate off of such unrealistic abstractions. This graphic illustrates clearly that, depending on each individual's circumstances, different treatment is needed to ensure that everyone is dealt with fairly. I've written elsewhere about these ideas.


If the graphic doesn't make clear the error in thinking "equal" is the same as fair...think about something that's impacting every child in this country that attends public school. Some time ago the amazing effort called "standardized testing" was implemented under the guise of the theory that it was somehow "fair" to subject all children from a state to the same set of tests.

Hey...everybody is tested with the same questions...great...right? Wrong...it's wrong because all schools are not equal. Some districts have much more money and resources than others...much better and newer textbooks, more experienced and skilled teachers, better science laboratory facilities and on and on and on. It's also wrong because you're also presuming all children have much the same family and socioeconomic environmental support and circumstances. If you want to give standardized tests without ensuring standardized education as well as standardized external situations for the children...you're simply confusing equality (same tests) with justice or fairness.

The person welded to the notion of "color-obliviousness" refused to remove the post...so...I took it down and told her what I had done and would discuss it at the next meeting and if the consensus was that I was in error...then the post could be reinstated. I was looking forward to hashing this out in person with her...and with the group...because you well know how hard it is to have some sort of dialogue...especially one where there is disagreement...via electronic venues.

The next committee meeting occurred and she did not attend. I was all prepared with handouts and arguments and and and...wouldn't you know it...she didn't show up. The attending members listened to my viewpoint but...I could see by the rather strange glaze in their eyes that they really didn't "get" what I was saying. Which was disheartening since, not only did it seem readily apparent to me, I had also explained this situation to several people that I knew and each of them quickly saw what I was driving at. The people on the committee did not seem to do so although they didn't object to my objecting and removing the post. Just FYI, everyone on the committee has white skin...as I do...there was no committee input by anyone from another racial group.

Advocating for our sister/brother Earthlings can be done without purposely or inadvertently engaging in oppressive or denigrating or harmful behaviors toward groups of humans that have been historically (and currently) oppressed. It's just not necessary and...if you're genuinely opposed to oppression...you don't do it...or even get close to it.

If you don't want to advocate for oppressed humans...fine...most vegans don't because that's not where their passion is. But, if you can't figure out how to champion non-harm to non-humans without promoting injury or degradation toward oppressed groups of humans, maybe you should be living vegan...and not advocating.

Some vegans seem to be unaware of the fact that a white supremacist or a Nazi (pretty much the same thing) or a misogynist  could also be vegan. Being vegan is not some sort of blanket get out of jail free card that means someone is not a bullying a**hole that you wouldn't want to be near or share a home, community or society with. It only means they are trying to avoid harming Earthlings who are not human.

Sometimes vegans (and I admit to having occasionally flirted with such self elevation) seem to become so impressed with their, admittedly admirable, choice to refrain from harm to unhuman Earthlings that they start thinking that they have some universal and permanent exemption from behaving poorly. I'm not at great risk of such self-aggrandizement because my wife graciously often points out when I'm being a jerk. Just because you advocate for a great cause doesn't mean you can't cause unnecessary harm to others.

Some groups who advocate...PETA comes to mind...have a long and (to me) depressing history of being really cavalier and unthinking regarding recreating oppressions in their ostensible quest to advocate for animals. They (trigger warning...the links go to offensive photos) use racist and sexist memes often in their advocacy and I find that sort of stuff to be deplorable and self-defeating. No vegan needs to be complicit in supporting the culture of oppression if they can avoid it.

My stance is that if you can't advocate for a harmed group without offending or harming other traditionally harmed groups...then maybe you don't need to be advocating.

You should stay 40 miles away from anything that even hints at the reproducing of oppression. We live in a culture (western European) that has hundreds of years of history of routinely setting up situations where harmed groups have tried to resist harm to themselves by inflicting injury on other historically harmed groups...when...it's not necessary

Maybe you should go somewhere and do some hard thinking about what your motives are because something is seriously whacked in your thinking, to me anyway, if you're asking for compassion for one group while engaging in gratuitous and/or unnecessary harm or negative stereotyping toward another oppressed group. That's incomprehensible. It's ugly and unnecessary and simply doesn't need to be done.

I'm beginning to think that this sort of bizarre scrabbling between harmed groups is one of the main obstacles to getting onto a path toward a way of living where fairness for everyone is the standard.

The further away from this incident that I get...in terms of time...the more it dismays me that the committee members...including the posting person...were/are seemingly oblivious to this. It's so similar to trying to educate a non-vegan about veganism who doesn't "get it" that it is uncanny.

This situation left me in one of those really uncomfortable places where something seems glaringly obvious to me...and yet this something seems to be invisible to some...or am I missing something? Feel free to chime in here.

The graphic in question stayed off of the facebook page...but...I had one member of the committee furious at me and another three members looking at me as if I had grown a 2nd head. Jeez. Another post will be necessary to delineate subsequent developments...because it got weirder...and not in a fun way.

Please be aware that I'm writing only about myself and the few members of the founding committee. Nothing negative is implied about the group itself or the purposes of the group. Advocacy for our sister/brother Earthlings is a good thing...even if the humans involved might have differing perceptions and/or viewpoints. It's all a learning process...or at least it can be. 


Friday, August 7, 2015

Precise and concise...


This graphic condenses pretty much everything necessary to "get it" regarding the vegan philosophy and ethos. My thanks to the creator of this graphic summary.

This leaves little wiggle room...but where the wiggling will commence will likely be regarding the "nobody else" phrase. I suspect right there is where objections in the form of "but they're just animals, they aren't people" will be inserted. Or...if you're dealing with (usually a white male) a desensitized and violence loving human who has more issues than you probably want to deal with...they might say they don't care about others suffering and dying or maybe even that they like causing others to suffer and die.

The first group of objectors might be worth engaging in dialogue...that second group of objectors might be more than you want to take on.

If you're fired up enough to deal with that second group...be prepared for what might be a lengthy and difficult and scary task because you're not only going to be struggling with the "othering" of Earthlings who aren't considered to be members of the human species...you're also going to be facing a serious deficiencies and/or derangements in the areas of compassion and empathy. 



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Do yourself a favor

and go read this. If you're vegan you probably have struggled with just the same sorts of language difficulties that So I'm Thinking of Going Vegan addresses in her delightful post. (Thank you HGV)

Not only is the phenomenon she struggles with in her writing one that repeatedly causes difficulty for vegans...it also contributes to problematical issues for all manner of folks who are attempting to address socially constructed identities and ways of conceptualizing relationships and interactions that eschew oppression and oppressive hierarchies and binary categorizings and on and on.

When we we try to deconstruct or opt out of oppressive thinking and doing and speaking it just may be that our difficulties in doing such are compounded by the fact that we are using a language...English (not that other languages don't have some of the same issues going on...they do)...which was pretty much constructed and created and enforced by guess who? White penis bearing folks who were interested in maintaining and enforcing a white centered patriarchal worldview wherein white men (and their "civilizations") were situated as the end all and be all of how it should be. One where humans (especially white possessors of penises) were the superior beings and all life was somehow subordinate to this ultimate manifestation of a living being. Jeez.

Audre Lorde exquisitely observed that we cannot dismantle the master's house using the master's tools.

I would urge anyone interested in learning more about these kinds of problems to consult Dr. Julia Penelope's book: Speaking Freely: Unlearning the Lies of the Father's Tongues.

There you can learn more about some of the confusings inherent in trying to move beyond thinking and speaking in oppressive terms or language using a language that was designed and created by oppressors. English was, according to Dr. Penelope, constructed to be sexist and racist (and many other structurings of oppression are built into its use and rules) and...by extension we can infer that it was also constructed to be supportive of speciesism.

So...next time you are...as I do all the time...fumbling around with how to refer to beings, without being demeaning and/or patronizing, who aren't you and also don't wear tennis shoes or drive cars or speak human languages...maybe part of the problem isn't just your deficiencies in conceptualizing and expressing yourself...it may be that the language tools you are using (English) are not well designed for the task because the jerks who created the tools were wanting to support and maintain oppression and weren't interested too much in genuine equality and respect and freedom.

Think of how often "man" or "mankind" is used as reference to all humans...neatly centering penis folks as the norm and relegating all other manifestations and configurations to "other". Gimme a break...does such goofiness suggest a major overevaluation of themselves by men or what?

I remember clearly the furor that erupted when feminist thinking and critiquing had become influential enough to bring heat to bear on the common practice of using the pronoun "he", as used in writing and speaking, as meaning to refer to both females and males. Why not use "she" to refer to everyone? Well...that wasn't what the good old boys wanted who set up the language and rules for usage. They were out to dominate...not share equally.

Rules of usage, available vocabulary and common usage practices can all serve to support and exemplify and maintain hierarchies and oppressive thinking. And...make no mistake...when these everyday demeanings are pointed out there are many people (mostly white men) who get upset about them and object to anyone protesting them. The upset is part of how the demeanings retain their power and stay in place.

So, give yourself a break...it may not all be that you're drenched in oppressive thinking...it also may be that you're trying to use the masters tools do dismantle his edifices of oppression. Disclaimer...I'm a white male so who knows what kind of inadvertent and overlooked oppressions I stuck into the blog post. For every one that slipped in...piss on me...I am working hard on this.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Once again

the eloquent and perceptive pattrice jones has written a piece that must be read by all of us who support and advocate for veganism.

She writes:
Do be the person you were when you let yourself learn things you didn’t want to know about animal abuse. That same courage and willingness to confront discomfort will carry you through and inspire you to learn what you need to learn about racism
However difficult and upsetting it was for you to learn about what we human animals do to our sister/brother Earthlings...diving into learning about the active and ongoing ugliness of white U.S. American racism is just as disconcerting or maybe even more so. But...you can do it. It's painful, it's scary and heart and mind boggling. However, if you're committed to opting out of the oppressions that are presented as "normal"...then it must be done.

If you don't want to do that work...then she tells you what you need to do. Read her post. Please. (Thanks to So I'm Thinking of Going Vegan for linking to her blog too)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Decontextualize...

is a snazzy sounding word which means...according to this dictionary site: "to remove from a context." It's sort of in the vicinity of another interesting word, deconstruction, which has as one of its meanings: "the analytic examination of something (as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy." Deconstruction also has meaning much beyond the one quoted above that you can find here.

Some time ago I was reading some writing by a young woman who works with survivors of domestic violence. She was noting that one of the arguments that is presented to emphasize how lightly or inadequately this very serious and awful issue is regarded is the statement that there are 3 times as many animal shelters in the United States as there are shelters for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

I was sort of surprised at that data initially, in the way that such a decontextualed presenting of the information is apparently designed to accomplish. I first thought how unsettling that we have triple the facilities to protect animals as we do to protect women and children...but...my thinker didn't stop there. And...more digging by my thinker led me to see that there was something sort of hinky and manipulative in making such a statement...even though it was true...at least on the face of it.

A few days ago I was having an exchange online with someone wherein they were asserting something that I was having a hard time understanding, so I wrote them about some of my concerns. In their response they threw that same 3 times statement at me and asserted that it served to confirmed their stance. This time I did a little investigating.

Apparently that statement is based on some data from 1990, that can be found here, where it says there are 1,500 shelters for battered women and 3,800 shelters for animals in the U.S. Obviously 3 x 1,500 is more than 3,800 but this bit of data is close enough for presuming that this source is one basis for the 3 times assertion. More up to date data indicates there are around 5,000 animal shelters and around 3,361 providers of services for domestic violence victims. That isn't even close to 3 x...but...there are still more shelters for animals than resources for domestic violence victims. If you search for that 3x ratio, you find that it is used in many places as some sort of argument that we care more about animals than human victims of domestic violence. For instance, a page associated with Arizona State University touts this "shocking" bit of data.

That's really not the problem with the 3x meme...the problem is that it is thrown around without referencing context. You have to look at the respective size of the populations involved, as well as other factors, for the data to make any kind of useful sense...unless you're just trying to win a dispute and don't really care about accuracy and comprehension. Which, from what I can tell, is most often the context in which that notion is used.

One very important bit of information to take into account is the number of victims of domestic violence as compared to the number of animals who are at risk for violence against them. If we consider this additional information, the 3 x thing starts to look a little strange. For arguments sake let's presume that every female in the U.S. is a victim of domestic violence...that would mean about 150 million females (I'm including both adult and child females into this number) are theoretically victims of domestic violence...if we divide 3,361 (the number of providers of domestic violence services) into the number of victims we can see how many victims there are for each provider. That number comes to around 45,000 victims for each provider. (150 million divided by 3,361)

Of course not all females are victims...I'm using the biggest number possible simply to illustrate the rather fantastic goofiness that's present here.

Ok, let's do the same thing for animal shelters. One source says 10 billion land animals are killed each year in the United States...and that excludes how many sea animals (another 20 billion) are killed each year. If we use the 10 billion figure for increasing our understanding, we would need to divide that population by the number of animal shelters and that would come to 2 million. (10 billion divided by 5,000)

So, using the calculations above, based on a large overestimate of human victims and a big underestimate of animal victims we see that for each shelter for humans there are about 45,000 potential users and for each animal shelter there are abut 2 million potential users. Uh...that sort of makes the 3 x thingee look sort of...well...screwy.

And...that's not all there is to the context. When the term shelter is used for animals, that includes (I'm presuming) all the small and large taxpayer funded municipal and county type operations. Guess what happens to animals that end up there?  Most of them...sooner or later...unless the animal is rescued from the shelter...are killed. Shelter is a misleading term...these are (not all of them, but most of them) actually places where animals are killed for human convenience. And...most of the places included in that 5,000 animal shelters are just that type of death camp...the number of sanctuaries and/or rescues where animals are safe is much much smaller. I looked a little for a breakdown of safe places versus kill places and found that to be rather hard to find. You can do your own investigating of that if you're so inclined.

Maybe the best way to think about it is this...how many taxpayer funded shelters for animals are actually devoted to saving lives versus being devoted to scooping up non-human affiliated animals and killing them? There are none in my area...every tax funded operation around here is a place of death...if no human takes the animal out of the "shelter" then that "rescued" animal is killed.

One source says that 3.5 million of the 5 million "companion animals" entering "shelters" annually (that excludes those beings 'routinely' killed for "food") are executed. That's not much of a shelter...as far as I know...that's not what happens at places that provide services to human victims of domestic violence. So...not only are the numbers misleading...even the term "shelter" is misleading. Using screwy numbers and screwy language in the same statement...ouch.

I responded to the person who used the 3 to 1 ratio with only the information about population size...I didn't even add that using the word "shelter" for places of refuge for human victims of domestic violence versus that same word for a place of death for animals...and pointed out the error in the statement. The response I got back was...none...they just ignored the information.

Discussions or exchanges or presentations of information can be used to get closer to reality or truth or they can be used to try to get agreement...or both. I'm much more interested in trying to ascertain truths and/or reality than I am (usually anyway) in trying to achieve agreement. My notion is that truth/reality is the important part and agreement and/or disagreement regarding a perspective to that truth/reality is secondary. Agreement is nice...but jeez...if you're agreeing on an untruth that you're pretending is truth or mistaking for truth...well...there's way too much of that going on in human interactions for my liking.

Among other things, propaganda is designed to achieve agreement, marketing is designed to achieve agreement, flimflam is designed to achieve agreement...none of these three things are much interested in truth/reality except as a tool, sometimes, to get agreement. I don't particularly care for any of those three things...in fact...I get sort of offended when I'm subjected to them. 

When someone presents an assertion that is misleading and/or inaccurate (I include me in 'someone') and information is presented that invalidates that assertion...it's time to acknowledge error or inaccuracy and adjust whatever premises are based on that assertion. If such acknowledging and/or adjusting doesn't happen...in this case the additional information was ignored...it's my presumption that whomever I'm in an exchange with isn't interested in truth/reality, they're interested in their stance and they want agreement, reality/truth is secondary or immaterial to their goal. It's at that point that I pretty much lose interest in dialoguing with them.

Victims of domestic violence need places of safety...yes...but trying to garner support for this by using decontextualized numbers is a lousy way to go about it.

And...presenting another group of victims of violence as somehow getting "more" (and in the process spreading misinformation), that's just reproducing oppression, theoretically in the name of providing relief to victims of oppression. We can do better than that. Such stuff just plays into maintaining the astonishing culture of oppression that we all are subjected to...some extra thinking and contexting can sometimes help to opt out of participation in playing one group of victims off against another group of victims and in avoiding being duped by numbers.

So...if you run across the 3 to 1 meme...beware. All victims belonging to marginalized groups deserve protection...but touting misinformation and/or reproducing oppression is a lousy way to try to achieve that. And...anyone believing that more human effort and resources are devoted to "saving" our sister/brother Earthlings than are devoted to humans...well...they're way way way wrong.



Sunday, July 12, 2015

I, racist

is the title of an essay by John Metta that you can read here. I've shared it with a number of people, I've printed out copies so I can hand them to white people when I get into a discussion with them and I see their eyes starting to glaze over as I struggle to explain how all of us white people are complicit in a racist system. I don't have a great deal of confidence that it will make a difference...but...the essay is so piercingly true that it should be shared widely. And...just maybe...it can help to break through the obliviousness of normality.

Every vegan that I know has had the unsettling experience of having someone get upset when it was pointed out to them that living a "normal" life here in U.S. America meant they were being cruel to animals who weren't human. Most see themselves as non-harmers of living beings...even as they routinely eat "animal products" and "meat". The cruelty has been invisibled and making that cruelty clear is most often experienced as a personal attack instead of an effort to expand perception and comprehension.

Most vegans have learned that truth telling, no matter how gently or kindly or eloquently it is expressed, usually ends up being rejected, ignored, denied or...quite often...with a non-vegan human being upset and angry at the vegan who was audacious enough to point out "normal" cruelty. Exposing this awfulness almost invariably results in hurt feelings because the previously oblivious person feels like you're saying they are "bad". Their feelings get hurt and since you are the one who's sitting across from them...you must be the cause.

Expose awfulness to someone who "normally" participates in awfulness generally means the speaker gets branded as awful. It's as if it is immediately recognized that there's something awful going on and that awfulness becomes a hot potato that has to go somewhere...someone is responsible for it...and the quickest and easiest thing to do is toss it back onto the one who brought it into awareness. It's a variation on the "he who smelt it dealt it" observation.

Each of us can can participate in and support oppression and horror while seeing ourselves as virtuous and kind and compassionate. In fact, that is, horribly enough, what passes for "normal" in any culture where eating our sister/brother Earthlings is accepted. Which is most all cultures.

In addition, the normalized oppression that's meant by the term speciesism, isn't the only routine awfulness we get indoctrinated into here in U.S. America. You get stuck into complicity with sexism too....whether you realize it or not. If you have white skin you get stuck into complicity with racism....whether you realize it or not. And on and on...that's a big part of how the "isms" of oppression just keep rolling along.

Hell, you get stuck into complicity with racism even if you don't have white skin...it's just that you have a much greater chance of becoming de-oblivioused to that routine racism if your skin isn't considered to be white because not only will you be a "normal" participant in that oppression...you'll eventually be a target of it too. And...as noted in this post...if you suffer from an oppression you are much more likely to clearly comprehend and be aware of that oppression.

Please read I, racist...it's one of the most excellent pieces of writing I've ever read. It wonderfully works at "saying it well enough". My thanks to the author of I, racist, he's given everyone a marvelous gift.
 

Friday, July 3, 2015

I get confused often.

This post is about some confusions that bother me.

Stephanie McMillan is a talented artist/cartoonist who has devoted her efforts to activism opposing imperialism and supporting social justice issues...you can read more about this in her bio on her website.

This graphic, which I mostly like, was created by her.



The idea that the graphic is trying to express is that it is incumbent on each of us to de-invisiblize the consequences of our behavior such that those consequences do not...inadvertently...end up furthering or supporting the very thing that we're wanting to oppose.

The mostly qualification about liking the graphic is because I'm sort of perplexed by the military imagery (my notion is that part of human caused awfulness is, way more often than not, driven by our organizing into "soldiers"). It's interesting to consider that maybe her imagery actually lends some support to what she seems to oppose. I say that because imperialism pretty much always involves the organizing of humans into "soldiers".

That's sort of interesting eh? She seems to be someone opposed to imperialism but creates a graphic that seems to support or at least invoke one of the main human roles (soldier) used to support imperialism...in a graphic that argues against not accidentally or unwittingly doing something like that. Sort of cool and sad at the same time. But...obviously I might be totally wrong in my take on the graphic...or...she might be oblivious to the implications.

Maybe I'm just being picky. Here's another graphic she created.

She does many cartoons and drawings and writings wherein she advocates against environmental harm and human-driven climate change and other destructiveness caused by human behavior. Except...oops...obviously Ms. McMillan isn't vegan. The problem presented in the graphic above revolves around how mercury poisons humans...no concern is attached to mercury poisoning the fish or the unnecessary killing of the fish for humans to eat.

Apparently her concern stops at human Earthlings when she thinks about social justice...even though this next graphic hints otherwise.

Is she concerned about plants and animals or are they just being used as props for her advocacy on behalf of her concerns about human Earthlings?

There are various other drawings/cartoons on her website that indicate much concern with environmental destruction but the theme that seems to run through all of them is worry about harm or inconvenience to humans in some shape or form. She probably would object to this graphic...or at least be only minimally concerned with the notion of speciesism.



Her bio says she is concerned with "social justice" but...we're sort of left in the dark as to precisely what she means when she uses those words, but it's probably safe to say that only human beings are included.

She's concerned about the environment hence the ecocide part of this graphic would be consonant with what she opposes and...she does say "social justice"...so maybe some of those other oppressions in the graphic would be repulsive to her. And yet...if she isn't vegan...her universe of concern is, in essence, human Earthlings and, I presume, mother Earth, at least insofar as mother Earth appears to offer something useful to human Earthlings. I'm speculating...I don't know what her universe of opposition entails but predicated on the dead fish graphic apparently the lives of non-human Earthlings don't make it.

Oppression is defined on wikipedia as: "...the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner." Hence, one way to think about racism is as the use of power by one group of humans against another group of humans,  defined by "race", in a way that is burdensome, cruel or unjust. So the above graphic is using words to identify groups (or something nebulously called ecology or the environment) that are subjected to oppression by various groups of humans. The thing or idea (as denoted by the double headed arrow lines) that connects all of the words above is oppression.

If, as Ms. McMillan seems to do, we exclude any who aren't human Earthlings from our area of concern then we are saying that oppression is acceptable if the target of those oppressive activities does not belong to that group we define as the human species...and maybe the sort of nebulous thing we call the 'environment'. I suppose that's what she's saying...I don't know because I haven't conversed with her...I'm speculating based on my poking around on her website and looking at her graphics.

For me, the problem is with those activities encompassed by the notion of oppression, there's where I see wrongness. It's the oppressing that's the bad stuff...otherwise you're just getting into a stance of deciding which groups (or areas) are ok to behave cruelly or unjustly toward and which ones you shouldn't act that way toward.

Maybe this could be made more visible or understandable if instead of the word oppress I use the word rape (or murder or set on fire...any term that is pretty much immediately understood as destructive and awful). If I then say the problem is not with raping (or you plug in your own word for some invariably awful doings) but with picking acceptable rape victims or conversely picking those who shouldn't be raped.

To take this further...I say that it's ok to rape humans named Mary or William but all others are off limits or I say that it's ok to murder all humans named John or Carmen but all others are off limits. Does that make me an activist or supporter of "social justice"? Or...does that just make me one more voice in the chorus that seems to say hooray for me (and who or what I think is important) and to hell with everybody else and the rest of everything? I dunno...this stuff makes my head hurt sometimes.

Do you get what I'm driving at? In the end, I'm simply not smart enough or sophisticated enough or whatever it might take to sort out who or what it is ok to behave horribly toward...so...my endeavor is to work on not behaving horribly...not working on figuring out who or what it is ok to behave horribly toward. And...in my efforts to de-horrify my behavior I must...absolutely...take into account the risk that de-horrifying my behavior toward one set of victims doesn't accidentally or inadvertently visit horror on another set of victims...or worse, even support or bolster that which I think I'm opposing...because I'm then defeating myself. Shucks, if, in my efforts to stop acting horrible I act horrible...ouch...not cool.

The message in her graphic with the dead fish is that we ought not to put poisons into the environment because they come back and hurt us. It is focused on de-horrifying activities involving the environment and the rationale is that it eventually ends up being horrid toward ourselves. Notice though...that the fish are victimized too...twice...once by the poison and then the second time by being killed by humans for 'food'. Jeez.

Don't get me wrong...I agree with many of the apparent concerns that Ms. McMillan has...but...she's obviously much wiser or whatever than me in that she seems to be saying it's ok to act like a destructive asshole as long as you do it right (depending on how she defines 'right') or pick the correct victims.

That's beyond my abilities...I'm not equipped to figure out where it's ok to be horrid and where it's not...that seems way too hard and tricky to me...so...I'll muddle along with working on de-awfuling my behavior instead of trying to pick who or what I act awful toward and who or what I don't act awful toward. Or maybe I'm missing something?


Friday, June 26, 2015

These were the facts of their lives...

Here are some paragraphs written in a 2010 book by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson. The book is titled The Warmth of Other Suns. It documents the great migration that occurred in the United States between 1915 and 1970. During this period it is estimated that some six million black southerners left the south and fanned out over the country. Historians have come to call it the great migration. It transformed the United States and yet it is mostly unknown and may be the most under-reported story of the twentieth century.

She wrote these paragraphs about segregation, which was perfectly “legal” in U.S. America until the civil rights laws were passed in the 1960s. It’s worth considering that the kind of thinking and the kind of attitudes that produced these laws and expectations were totally untouched by the passage of the civil rights legislation. The ideology that resulted in these strange and sad “laws” and “customs” did not evaporate after the civil rights legislation…only what was legally allowed changed…the mindsets and viewpoints were virtually untouched.

It became unacceptable to openly express such awfulness, but that mostly meant that this crap went underground instead of disappearing. If you haven't noticed it by now...destructive disconnects from reality usually don't just evaporate when they're confronted and exposed. They either just continue (if the opposition isn't strong enough to counter them) or they morph and metastasize into a form or configuration that isn't immediately recognizable. Often they will latch onto a challenging idea or phrase and distort it enough to use it in service of destructiveness. Racists fastened onto the "colorblind" meme and zip-zoop...now it's primarily used as code to further racist ideology.


It’s absurd to think that such thinking, which was powerful enough to produce these bizarre and demeaning ordinances and laws, simply dried up and blew away as a result of the civil rights acts. We would like to pretend that’s the case….but…it isn’t. If you don’t think that’s so…go read about the Charleston massacre.

Ms. Wilkerson wrote:

These were the facts of their lives.

There were days when whites could go to the amusement park and a day when blacks could go, if they were permitted at all. There were white elevators and colored elevators (meaning the freight elevators in back); white train platforms and colored train platforms. There were white ambulances and colored ambulances to ferry the sick, and white hearses and colored hearses for those who didn’t survive whatever was wrong with them.

There were white waiting rooms and colored waiting rooms in any conceivable place where a person might have to wait for something, from the bus depot to the doctor’s office. A total of four restrooms had to be constructed and maintained at significant expense in any public establishment that bothered to provide any for colored people: one for white men, one for white women, one for colored men, and one for colored women. In 1958, a new bus station went up in Jacksonville, Florida, with two of everything, including two segregated cocktail lounges, “lest the races brush elbows over a martini,” The Wall Street Journal reported. The president of Southeastern Greyhound told the Journal, “It frequently costs fifty percent more to build a terminal with segregated facilities.” But most southern businessmen didn’t dare complain about the extra cost. “That question is dynamite,” the president of a southern theater chain told the Journal. “Don’t even say what state I’m in.”

There was a colored window at the post office in Pensacola, Florida, and there were white and colored telephone booths in Oklahoma. White and colored went to separate windows to get their license plate in Indianola, Mississippi, and to separate tellers to make their deposits at the First National Bank of Atlanta. There were taxicabs for colored people and taxicabs for white people in Jacksonville, Birmingham, Atlanta, and the entire state of Mississippi. Colored people had to be off the streets and our of the city limits by 8 p.m. in Palm Beach and Miami Beach.

Throughout the South, the conventional rules of the road did not apply when a colored motorist was behind the wheel. If he reached an intersection first, he had to let the white motorist go ahead of him. He could not pass a white motorist on the road no matter how slowly the white motorist was going and had to take extreme caution to avoid an accident because he would likely be blamed no matter who was at fault. In everyday interactions, a black person could not contradict a white person or speak unless spoken to first. A black person could not be the first to offer to shake a white person’s hand. A handshake could occur only if a white person so gestured, leaving many people having never shaken hands with a person of the other race. The consequences for the slightest misstep were swift and brutal. Two whites beat a black tenant farmer in Louise, Mississippi, in 1948, wrote the historian James C. Cobb, because the man “asked for a receipt after paying his water bill.”

 It was against the law for a colored person and a white person to play checkers together in Birmingham. White and colored gamblers had to place their bets at separate windows and set in separate aisles at racetracks in Arkansas. At saloons in Atlanta, the bars were segregated: Whites drank on stools at one end of the bar and blacks on stools at the other end, until the city outlawed even that, resulting in white-only and colored-only saloons. There were white parking spaces and colored spaces in the town square in Calhoun City, Mississippi. In one North Carolina courthouse, there was a white bible and a black bible to swear to tell the truth on.” P 44-45
That's all in the past, you say? We fixed that, you say? Nope...we didn't fix it nor is it 'all in the past'.

I've been reading a memoir by Melba Pattillo Beals who was one of the children who volunteered to be among the first black students to attend Little Rock's Central High School in 1957. It's a humbling and dismaying book to read. These were 15 year old children who were subjected to unspeakable and disgusting demonstrations and pressures and violence from white U.S. Americans simply because they wanted to attend school with white children.

Look at the white people harassing and shouting at this adolescent.

The young black girl, Elizabeth Eckford, hadn't been notified to meet the other black students at a prearranged place because her family didn't have a telephone. She was alone...and the white people surrounding her are screaming racial slurs and insults at her. She's 15 years old. If you think that the attitudes and mentalities that produced this behavior by white people is over...or in the past...you're deluded.

Go watch this video that shows the behavior of a white police officer toward black teenagers at a McKinney, Texas swimming pool. The video was taken in June of 2015...watching his behavior, especially his assault on a 14 year old girl, makes clear that the thoughts and beliefs that motivated the white people in the photo above are still powerful and prevalent in white people in U.S. America. It's not just a few "bad apples" who harbor these delusions...if this is news to you...go take the implicit bias test and find out for yourself.

Melba Pattillo Beals wrote these words in her book that serve to remind us that children are smacked in the face with racism...and then spend their lives being smacked over and over and over again.

"Black folks aren't born expecting segregation, prepared from day one to follow its confining rules. Nobody presents you with a handbook when your teething and says, "Here's how you must behave as a second-class citizen." Instead, the humiliating expectations and traditions of segregation creep over you, slowly stealing a teaspoonful of your self-esteem each day." p. 3

Instead of the word segregation (although segregation continues, albeit not legally) simply substitute the word racism and that paragraph describes the current milieu for people of color here in U.S. America.

If we can't wrap our minds around the fact that all humans are equally deserving of respect and freedom even though they may have a different shading of skin than we have...what chance do we have of according respect toward beings who look and behave very differently than we do? My god, if we can't recognize that someone is the same as ourselves who looks just like us and speaks our language...how on earth are we going to get to a place where we acknowledge that all Earthlings have just as much right to their lives as we do even when they look dramatically different than we do?

Most who read this blog are vegan...they "get it". I would guess that most who read this blog think they understand racism and don't harbor racist notions or ideology (whether consciously or unconsciously). That's unlikely. If you disagree, put it to the test...go take the IAT and let me know your results. Mine showed that I've been infected by the propaganda against people of color and even though I abhor and reject conscious notions of racist ideology...that ugliness has influenced my out of awareness associations. We swim in a sea of racism...and to think we can do so without getting wet is both naive and dangerous.

I don't know of an IAT regarding speciesism...I do know that I struggle daily against the propaganda I've been subjected to all my life...the propaganda characterized by the phrase: "I am not an animal", by the propaganda that says "animals" are...stupid, dirty, violent...you plug in the derogatory idea. I will have to fight against that poison for the rest of my days. Let me assure you that the poison of racism is just as prevalent and just as ubiquitous. No matter what you think. And...it is poison...it is spirit and soul corrosive...for everyone.

We humans who live in the western hemisphere, excepting those who are Native Americans...are all immigrants. We are (except perhaps recent immigrants and other small numbers brought here for their near enslaved labor like Asian-Americans) the children of "conquerors" or we are the children of those who were enslaved. If we are the children of the harmers...what we have...in some measure or other...came at the expense of Native Americans and of enslaved African Americans or other peoples of color. We have no other history than that. And it is staggeringly large and all encompassing. For some enlightenment, take a look at this horrifying animated graphic.

We white people have an obligation to fully understand this, we have an obligation to begin...and I mean begin because we haven't done so...to incorporate this into our everyday consciousness and to begin to figure out ways to deal with this in truthful and respectful and genuine and non-harmful ways. The mentality that drove this horror still drives us. We've never come to grips with it. People of color understand this much more clearly than we do...even though many of them suffer from internalized oppression...many do not.

None of us had a choice about what went on before us...but we have the responsibility and the power to change what goes on now and in the future...and we can't do that unless we come to awareness about the ideological forces and their consequences that shaped the society we live in....that we swim in...that shape us and our weltanschauung.



Monday, June 22, 2015

I didn't do a post on father's day...

because, aside from the donation of genetic material, human "fatherhood" is profoundly associated with social construction...and socially constructed stuff makes me nervous.

I was also vaguely aware of this bit of information taken from the wikipedia entry:

In the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level.[11] She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers.[12] By 1938 she had the help of the Father's Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion.[13] Americans resisted the holiday for its first few decades, viewing it as nothing more than an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes.[14] However, said merchants remained resilient and even incorporated these attacks into their advertisements.[15] By the mid-1980s, the Father's Council wrote that "(...) [Father's Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men's gift-oriented industries.

I really don't care for anything having to do with "consuming".

But...I ran across this excellent post over on the Vine Sanctuary blog and wanted to refer everyone to this wonderful and informative writing.

In patriarchal cultures, “father” is king, the owner or at least ruler of women, children, and animals. The whole system crumbles if fatherless families are allowed to flourish. Many of the cultures steamrolled in the process of European imperialism and colonialism structured their communities and families differently than the patriarchal coupling prescribed by Christianity. Oftentimes, these differences in parenting practices were cited as justification for dispossession and genocide.
So, while Father’s Day is a fine time to laud the care-giving of folks like little Mighty Mouse — a rooster at the sanctuary who, for many years, adopted and parented motherless chicks who often grew to be many times his size — I persistently wish that those of us who question everything else might seize this day to challenge what, exactly, we mean by “father” and why we think that social role is so important.

Knowing more is generally a good thing...although the learning can be discomforting. I hope you'll read the whole blog post quoted above...it is thought provoking. In the meantime...if you're a male human...live vegan, oppose all systems of oppression and help all beings...that's good enough "fathering".

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Exposing wrong.

Last week I wrote about the notion that those who are oppressed and/or dominated are going to have a more comprehensive viewpoint from which to perceive what's actually going on.

It should be remembered that, usually, those who have the most comprehensive viewpoint also are also those who are most denigrated and the least likely to be listened to. Penalties are often enacted against them if they speak out...penalties can also be implemented for those who witness wrongdoing against the oppressed.

I ran across this post over on the blog called Green is the New Red that gives some details about a new law recently enacted by the North Carolina legislature that makes an employee liable for being sued by a business if that employee exposes what happens on the job...even if what is exposed is illegal.

In this bit of writing the author says: "In short, this ag-gag bill isn’t just about agriculture. It’s a sweeping attack on any whistleblower who speaks up for the most vulnerable."

Apparently there's enough public resistance to targeting groups or individuals who are attempting to interrupt animal cruelty that anti-whistleblower legislation is now being written to which doesn't mention agriculture specifically...hence it applies to all businesses.

I haven't read the bill itself and am relying on the blogger who is writing about the bill.

One aspect that's rather amazing about this bit of legislation is the proviso that risk is incurred by the employee even if what is reported by them is illegal. That seems to say that what is done at a business is "protected", including illegal activities. That's a pretty stunning concept when you think about it...it lends weight to the notion that what's important is "business activity", not legality or illegality.

Wow.

Businesses...which can be seen as activities devoted to making money...appear to be gaining enough power to trump legality. That seems make a very clear...and scary...statement about our values. The ugliness that underlies much of what we do for profit is gaining enough strength that it doesn't seem to be too worried anymore about disguising itself. One "positive" about this law is that it makes it difficult to deny that the goal of commercial activity is to make a profit...and it really doesn't matter how. The fiction of "ethical" as applicable to business is withering away...at least in North Carolina.



Friday, June 5, 2015

Life from below.

I recently read a fictional account of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, described on the jacket of the book as a "German theologian and Nazi resistor". The book, Saints and Villains, was written by Denise Giardina. I enjoyed the book, especially the parts which addressed his time spent studying at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he studied under Reinhold Niebuhr.

Union Theological Seminary was familiar because of Dr. Niebuhr and two notable figures who studied there, Carl Rogers and Paul Tillich. Dr. Rogers was a very influential psychologist whose works on client-centered counseling had great impact on me when I was in graduate school and throughout my professional career. Paul Tillich was an influential existential philosopher.

Dr. Rogers promoted an approach to counseling/therapy that was seemingly very simple yet if it was implemented as he indicated...it was also seriously radical. His client-centered approach demanded authenticity on the part of the counselor/therapist...he also wrote that the therapist must possess "unconditional positive regard" toward the client. In other words, if you can't really really like someone...you shouldn't be doing therapy with them. I can assure you that these two factors can be very demanding for a therapist to follow.

Often his approach was glommed onto by beginning therapists and only vaguely implemented because some of the techniques he suggested are both fairly easy to learn and very unlikely to cause harm to those receiving counseling. And yet...if the practitioner goes deeply enough into his approach...it can be transformative both for the therapist as well as the client both because of the requirement for authenticity and because of the unconditional positive regard. No phoniness or falseness or manipulation allowed.

Roger's approach was (and still is) an incredibly difficult way of being a therapist and one that, more often than not, resulted in therapists who borrowed some of his techniques but left out the core requirements of practitioner authenticity and unconditional positive regard toward the client.

It's important to note that we can never "arrive" at authenticity, it is always only partial, it is a striving...not a state of being. Authenticity is just a fancy way of saying that we must always and ever be honest...we must only express what we genuinely feel...not that which is expected of us or is considered "appropriate" at the moment. Authenticity is tough...as each of you know from your own experience.

One side effect of striving for this way of being is that you become a quieter person...because often what you genuinely feel would...if expressed...result in lots of upset and dismay from those exposed to it. Instead of saying meaningless platitudes...you...if you chose not to express what you genuinely feel...stay quiet. And...keeping your mouth shut is usually (not always...but usually) a good thing to do for a therapist.

Dr. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazi Regime in 1943 and was hanged by them shortly before the end of WWII. His "crime" was resisting and objecting to the totalitarianism and the antisemitism of the Hitler era. Take a look at this passage attributed to him from Giardina's book:
We have learned to view life from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the transgressors, the mistreated, the defenseless, the persecuted, the reviled. It is important that we are not bitter or envious. For we have learned that personal suffering unlocks more of the world than does personal good fortune. p. 356-357
This idea was expressed in a letter written while in a concentration camp. The Wikipedia entry quotes him this way:

There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.
This seems to be an earlier version of one of the axioms of analysis I referenced earlier. In writing a post about Ruth Frankenberg, her three principles of analysis, were given and the third one was expressed this way:
Axiom Three: Those who are being harmed and/or oppressed by a system of domination are going to have the best location for detecting, apprehending and comprehending those domination activities. In other words, those who are being hurt by domination/oppression are going have the most comprehensive viewpoint. If you want to know what is going on...listen to the victims of oppression...they know more than you.
It's always exciting and interesting to see similar insights pop up in the thinking of different individuals and systems of thought. Here we see virtually the identical notion coming from a theologian who was executed by the Nazis and from a feminist theoretician who may have never encountered the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

What's even more interesting to consider is that this idea can be thought of as one of the principle comprehensions I remember from my involuntary immersion into christian dogma when I was growing up. The passage in the christian bible that's relevant here is from the book of Matthew, 18:3 which says:
"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven..."
Many look at that bit of the bible and interpret it as referencing some sort of state of innocence...note that it can also be seen as advocating a return to a position of powerlessness or helplessness and that position can perhaps expand and transform our perspective. Maybe returning to that time of being without power offers an enhanced perspective both for understanding and comprehending domination activities but also offers a guide for how to behave toward others.

Position profoundly influences power and perspective. According to this passage the position necessary to achieve the 'kingdom of heaven' is one where we have little power...which means we don't/can't dominate/harm others and that lack of domination/harm additionally ensures our innocence as well as positions us to see domination/harm activities with more clarity and comprehension. Positioning ourselves in the location of the oppressed allows us to perceive and comprehend "from below".

Consider that one of the common experiences that every living Earthling has is that of the relative powerlessness of childhood. It is the fact that we all (and by all, I include rabbits and donkeys and and and) have a time in the beginning of our lives where we are relatively powerless and helpless, especially in comparison to more mature and grown-up beings. We all know what it is like to be at the mercy of others (dominated) because we all share that same experience.

To be subject to the whim of those who are bigger than we are, who are stronger than we are, who can help or hurt us is a common and shared state. Every one alive has lived the experience of being "like little children".

Most can well remember those with more power who treated us with kindness and acceptance and care just as we can remember those who weren't so kind or behaved cruelly toward us. You, me and every other living being has had the experience of being helped or harmed by those who were more powerful. That's part and parcel of being a child...of being an Earthling.

Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of having a skin color different from the group in power, but I can know what it's like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power. Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of being a female, but I can know what it's like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power. Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of not being heterosexual, but I can know what it's like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power. Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of belonging to the wrong species, but I can know what it is like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power.

Important and critical specifics and details will be unavailable to me...but...the experience and accompanying perceptions of being dominated/harmed by those with more power than me is available if...and only if...I allow myself to revisit and remember and relive being a little child.

That path, reliving being relatively weak/powerless (like a small child), is available to each of us, if we're willing to take it. And...that reliving...offers us the opportunity to perceive life "from below" and there we might use our enhanced perceiving and comprehending as a guide to figure out how to behave.

Becoming 'like a small child' offers us the opportunity to escape the obliviousness induced by power and position. We can partake of the perceptions of the powerless because we all have some experience of that...if...we're willing to do it.

Maybe that's not easy...but if the alternative is to be oblivious and to oppress others...well...hey...nobody said being a grown-up was going to be without struggle.

It's interesting to consider that maybe the way to be a decent grown-up is to never forget what it was like to be a small and helpless child and to use that knowledge and perspective to guide grown-up behavior. How cool is that?

In that earlier post I noted that power...or being positioned to dominate...creates obliviousness (I called it being stupid) and that weakness...or being positioned to be oppressed offers awareness or enhanced perception. Dr. Bonhoeffer observed that being able to comprehend "life from below" means we must view life from the perspective of those who suffer...which is being equated here to those who are oppressed...which is being equated here to those who belong to the groups targeted by the oppressions exemplified by speciesism, racism, sexism and so on.

While I was working on this post I came across something called Standpoint Theory. These two sentences in the writing on this theory caught my eye:
Emphasis on the relationship between power and knowledge is crucial in defining the terms the standpoint theory sets forth. Perspectives of the less powerful provide a more objective view than the perspectives of the more powerful in society.
Sound familiar?

One thing in that quote that makes me a little nervous is the use of the term "objective". It's important to remember that objectivity is like authenticity...it's not an end state...there's no such thing as pure objectivity anymore than there is pure authenticity. It's a more or less thing, not an either/or thing. It may even be totally bogus...objectivity, I mean...I'm not sure about it as a concept because it implies some sort of position that is outside of all social/human influence and that's problematical...especially if it is in reference to the activities of living beings. All that's another whole bunch of thinking and writing though. Just remember to be a little bit cautious when you hear the term "objective". 

This post has become rather lengthy, I'll stop now but there's much here to think about and I'm still churning all this around. There's a lot to this power and position and perspective stuff. It's really rich and dense and I have to do a lot of wallowing around with it to gain some semblance of comprehension.