Friday, January 20, 2017

You might have wondered...

why this blog has turned to focusing on issues of race/racism and other "isms" (systems of oppression). (or, maybe you haven't)

If you did wonder...well...it's because I was rudely and thoroughly awakened to the fact that many aspects of the overall vegan movement, including my local vegan organization, have some serious problems that subvert and distort the goal of moving away from doing harm.

It became dreadfully clear to me that many/most white people who live vegan and advocate for and promote an "oppression free" lifestyle are deeply oblivious to how totally U.S. society is organized around and enmeshed in systemic racism and other structures/systems of oppression.

And...that obliviousness is no accident because being unaware serves to uphold and repeatedly recreate racial domination of PoC and concurrent harm to members of other marginalized groups of humans, indeed, to all Earthlings and to mother Earth. Harming is the "norm", absence of harm is the exception. 

My orientation is that if you're not struggling to resist oppression in all its forms and manifestations...then you're subverting what is the heart of veganism (to me anyway)...which is to live in ways that do the least amount of harm.

You can't go around trying to stop harm to one group of living beings while engaging in random or "accidental" or inadvertant harm to other groups of living beings and/or mother Earth.

Well you can...obviously...but if you do that it makes you a thoroughly ineffective representative of anti-oppression,

In fact it makes you complicit in upholding and promoting harm. Not only will you be duped into doing stuff you don't want to do, you'll be oblivious to being used. 

Pattrice jones writes most excellently about this:


My experience, and the experience of many others, indicates that white obliviousness and the upholding of and re-creating of the racist structures of oppression in U.S. society is as widespread and "normalized" in white vegans as it is in any other grouping made up of white people (most especially those that aren't specifically working toward dismantling the ugliness of white racist ideology).

I didn't become vegan to have a "cause". I became vegan because my awareness expanded and I realized I was participating in routinized and "normalized" horror. I was complicit in inflicting suffering and and deprivation and loss of freedom and death on groups of beings who had little or no social power.

Using/harming others and their lives for my gratification and/or pleasure and/or enrichment is nothing I want to participate in.

But...I live in the United States and this nation was founded by harmers and thoroughly structured by racism and sexism and profit above life...it was built to cater to wealthy white men (especially) but to pay lip service to the idea of being "the land of the free". (mainly because they knew being honest about what they were doing probably wouldn't get very far).

And...the ways of thinking and perceiving that we are all taught here are designed to uphold and implement these enactments of oppression. Our culture is structured on dominance and subordination and it works hard to teach you to not grasp this and/or be aware of this.

And...especially for white people (most especially white men)...this absence of comprehension is thoroughly effective and widespread.

Resisting injustice means working to comprehend and make visible these thinking/perceiving modes that serve to uphold harm. Heck, if we don't do that comprehending work, then our attempts to resist will mostly serve to recreate that which we think we're fighting against.

Read Sistah Vegan, read Aph Ko, read pattrice jones...begin moving away from habits of feeling and thinking that serve to (inadvertently) uphold oppression. Ok?

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.)

5 comments:

Naomi Elias (Michael died) said...

I'm a white British woman and I saw, during our referendum on the EU, exactly what you are saying. So many vegan, animal rights people here in britain, supported brexit, mostly without understanding what they were doing.
All the animal rights organisations here wanted to stay in the EU for the sake of the animals; the EU is ahead of us when it comes to animal "welfare". However, it appeared that most AR supporters - if not virtually all - voted to leave the EU. The reason for this stupidity was not to do with animals at all but to do with racism! They wanted migrants, foreigners OUT of our country. I found it hard to even speak to these xenophobes who put race before animals. Utter ignorance!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Naomi Elias. Resisting oppression and injustice is a demanding and difficult task, many choose to style themselves as a resistor when in fact they don't object to such ugliness at all...they simply want to be able to choose who is targeted by such despicable doings. Yes, it's ignorance...but vicious ignorance.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Yep, it's true. Lots of work to do. Lots of comprehending to be done, lots of thinking, and resisting. Our own prejudices to start with. Not an easy task, and not something that will be accomplished overnight.

It's disconcerting to discover that you're still being an oppressor yourself when you thought you were doing your best to discourage this practice in others, but as you said, just picking which groups you won't harm (for many vegans the primary group is other animals)doesn't get you off the hook. And trying to eliminate individual oppression only doesn't cut it either. If you're not also trying to learn about and resist systemic oppression of all kinds, you're missing a key part of the battle.

It can get a bit overwhelming for sure, but it's the only way forward.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. Your use of the word "overwhelming" triggered some questions in me. I wondered about who or what gets "overwhelmed"? Often when I encounter new ways of experiencing or considering or thinking about some stuff...if it doesn't "fit" in my already in place ways of understanding...then I sometimes feel "overwhelmed" and that feeling is like something scary or bad is happening to me. Is it "me" that's being "overwhelmed" or is it my frame(s) of understanding/reference? Are they the same thing? Do I equate how I comprehend with that which I think of as "me"? When I write it out, it seems clear that they aren't the same thing...but...often when I think of being "overwhelmed", what's actually being disrupted is ways of comprehending...but somehow I experience them as "me". Weird...I'll have to think more about this...did any of it make sense to you?

Have Gone Vegan said...

It did ('me' and 'frame of reference' are connected closely enough that it can be hard to distinguish), although I was thinking more of the scope of work that still needs to be done when I wrote that sentence. I clearly didn't clarify what the 'it' was referring to, but basically, dismantling oppression is a huge job, and huge jobs always scare the slacker in me, snort.