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.