Podcast #2 – Black Lives Matter, Period.

BLM Vegan

Corey and Brian return with our second podcast of the series to discuss recent racial turmoil in online spaces of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. What does it mean when white activists insist that “All Lives Matter” or that “Black lives matter, too“? This episode challenges the white-centric status quo of the movement, white entitlement to leadership, and white opposition to intersectional approaches.

This episode is not safe for work (contains cursing).

Episode recorded on July 27, 2016.

Show Notes

  • Review of Michael Lundbland’s The Birth of a Jungle (academic text exploring the white supremacist roots of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement)
  • Animal Whites and WrongsVegan Feminist Network
  • Sistah Vegan (the go-to source on critical race theory as it relates to veganism)

The Urgency Of Activism: Friend or Foe of Progress?

Not Safe for Work: Contains Coarse Language

Minks in cage

By Michele Kaplan

One thing the Animal Rights movement is not short on is statistics. We have stats so exact, we have what is called “kill counters”, that tell you exactly how many marine animals, chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, geese, sheep, goats, cows (and calves), rodents, pigeons (and other birds), buffalo, dogs, cats, horses, donkeys (and mules) and even camels have been killed, within seconds that it took to view a page on the internet.

And as we watch the numbers on the counter rapidly increase, taking less than a minute till the numbers are in the thousands (for many animals), what is the animal rights activist to do with that information?

Does one nod soberly, acknowledge the truth, and say something like “there is much work to be done. We keep fighting.”

Or does one intensely focus on the staggering statistics, the numbers that just … keep… rising, and say “There is no time to waste! The animals need us now!!!” This is The Urgency, (the activist panic) that if one is not careful, can swallow you whole.

And while The Urgency says “do… something! Hurry up! Go! Go! Go!!”, is the default answer to take immediate action? Can we remain mindful and aware that because we are in a state of urgency, that it is very much possible that it’s clouding our judgment, as to what constitutes as a good idea for the cause?

After all, when we are in a state of panic (activist or otherwise), often the dominant motivation is a strong desire to experience catharsis, to get relief from said emotion (whether we are conscious of that or not). This is not to say that an action can not be both cathartic and effective, this is to say that just because it feels good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are reaching beyond the choir.

Is it possible to be mindful in a state of urgency, that we can either tell someone “Fuck you!” or we can try to educate them, reach out, but that we can’t do both? That as activists we have to decide what we want to accomplish and ask ourselves : will this action, will this behavior, will these words work towards or against the goal? We all want to say “Fuck you!” sometimes, but what happens when we mistake this for effective activism? #KnowTheDifference

Can we, in our state of urgency, remain aware of triggering language? Can we remain aware that, yes while “holocaust” is defined as “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”, and thus when we use it to describe the animal agriculture industry, we are using it in an accurate fashion, but it’s what the word is commonly associated with (the slaughter of humans on a mass scale), that will matter more in our outreach related conversations?

Can we be aware that having the truth is not enough? Can we be aware of vegan consciousness (and the varying levels of), and that it is simply not always realistic to expect nor demand instant vegan consciousness (that matches our own), knowing that the unlearning of deep rooted speciesism is a process, not a moment. Can we remember in a state of urgency, that unless we were born vegan, there was a time when we didn’t get it either?

Or in our state of urgency, is there no time to be aware of such things? And if that is the case, what exactly are we doing? Are we really helping the animals or are we just yelling “Fuck you”?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was written with no intention to disparage or attack anyone in the community. The article was also written with no intention to put down anxiety or suggest that an anxious state is an inferior state. It is not. There is no inferior or superior emotional state and as with all emotional states, it is to our benefit (when possible) to be aware of how it may be influencing our thought process. This article is also not suggesting that the activist should be perfect at all times. No one is, as perfection does not exist. The only reason I am able to write about The Urgency (aka: the activist panic) in such detail, is because I have often experienced it myself in my own activism, and it is only when I stopped to examine my own behavior, and questioned what was I really accomplishing, was when I realized how The Urgency can impact one’s judgment, despite having good intentions. The article is also not written with the intention of telling anyone how to do vegan activism. It is merely asking questions for discussion. I still struggle at times, with how to reach beyond the choir, but I have learned that activism without self care is just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “The Urgency” is frequently used to divert from pro-intersectional, critical thinking in advocacy spaces. It is also highly gendered in its expectation that women must put others first, thus shaming them for considering how urgency-based tactics could be hurtful to other women. Read more in the essay, “What Are You Doing to Help Animals Right NOW?” hosted on Coreyleewrenn.com.

This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on April 4, 2016.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

whyveganism.com

I’M ANGRY. And It’s My Right.

Content Warning: Discussions of hetereosexism.
Not Safe for Work: Contains strong language.
Jaguar roaring or yawning

By Raffaella Ciavatta

I came out when I was 13. The world before then was vampiresque, hollow and dark to me but after coming out of the closet, it became even more apparent to me how angry I really was when I started to experience systemic oppression through every pore of my body.

My first contact with activism was through the LGBTQ+ community. However back then I worked solo and not only mocked but despised and regarded LGBTQ+ activists as conformists and tame. The thought of anyone wanting to build bridges or work with heterosexuals was beyond my understanding.

“My voice and my anger were the only weapons I had against homophobia and I intended to use them as loud as I possibly could. I, was a lone gay warrior in a world that hated women and LGBTQ+ folks.”

My “no-sugar-coating” attitude and blunt anti-heterosexism soon began to be noticed in the small LGBTQ+ community of Sao Paulo through Orkut, a predecessor of Facebook (does anyone remember it?) and Fotolog.net. If I were to transport my Orkut account to Facebook this is what it would have looked like:

Facebook post from 1997 that shows author with friends making mocking faces. Says, "The world would be a much better place if hetereosexuals didn't exist. I mean, they are so pathetic! All they care about is breeding, being oppressive and wasting space!! Today when I was simply walking around, holding my girlfriend's hand these bunch of dudes came up to us and asked if we needed a dick to make things better. Later on the same day a woman called me a dyke so I told her her sister tasted real good last night. HA! Oh, and by the way, if you're straight FUCK OFF, don't comment. I don't need your fucking pity or "solidarity". My community and I can handle this shit without your despicable selves!!"

I bet many of you now are “appalled” by my behavior and perhaps many of you would have defriended me then, called me names or felt sorry for me. But listen up. I want to challenge the dynamics of this relationship.

My voice and my anger were the only weapons I had against homophobia and I intended to use them as loud as I possibly could. I, was a lone gay warrior in a world that hated women and LGBTQ+ folks.

When you live in a system where you cannot go one single day without being called a dyke, offered a dick by cis men (as if lesbians never date trans women who have dicks), being mocked at, laughed at, sexualized, physically assaulted, bombarded with images of straight happy couples, living a perfect life – you either break, become apathetic, find some strength to deal with all of it positively or you become angry. I chose the latter.

Three couples are pictured, the heterosexual couple is scratched out with a red x

For the longest of time I never fully trusted straight folks. I always thought there was an underlying reason why they wanted to be friends with me – either because they needed to feel better about themselves with their “Look, I’m not like them!” argument or because they wanted something from me, like men getting aroused from my stories or similar things.

The truth is that no matter how loud I was, the chances of the world ever being LGBTQ-only was nearly impossible. So I ask that we pause and analyze the power dynamics that we have here: no matter what I said, by the end of the day the chances of me being verbally or physically assaulted were still very high. No straight person will ever have to worry about being beaten up over their sexual orientation. End of story.

It is my right, as someone who has been systematically oppressed, to let my rage breathe. No matter if the things I say are violent or offensive, it is not for straight folks to tell me how to deal with my anger.

Is exterminating all heterosexuals going to make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people? No. I do not believe so and deep down I think I never believed it! The truth is that back then straight folks terrorized me, i said and did things that may not seem the most logical or effective.

But were my feelings justifiable? Yes. They were a perfectly natural response to oppression and it was the best I could have done at the time where I literally had no more energy left to keep fighting.

Could I have dealt with things differently? No. Not at the time. My spirit had been so broken that anger was the only way I found to vent. I have talked about how I don’t believe in misanthropy or how attitudes similar to mine are perhaps not beneficial to anyone or any movement. The toxicity of it actually hurts us. But we have to understand where they come from sometimes and let this rage breathe.

I worked really hard to break my cycle of anger and distrust but I don’t think it will be something I will ever fully overcome due to the various traumatic experiences I suffered and still suffer from! However, today I’m able to deal with homophobic situations much better and usually anger becomes secondary in the process of coping. I have found other things that help me deal with anger like working out, poetry, talking it out, and music, etc.

Three images juxtaposed: An American flag being burned; a picture of a Black muscular man threatening a white man and posturing at the camera; Black Lives Matter protesters holding signs in the street

That is not to say I deserve sympathy or a medal. I have had moments where I snapped and I still never hold my tongue when people want to be oppressive towards me. The difference is, I have found other ways to put people in their place. And it makes me happier that I am able to fight back without self-destructing.

Next time you see someone with similar behavior, don’t be “appalled”. Don’t stop being friends with them, don’t call them names, and certainly don’t pity them. Let their rage breathe. Don’t try to say “It gets better,” especially if you’re not part of their community. Sometimes the best allies are the ones that know when to remain silent. If you make these mistakes, own up and apologize.

License plate of an automobile that reads, "YU ANGRY"

Anger is a way of resistance! Anger has been used by many people, movements, and countries! Think of Brazil’s (and Latin America in general) blunt anti-American stance: one of the ways a country built on colonialism has found to defy imperialism is by publicly  “hating” on Americans. I included Brazil here and qualified it as rage since I observe a clear anger from Brazilians in relation to the US. Think of Black Rage: a book which focused on the racial crisis in the US. Think of Black Lives Matter: a movement which emerged out of the rage and mourning that accompanied George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Let’s do our best to support oppressed peoples in our communities the best we can. And when they get angry, let their rage breathe!

 

This essay originally appeared on Collectively Free.


Raffaella

Co-founder of Collectively Free, Raffaella Ciavatta is vegan animal liberation activist, art director, poet, photographer wanna-be, DJ in some past live and most importantly… a big dreamer who makes things happen.