There is a tendency to favor, either implicitly or explicitly, simplicity of theory. By keeping the focus on what the other animals are experiencing, this approach excludes from consideration white supremacy, transphobia, interphobia, homophobia, ableism, and misogyny. It also promotes adopting a monist theory like rights or utilitarianism, that there’s one way to do this. In fact, to understand nonhuman animal oppression we need to understand interconnected social oppressions.
Don’t discuss nonhuman animal activism in a way that implies racist oppression is solved or has already been addressed by society; it hasn’t. Systemic human oppression is still ongoing.
Do understand—racial oppression and nonhuman animal oppression are interconnected. People of color are oppressed under the same root system as nonhumans. Colonialism exploited and oppressed both people of color and nonhumans while forcing nonhuman oppression (animal agriculture) onto people of color. BOTH the oppression of these groups persist today. This is why it is vital to let vegans of color address their own communities.
Often, human oppression is kept going through the otherization of nonhumans. As the Ko sisters discussed in their book, we must go beyond “them versus us”, which keeps hierarchical supremacy alive within the animal kingdom.
See these books:
Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters, by Aph and Syl Ko.
Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society, edited by A. Breeze Harper.
Veganism in an Oppressive World: A Vegans-of-Color Community Project edited by Julia Feliz Brueck.
Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species, and Nature in a Multicultural Age by Claire Jean Kim
And these websites:
Don’t invalidate another’s experience or silence marginalized people.
A person of color says, “There’s racism in the movement.”
“I’ve never seen it,” replies the white person.
“Why are you making it about yourself?” criticizes the white person.
“You are being selfish,” says the white person, selfishly not wanting to hear.
These statements are all invalidating and silencing. Also, DO NOT tone police anyone. People have a right to express themselves on their own oppression, whether it be anger or not. No one has a right to tell someone how to deal with the oppression they face each and every day. If you are called out or in on something you may have done or said that was offensive to an oppressed person, do not take it as an attack, and instead self-crit and take the time to understand why what you have said or done adds to someone’s oppression. You must understand how systemic oppression is taught as the “norm” in our society, and you must work against it.
In their quest to include everyone they are excluding the majority of the world, people of color. People of color cannot simply leave their oppression at the door. It is systemic and embedded in their everyday life. This affects their safety, experiences, and other facets of activities that white people do not have to deal with and are not aware of (this is what is referred to as “white privilege”).
The same is true for anyone that experiences oppression and is invalidated by those that don’t experience the same things, including when cis people insist on misgendering transpeople or nonbinary people, as well as when cis men insist on speaking over women/nonbinary people on their experiences.
Don’t forge alliances with groups or individuals who articulate racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and/or ableist positions “for the animals” – unless you are in it to address the “isms” first and foremost. All oppression is connected. We will not find liberation for non-humans as long as we tolerate supremacist hierarchies within other groups. We will never grow the veganism and animal liberation movement through continuing to distance ourselves from other movements. Ignoring the oppressions of vegan activists, allies, and potential future vegans will make the movement seem elitist and exclusionary, while also making it an unsafe space for many.
Do validate another’s experience by listening, educating yourself on what is being said, and drawing on resources like YouTube videos, podcasts, blogs, books, enrolling in courses, etc. on topics related to consistent anti-oppression, anti-racism work, anti-blackness, and other issues related to oppression. If someone is pointing out that a statement you have made is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, or problematic in some other way, take a step back and listen to them. Take some time to yourself to process what has happened- this is not about who you are, but about what you did or said, which is a reflection of society in general and why you must put in the work. Ask what you can do to make the situation right, explain what you are doing to educate yourself, and apologize. Understand that marginalized groups do not owe you further engagement, and that it’s your responsibility to research, think, and try to do better in the future – refer to the links above to start understanding the intersection of oppressions and how veganism is not exempt from upholding other forms of oppression. There are also countless articles and groups led by marginalized people that are working to educate people on these issues and readily accessible on Google and Facebook.