Thursday, November 20, 2008

Privilege: The U.S. Vegan Movement, Whiteness, and Race Relations (part 2)

In the first part in this series on privilege and veganism, I analyzed the poor reception of PeTA’s “Are Animals the New Slaves?” exhibit and the general use of human and non-human oppression analogies. [14] I concluded that outreach efforts like these

ought to cast the vegan movement into dire reflection. The reaction the exhibit received signifies a severe shortcoming in the general movements tactics and social consciousness—even for those who do not generally like PETA. Much of vegan discourse and tactics are engendered with implicit racism and classism… of the preferential kind that caters to a white middle-class audience… It is assumed that only white, English-speaking middle-class people really care about animals; only they are the enlightened heroes. [14]
I can imagine some people still thinking “Wait! Most animal/vegan activists I know are not racist, don’t like PeTA, and would never use these tactics. The racist, sexist, and discursive practices of some vegans don’t represent the whole vegan movement!” Perhaps this is true, but I am more inclined to disagree. If anything the inverse is true. The general vegan movement is obliviously “white;” it has neither condemned the racism of demonizing and/or fetishizing foreign nations and cultures nor has it put forth significant effort into respectful vegan outreach in communities of color.

In the following sections I will explore how the animal/vegan movement(s) systemically ostracize people of color (which is arguably a symptom of institutional racism)—most often without any consciousness of doing so.
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