A Moment of Thought as We Go into ARNC

By Lisa Rimmert, VO Director of Development

Photo Credit: peacefirstorg.tumblr.com
Photo Credit: peacefirstorg.tumblr.com

Now is not the time.

This is not the place.

Those thoughts entered my brain last night and this morning as I considered bringing up a sensitive topic at the Animal Rights National Conference (ARNC), which begins today in Los Angeles.

The topic? Police brutality. State sanctioned violence against black men. Racism in general. What white animal rights activists like me can and should do about it.

Perhaps now you’re thinking, “It has nothing to do with us.” I have felt similarly. I too have those thoughts inside my head, telling me that this isn’t my business, that it’s not my place to say anything, that violence against black people has nothing to do with violence against animals. But after listening to black voices, including those of my coworkers, I will make it a point to ignore those thoughts in my head.

As many people have said, “Black lives matter more than white feelings.” People are being murdered. It’s too important not to address. And I’m precisely the person to say something.

As an animal rights activist, I stand for justice—for everyone. I stand against oppression in all forms. I speak up against violence, period.

As a white person, it’s my duty to use my privilege to speak up. And if you’re a white person reading this, it’s your duty too.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable to wade into the racial justice “arena.” I worry that I won’t say the right thing, do the right thing, be a perfect ally. I worry that people will judge me or misconstrue what I say. I worry that people will think my support of the Black Lives Matter movement means I condone or support killing cops (I don’t). But I need to recognize that, while I have the luxury of deciding whether to address this issue, my black friends and colleagues don’t have that choice. They’re living this. There’s no “arena” for them—there’s just everyday life. The black men who are being shot and killed by police are their brothers, fathers, uncles, and sons. With privilege comes responsibility.

There’s a lot of information online about what white people can do right now. A Google search will yield many great results. Some actions seem too small, but it’s the little things that accumulate to create cultures of injustice, so we need to change the little things to dismantle it too.

I won’t try to say what others have already said very eloquently. Instead I will do some reading and invite you to do the same. And when we’re mingling and listening to presentations at the ARNC, let’s have some of this information in our minds. Just like in our activism for animals, there’s a lot we can do if we put aside fear of judgment.

When we’re talking with fellow activists, let’s gently call them out if they make an unintentionally racist comment. Let’s question our own use of words that may perpetuate oppression. Let’s support activists of color by letting them know we’re here, and listening to them when they tell us what they need.

As I head to the conference, I do so knowing that it is the time. It is the place. There are too many people today who are grieving loved ones—the families of black men and the families of police officers—and it’s fitting and necessary that we include humans this weekend in our discussions about justice.

16 thoughts on “A Moment of Thought as We Go into ARNC

  1. Im so thankful you ignored your doubts and shared this piece! It so important! Shout out to all the passionate, intelligent black vegans and animal activists doing such immensely valuable (and intersectional) work to end all oppression! o read Aph Jo’s blog. Go read Christopher Sebastian’s blog. Go read Dr. A. Breeze Harper’s blog and buy her books! Join real life or online groups for and by vegans of color!

  2. …looks like I got “autocorrected” a bit. That should say “Go read Aph Ko’s blog!” If you’re reading this, I hope you do!

  3. Wow! Well said, Lisa. I could not agree more. Too many white people are silent about, and therefore complicit in institutionalized racism. This has to change.

  4. I support Vegan Outreach as a Leafleter and a financial contributor because it speaks for animals. It is not right to deflect resources contributed to VO to other causes no matter how worthy they they might be. Other social, political, and economic causes have their own advocates and vocal supporters. When you take time and resources away from VO primary mission of animal advocacy, you do animals harm; either through omission or commission. I urge you to stay on topic and serve your primary purpose to advocate for the voiceless and not take already far too meager resources from animals. I’ve supported Vegan Outreach because I’ve respected its unwavering message of honesty about the holocaust we rain down on animals every minute of every day. I ask that you not change that now.

    1. Margaret, thank you for this comment. And thank you for your support and leafleting! I understand what you are saying and I understand the concern from a donation point of view. This is not a decision that was made lightly (as you can probably guess). Please know that this new work *will help more animals.*

      Right now many big animal rights and welfare groups are lacking in diversity. That means there are millions of people they (we) can’t reach. Fast food restaurants are marketing aggressively to people of color to eat more meat, but our movement is not reaching people of color with the vegan message. As long as that’s true, we’re not going to win for the animals.

      VO believes that you can speak out against racism and sexism and other inequalities while speaking out against speciesism, and that we should, because we want to live in a kinder world. At the same time, we believe it is crucial to increase the number of vegans in the country. If mostly white people reach out to mostly other white people about going vegan we’ll be limiting the work. VO’s mission of creating more vegans has not changed; in fact, our new work will make our movement that much more effective.

      That said, we know it’s a big change and I understand why you are concerned. Please let me know if you want to discuss it in greater detail. I’d love to call or email (lisar at veganoutreach.org). We want to see more feedback from our donors about these issues and we’re grateful you spoke up! Thank you!

  5. I’ve been having significant reservations about the direct VO has been going recently, in terms of racial ideology. I was going to let it go, but this blog post has made me feel the need to speak out.

    Many people, including blacks and “people of color” are very offended by leftist racial ideology and rhetoric. They find it insulting, patronizing and hypocritical, just as many white people do.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOvpzI7noKs

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qurdrSQDU5M

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwqpJVQarUI

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a real groundswell going on of “minorities” seeing the hypocrisy, hate and incoherence of “white privilege theory”, “critical race theory” and whatever other haughty, moralistic leftist social theory that might be making the rounds, for what it is, and rejecting it.

    Considering what I’ve been seeing in my VO e-mails in the last year or so, I really think you ought to think about where you’re going with all this and the can of worms you might be opening.

    With some reservations, I supported the original strategy and general tolerant outlook of VO when I joined, but this new direction you’re taking has me concerned.

    1. Thank you very much for your feedback, James. This is an active learning process for VO and we will take this feedback to heart as we move ahead and make decisions. I will be honest and tell you that while we’ve had a *ton* of feedback, good and bad, on this topic, we have not heard your particular point before. So thank you. I hope it goes without saying that the very last thing we want to do is offend people. If people don’t give us feedback we can’t change. I can’t promise we will change course, because people of color on our staff may disagree with your points. But we will absolutely consider it. Our team will discuss this and thank you again for taking the time to write.

  6. Billions of land animals and trillions of aquatic animals are being slaughtered, tortured, abused, and neglected all over the world by “humans” of all races and YOU and/or YOUR ORGANIZATION are worried about “police brutality” against black men. To compare the plight of nonhuman animals to any other type of “social injustice” (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) is absolutely absurd. You, your organization, and others like yours who have adopted the “intersectionalist” approach to animal rights action are either willing or unwilling “useful fools” for the Marxist social warrior movement. Unfortunately, I see this happening more and more from “animal rights activist”. Sad state of affairs for the innocent creatures of this world, whose “lives don’t seem to matter” to almost anyone… Not even to the animal rights “advocates”. God helps us all (humans and nonhumans).

    1. Hi Dr. Paolucci, thank you for reading this post and for leaving a comment. I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to your concerns. I agree with you that it’s absurd to compare the plight of nonhuman animals to the plight of anyone else, and I certainly didn’t mean to do so in this post. I’m sorry if it came across that way. We at VO believe we can care about more than one issue at a time and that, in fact, it will only make us better activists for the animals. Our mission is to end violence against animals, and we’re very passionate about that, as I know you are too. Thank you for your work toward freeing all animals from suffering!

  7. Thank you so much Lisa for addressing this important issue and it’s ramifications. There’s nothing more important than honest and open dialogue, I wish I would have seen this before ARNC as I would have loved to have thanked you in person for being brave enough to speak out about what’s on your mind. As a person of color, I truly appreciate it when people who have lived a privileged life acknowledge that the our community needs to better serve all populations of people, of every color and socio economic status. With genuine gratitude! -Todd

    1. Thank you, Todd. This means so much to me, and I’m sure it will to the rest of our staff too. I’ll share it with them, as we all have a hand in this work and I’m only *one* of the people who should be on the receiving end of any feelings of gratitude you have towards VO. 🙂 I was glad to see you at the conference and hope you had a great time. See you again soon if I’m lucky!

  8. All too often justice movements, animals and others, compartmentalize the injustice they are trying to undo without realizing that prejudice, indifference, bigotry, sexism , xenophobia, racism, homophobia and, of course, speciesism are all products of a shared cultural consciousness that creates a sense of “otherness”. For me, my deepening practice of compassion for animals has led to a natural expansion of compassion and care for for all forms of injustice. It seems to me that as our movement similarly takes a stand against all institutionalized hatred and violence (both subtle and active), the more accessible animal rights will feel to those humans who experience their own forms of institutionalized injustice. For me, veganism is much broader then the act of not eating or wearing animals. It’s much less about the non active approach of refraining from harm then it is an active effort and aspiration to manifest a more considerate, kind, and just human presence on the planet for animals (including homosapiens). My no means does my acknowledgment (or yours) of the validity and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement diminish my capacity to advocate for farm animals. In fact, I would argue it enhances it. I bow down to you and Vegan Outreach for taking this step to broaden our movement’s vision and it’s tent.

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