By Lisa Rimmert, VO Director of Development
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.