An Intro to Consistent Anti-Oppression Veganism
Vegans of Color Mini Conference in Dublin, Ireland September 22, 2018
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Transcript: Opening Speech
“Hi Everyone. My name is Julia Feliz Brueck.
The first thing I want to do is truly apologize that we were not able to find Irish Sign Language translators for this evening despite searching for weeks. We hope that we will be able to find some for next year’s conference *knock on wood*
Originally, I was going to memorize this opening speech, but then I realized that it would go against what we are attempting to do here with this conference.
I have inattentive Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
That means, in part, that my short-term memory works differently, particularly when put on the spot. See, my brain never stops thinking and chattering, which makes focusing on specific tasks more difficult than it would be for someone that doesn’t have ADHD.
My brain is split between trying to focus on this moment right now, the excitement of being here, thinking about eating vegan donuts, the new Daddy Yankee song that was just released, and about 20 other things — all at the same time.
This means that I find it easier to read this to you in order to anchor my brain to the present moment and make sure my message to you is expressed the way I need it to be.
I will also probably make reading mistakes and lose my place, as ADHD affects how I experience reading.
And that’s just it, those of us from marginalized communities experience the world much differently than the accepted and standardized “norm”. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m simply neurodivergent, and therefore, have a brain that works differently.
Just because I am doing vegan and Animal Rights activism does not mean that my neurodivergence takes a back seat. It’s how I experience the world and interact with it. I can’t just leave it at the door, which is something I hear often from the vegan movement as a response to those that let their needs known.
Unfortunately, the world is not set-up to understand what is considered normal to someone like me. Instead, I am expected to assimilate, to adapt despite it being against my own nature.
There are some of us that are also marginalized in different ways for more visible reasons — who we are visibly to the world. This affects every aspect of our lives and everything we set out to do from the time we are born.
As a Person of Color, I am perceived through biases that I must navigate in spaces that are often not aware they act on those biases. Why? Because these implicit biases against Black and Brown people are taught in society as the norm, where a certain type of individual is the accepted way to be, and these implicit stereotypes follow those deemed “less than”.
You can think of it this way:
In our world, the accepted way to be is human.
Human is the “norm” and standard that is applied across the world through a supremacist hierarchy that places different species on different levels. We all know this in basic terms as speciesism, where humans are at the top and nonhumans are seen as “less than”.
For centuries, this is also what has been done to marginalized humans through a hierarchy based on skin colors, for example, in which anti-blackness is reinforced and applied throughout the world. To be Black and Brown is to be seen as “less than” because that is what is taught in our society subconsciously. These issues have not been solved and are still very much present in society today — right now.
And the thing is that this type of hierarchy follows Vegans of Color even in vegan spaces. We can’t just leave our skin color at the door and unless you are aware of how we experience our lives — the microaggressions, the racism, the xenophobia, the stereotypes…you might unintentionally add to it.
This happens quite often when we are told to give up our safety and march side-by-side racists and xenophobes “for the animals”. Or when we are expected to show up to protest with police presence at an event even though People of Color are targeted by police for just being Brown and Black. Or when we are told that “human oppression is not as important as nonhuman animal oppression” or when well-known “leaders” in the movement preach for the tolerance of bigots and bigotry “for the animals”.
Personally, I don’t think I should be expected to be part of events where vegans in attendance think ADHD does not exist or is a ploy by Big Pharma. I’m certainly not going to find the accommodations that I need there. Autistic vegans and vegans with other disabilities probably won’t either. This is called ableism.
I also don’t think I should be expected to engage with those that think tolerance for racists is the way to go as long as they are vegan. I’m certainly not going to feel safe in a space that upholds a hierarchy where my safety and life hold less value in order to create new racist vegans, which will simply continue to uphold the very speciesism that keeps nonhuman animals oppressed.
I, or anyone else, should not be expected to tolerate vegans or non-vegans that insists my struggles are not real or not valid or not as important when they are struggles that shape how I experience the world.
You don’t have to understand it. You just have to respect that we have different needs, experiences, cultural histories, influences, and struggles that mean we experience veganism differently.
And by ignoring how upholding hierarchies designated to marginalize people like me exist and by tolerating them, you keep veganism a movement for a privileged few.
How? Because tolerating bigotry “for the animals” means that you uphold various types of supremacist ideologies, which doesn’t make sense when you claim to want to abolish human supremacy.
To continue to claim that we must water down the meaning of veganism or that we must tolerate bigots in the movement or ignore “imperfect ideologies” that get people murdered as long as we do it “for the animals” has created a movement that thrives on its own brand of supremacy.
I know you are probably trying to make sense of what I have just said, but this is where I need you to listen even more carefully about what I am going to say right now:
If you, as a white person, white passing person, or privileged marginalized person claim that the struggles of other marginalized humans do not matter as much as nonhuman struggles or that our struggles are not all valid or important in the quest for justice and liberation of nonhuman animals, you are upholding a veganism that thrives on intermingling supremacies and is fueled by established tools of oppression.
This brand of single-issue veganism, which has become the mainstream “norm”, is lacking in the awareness of “animalization” as a tool of white supremacy and how it gave rise to an offshoot of speciesism, racialized speciesism, that affects People of Color specifically.
This type of veganism places “animals first” in a way that it flips the hierarchy where the most privileged are still at the top only to be followed by nonhumans not even seen as their own communities but as a lump sum of species to be “saved” by them. Then, we find marginalized humans at the very bottom, as their struggles are seen as “less than” and not real or worth addressing.
Ironically, marginalized humans are routinely told we can speak for ourselves while continuously silenced when we try to tell the vegan movement what we need to help veganism spread because our oppression directly impacts nonhuman animal liberation.
In essence, single-issue mainstream veganism has not actually disrupted speciesism — it actually thrives on human supremacy.
Mainstream white, single-issue veganism has evolved into a movement that still assigns values between species — humans and nonhumans — through upholding the experiences of those that do not have awareness of oppressions they have never experienced because of the way the world is set-up.
This has happened by the continual tolerance of “isms” and despite being told repeatedly that racism, transphobia, classism, ableism, and many other forms of oppression exist, are alive and well, and intersect with one another to complicate our activism even more.
YES, veganism IS a movement centered on nonhuman animal liberation. However, human and nonhuman oppression is interconnected. One will not achieve liberation without the other.
Veganism will not achieve its goal if it does not acknowledge the need to embrace a veganism that is consistently anti-oppression. Veganism will simply continue to be just another form of supremacy centered on the most privileged with the most resources if we do not work on root issues.
The connections I have just made for you do not mean that you don’t have your own struggles. It does not mean that you are a bad person for not having been aware of struggles that you don’t experience or of connections you are just starting to make.
It is simply an effort to sound the alarms of reality that veganism, as a movement, has serious issues that need to be addressed if it is to put non-human animals first, front, and centered.
With this opening statement, I’d like to thank you for being here and for tuning in if you are watching online.
This conference will work a little different than you are probably used to in an attempt to truly have the voices of Vegans of Colors heard and given a platform, which is often denied to us. We will not be taking questions. We will not be debating with you about our own oppression and experiences or cultures.
We simply hope that you will be a guest in our space and that you will take the time to listen to our perspectives on veganism as we educate and discuss with one another issues that affect us.
We are grateful for being given a space and above all, for the support from Laura Broxson, who approached me in the hopes that we could work together to give vegans of color the opportunity to address the movement in a space where we could discuss issues that affect us and are important to us.
As the first ever, Vegans of Color mini-conference, the talks today will bring you awareness of issues that are holding back the movement from vegans of color themselves. We are members from the world’s majority, and it is not an understatement to say that you will not achieve nonhuman animal liberation without understanding veganism beyond how you experience it.
If you take any understanding with you tonight, let it be that we are asking the movement to embrace a veganism that is consistently anti-oppression. One that is aware, willing to evolve, one that understands the connections between oppressions, and one that does not add to the oppression of marginalized humans and nonhumans alike.
This is important for ALL vegans from all walks of life. Racism, islamophobia, anti-Semitism, classism, transphobia, homophobia, ageism, xenophobia, sexism, body shaming, health shaming, and the list goes on do not belong in a movement that claims to want justice.
Nonhuman animals are truly centered and first in their own movement when we make sure not to add to the oppression of others and when we work towards creating spaces and campaigns that address root issues.
A veganism that is consistently anti-oppression means more people going vegan.
Is that not what we want?
This is the start of a very important conversation that we all need to be having across the globe.
I have worked hard with other vegan activists to create resources to help you understand how to create the most effective movement. And before you think, of she’s just trying to sell us books, I’m not.
I run Sanctuary Publishers, which is a new vegan book publisher that gives back. Sales help publish more resources, publish much needed books, and also support specific organizations and projects, such as Chilis on Wheels.
The first resource is…
Consistent Anti-Oppression (website)
This site hosts the Vegan Bill of Consistent Anti-Oppression, which provides a basis to help vegans understand some of the issues the movement needs to address in order to effectively, and with justice, advocate on behalf of nonhumans.
Veganism of Color (website)
A resource outlining Veganism of Color for People of Color by Vegans of Color from their own communities.
edited by Julia Feliz Brueck, A Vegans-of-Color Community Project
A community-led effort provides in-depth, first-hand accounts and analyses of what is needed to broaden the scope of veganism beyond its current status as a fringe or “single-issue” movement while ensuring that justice for nonhumans remains its central focus.
Food Justice: A Primer (book)
edited by Saryta Rodríguez
A collection of essays by activists, academics, farmers, and others involved in the Food Justice Movement examining food justice from various angles. The book attempts to bridge food justice issues and nonhuman animal rights issues while confirming that it is possible to do food justice with a vegan praxis.
(article) A discussion of a sub-type of speciesism that affects People of Color beyond the basic speciesism as understood by the mainstream movement. This is vital to be aware of.
Please, please take the time to read these websites, books, and articles.”
for details of the Vegans of Color Mini Conference Coming 2019!
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