“Then G-d uncovered Balaam’s eyes….”:
Rachel Laser

Excellent essay, thank you.

Now I’m going to push you a little. My journey of diving into white obliviousness came about, in large part, as a result of some experiences I had as a result of living vegan.

Your reference to the donkey in your post highlights another obliviousness (in addition to our white racial obliviousness) that we humans suffer from and that is the one that upholds our routine and unconsidered infliction of suffering, horror and death on the Earthlings not identified as human. Those living beings with whom we share this beautiful planet. We tend to “see” them as being here for our “use”, no matter how cruel and awful, or as being here for our “benefit”…they aren’t. Their lives are theirs, not ours.

Any hierarchical structuring of living beings (including other humans) by humans seems to result in those who see themselves as “higher” feeling like they have a “right” to harm those they deem as “lesser”.

Once I began delving into race/racism I started noticing a remarkable thing…often when I tried to talk to white people about race/racism…their reactions were remarkably similar to the reactions people would evince if I tried to talk about living vegan to them. (I don’t mean in any accusatory or blaming way either)

This intrigued me because grasping that we don’t need to harm “animals” to live (in fact we tend to be healthier if we don’t eat animals or animal products) is incredibly obvious once it is glimpsed. Our hurtful behavior toward “animals” is omnipresent (just like racism) and is incredibly obvious once it is glimpsed…but…in both instances most humans go all weird and strange (including becoming outraged) if you try to talk about this with them.

This, in part anyway, caused me to look at structures of oppression/harm and at the astonishing similarity they retain from targeted group to targeted group. That’s not saying that the impact on and the experiences of the targeted groups are the same…they’re not…but…the systems that operate to do harm are much alike from instance to instance (again, with some “customizing” and tailoring to fit each group identified as being subject to harm).

If you’re like many, what I’m writing will strike you as bizarre and weird…I ask that you sit with it for a bit. If you are willing to learn more…you can read some of the writings of Aph Ko, a black feminist vegan, who writes more excellently about these “epistemologies of harm/domination” than I possibly can.

Working to think and act in ways that work to harm no one, that diminish and/or disrespect no one is…to me…a fairly good way to aspire to live. The donkey is just as much an Earthling as I am or you are or Balaam was (and has just as much a “right” to their life and to immunity from unnecessary harm). If you’re willing to grasp that…then your essay may offer more opportunities for you to learn than you yet realize. :-)

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