#TBT | When Another Black Life Becomes a Hashtag

Cover for blacklivesmatter

Here’s one of the many sad points I’m going to make in this post:

I wrote a portion of this nearly three months ago, and the throwback element to this post doesn’t even go back that far. In fact, in one very real way, the events that bring this post about are not in the past. They’re happening right now.

People are dying at the hands of those hired to minimize such things. People are running away from those supposedly trained to protect them. People are being accused of things they didn’t do by those who are expected to uphold the truth.

It happened this week. It happened this month. It happened this year. It’ll happen again.

And yet, I see those in the vegan community choosing to fight the semantics of a movement more than the system that brought us to this point. Cries of “speciesism” and “reverse racism” are being tossed about while your one black friend (we all have at least one, right?) is left to realize that their fear of being stopped by a cop isn’t as easy to understand as the threat posed by refined sugar.

Do All Lives Really Matter to You?

If you don’t think this has anything to do with veganism, or worse yet you think it excludes the lives of so many other living things, then I don’t think you’re looking deep enough. If you think it’s only fair to use images of slavery to help people relate to the plight of animals (hint: it’s not), then you damn well better be angry each time one of the people from the group you so casually use to make a point is killed by an officer. After all, they’re more than just a prop, right?

Along with the problems inherent in choosing to ignore the overall population being oppressed, you’re also choosing to ignore the lived experiences of plenty of vegans who are black. On the same day that Alton Sterling was murdered by police, a well respected vegan activist and scholar, Dr. A. Breeze Harper, provided a personal example of how these two issues intersected for her. This is the reality lived by so many within the vegan community (as well as many more outside of it), and yet the rest of the community chooses to argue against the suggestion that it’s part of the problem while hoping Instagram will one day create a filter to remove race/colour so those slices of avocado toast can go back to looking fabulous.

The bottom line is that fighting one form of oppression, while ignoring the many others that people (who may or may not be standing with us for animal rights) face each day is not going to help anyone. If you think about it, you’ve probably argued the same stance with a non-veg feminist or the person next door who volunteers at the annual animal shelter BBQ because they love animals.

We need to do more. We need to learn more. We need to help more.

Take the Next Step

If you’re not sure where to even start, and you’re afraid you’ll make mistakes, that’s okay. I suspect your move to being vegan or vegetarian had similar concerns, but you pushed on for the sake of the animals. If that’s true, then ask yourself why you’re not pushing through to be an ally in this fight as well?

Over a number of years, I’ve been lucky enough to connect with people who work hard in a variety of different struggles, and they’ve provided me with countless resources to better educate myself on issues that I personally knew little about. Throughout this piece, I’ve linked to some already, but a few others include:

Obviously, there are plenty of other pieces to read, and you’re always going to stumble, learn, and improve as you move forward. Above all else, remember to listen to those around you who understand the situation better than you. As a vegan, there is a privilege in fighting for those whose voices we can’t understand. Those we are trying to help can not criticize our motives, our methods, or anything else we do. When you choose to get involved with other movements, there will be criticism. Learning to accept this feedback and change your methods/views is crucial to helping to change the different systems of oppression.

Most likely, this will be more difficult than coming to terms with the fact that a lot of the bread products in stores contain animal ingredients and the beer at your favourite bar is filtered using fish bladders, but that’s okay.

This is a fight that you should support. This is a fight that you should be a part of. This is a fight that matters.

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