Just a quick story about my recent experience of introducing veganism into a discussion about human social justice issues.
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I was visiting some of my favourite pages on Facebook recently as I do regularly and one of them is Dr Cornel West. Dr West shared a status update recently by CEO & Founder at Movement Be Nate Howard. And it’s a few paragraphs which I think are quite powerful and speak to us all.
“I’m on the verge of losing very close friends over the constant debate of “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter.” It’s a divide that’s breaking many of us apart.
If we are both saying that lives matter. Let’s lose ourselves. And think about the lives that matter. This is not about you. It’s about live’s not being valued. Again and again with no justice at all. So when you say “All Lives Matter”, I assume your movement is ready to communicate with dialogue of faith, love, hope, and critical thinking for all lives. Let’s begin.
It’s very simple:
“Black Lives Matter because All Lives Matter!”
If you’re saying “All Lives Matter,” then you should be sensitive to the plight and suffering experienced by communities of color. You should be considerate of a community that is working to validate their own humanity. Simple.
This is not out of disrespect for any other lives, but because our communities are the ones in peril. If you cannot acknowledge that then you are not considerate of “All Lives.” In fact– you are stopping people from advocating for a life which you say you value but don’t show up for.
What happens is that your simple statement of “All Lives Matter” may make you numb and oblivious to black life because there is no action for a certain issue. This becomes the problem because “All Lives Matter” becomes the anti to “Black Lives Matter because “All Lives Matter” is not a movement. But if you feel that you are a movement, you have then associated yourself with the oppressor. So in your expression– you are doing their work which is the cruel justification of the killings of innocent black bodies.
This is what makes this rhetoric scary. You truly may think you’re doing good– but you are an opposition of what can be the solidarity of individuals of all colors coming together to focus on the value of “black lives mattering because all lives matter.” If you’re saying “All Lives Matter,” but are not doing any work to help save lives– then you inevitably become the enemy to those hoping to restore peace by simply advocating for those who cannot breathe! Who are constantly becoming hashtags. You have to see the tears of mothers and their families and think if that was you. If so– let me say in your mourning that “All Lives Matter” and then offer you no support. Take a look in the mirror and analyze your conditioning. Then start over with your understanding.
Understand this simple analogy:
If my foot is broken and I go to the hospital to get it checked, that doesn’t mean that I don’t value my hand or any other body parts. I’m focused on my foot because it’s the part that is hurting the most. If I don’t get it treated, it threatens my entire health and well-being.
So think about it? What part of the American body is hurting the most right now? If we cannot heal our feet, we’re destined to fall.
It’s time to wake up. We’re in this together. Don’t let rhetoric divide. Don’t let yourself become numb to your foots suffering. We broke the shackles but we still need healing. We still need love. These cries are silenced by your misunderstood love for humanity.
It’s very simple:
“Black Lives Matter because All Lives Matter!”
Of course we all matter. To understand that you have to see you are inferior to none. And that you are superior to none. Our egos are destroyed and we can all become one. Listen. Understand. Love.
I want you to still be my friend. But I’m more interested in saving innocent lives then misunderstood friendships because my life literally depends on it. Yours does too. 😉
Nate Howard’s post is powerful, one we should all take to heart. In particular, at the end when Nate says:
“Of course we all matter. To understand that you have to see you are inferior to none. And that you are superior to none. Our egos are destroyed and we can all become one. Listen. Understand. Love.”
It is a clear statement that the position of the Black Lives Matter movement is the recognition that all lives do matter. The reason we support or should support Black Lives Matter is that not all lives are equally treated or valued. When some lives, Black lives, are treated as if they do not matter, it diminishes all lives, and it is this that must be remedied. It won’t be remedied by those in power who benefit most from this injustice, it can only be remedied by society as a whole by first acknowledging it and then speaking out against it.
And without diminishing the focus on Black lives, the lives of other oppressed groups matter too. That is why Black Lives Matter delegates have gone to Palestine, and they recognise the oppression there, and in Gaza.
When Black Lives Matter delegates went to Palestine they stated on their official Facebook page.
“Today, delegates from the Movement for Black Lives join organizers and activists in Bil’in, a territory in occupied Palestine where resistors are engaged in nonviolent protest,”
“In the fight for dignity, justice and freedom, the Movement for Black Lives is committed to the global shared struggle of oppressed people, namely the people of occupied Palestine and other Indigenous communities who for decades have resisted the occupation of their land, the ethnic cleansing of their people, and the erasure of their history and experiences.”
In fact I read today that the BLM movement is now supporting the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. This type of campaign helped to quickly end apartheid in South Africa a few decades ago.
I’m going to digress for a moment and expand a little on why the Black Lives Matter movement embraces the Palestinian struggle. I’ve mentioned the Palestinians a few times now over the course of my podcast. I feel compelled to mention them whenever I have the opportunity because Palestinians are living under a brutal occupation. It is beyond appalling. I mention them regularly on Vegans For Nonviolence, one of my social media pages on Facebook which I have had for a few years now.
So bear with me for a few minutes while I give you just one or two examples as to why it’s important for all of us to support the Palestinians. Between the 8 July and 27 August 2014, more than 2,100 innocent Palestinian men, women and children were killed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli government through relentless bombing campaigns and 556 of those killed were children and babies.
And here is another example of the usual way Palestinians are treated:
On Oct 29, 2015, Israeli border police issued a shocking threat to Palestinians in Aida refugee camp, saying,
“We will gas you until you die,” in a response to stone-throwing.
According to an Al Jazeera report
In a one-minute video of the incident recorded on this day by a resident of the West Bank camp, an Israeli border officer speaking in Arabic reads a chilling message over a loudspeaker as an Israeli jeep rolls slowly down the street.
“People of Aida refugee camp, we are the occupation forces. You throw stones, and we will hit you with gas until you all die. The children, the youth, the old people – you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive,”
the unidentified officer says.
This is just a little glimpse into the appalling treatment of the Palestinians by Israeli forces. It’s not unusual treatment. It’s not some rogue soldier. This is the attitude of the government has toward Palestinian people.
The ongoing ethnic cleansing and the particular horrific genocidal massacre in 2014 barely made a blip on the radar for most of us and certainly it was all but ignored by the corporate-owned mainstream media. THAT’S why it’s important we highlight the issue. THAT’S why it’s so important to get news from reliable independent news sources. It’s always vitally important to bring invisible and ignored social justice issues to the public’s consciousness.
As I said I feel compelled to talk about Palestinians when I can. Palestinians are victims of an apartheid regime and victims of almost a century of systemic colonial occupation and institutionalised racism. It is a slow and ongoing genocide. Palestinians are not safe in their homes or outside of their homes. Innocent Palestinians including children are regularly executed in the street, framed, demeaned, humiliated, and harassed. It is not uncommon for children to be baited, and then when they throw stones they are shot. Palestinian homes are regularly demolished to make way for occupiers. Their crops and olive trees are destroyed. They are burnt alive in their homes. They and their homes are regularly bombed and they are not allowed to rebuild due to a blockade of building supplies. It is an open air prison. They are corralled into areas separate from people who are not Palestinian. They are deprived of water, medical treatment and heating on a regular basis. Social systems like power stations, water facilities, and hospitals are destroyed. It is unbearable and many Palestinian children exhibit signs of post traumatic stress. Despite the overwhelming situation, they keep up the struggle against this horrific occupation. And yet this appalling injustice is willfully ignored by many governments, the corporate media and by many in the Western world. All one needs to do is just follow the money to find out why.
I could go on and on about this horrific situation but I invite you to please go to reliable independent news sources to learn about the beyond horrific situation the Palestinians are enduring and please support them. One way to support them is to join the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), the one I mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement is now supporting. Another way is to keep ourselves informed. One can find out about this issue through independent news (and I stress independent) news sources like Democracy Now! TruthDig.org, The Real News Network, Mint Press News, The Empire Files, TeleSur, George Galloway, Chris Hedges and the like. Pulitzer prize recipient journalist and vegan Chris Hedges writes about the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians regularly. So does black activist champion for racial justice the wonderful Dr Cornel West. So there’s no lack of information about the Palestinian struggle on social media and elsewhere. One just has to look for it and we SHOULD look for it because the Palestinian struggle is probably the most invisible and ignored issue today but it is becoming less so thanks to social media and the internet.
But the Black Lives Matter movement does not limit their concern to the wonderful Palestinian people. They also focus on the killing of transgender people. Last year there were 21 trans-women killed in the US alone (and that’s likely to be an underestimate) and this year so far there have been approximately 16 killed (which is probably also likely to be an underestimate). Although the Black Lives Matter movement focus on their struggle, it is not at the expense of other struggles. All those who are marginalised matter, and all of us must work together, to support one another. It is not an either/or situation. And abolitionist vegans recognise this.
As the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
We must always remember this.
Black Lives Matter as a movement came about in the US, because it is black lives in the US who are being ended at a rate of 1 person approximately every 28 hours. Many Black lives have been destroyed through mass incarceration due to a justice system which is racist. A system which is intentionally designed to work against Black people and is intended to create a kind of neo-slavery within the prison system.
And for those of you who vote in the US, remember that both major parties have continued on this unjust and racist system so don’t believe major party politicians when they say they “feel your pain” and want justice and equality. It’s important we vote for your values. There are more than two parties in the US.
Without diminishing the Black Lives Matter, of course Palestinian lives matter, Indigenous people’s lives matter, Transgender lives matter. All lives that are marked as victims of institutional oppression or in the case of Muslims, imperialist oppression, need to be asserted as mattering. And it strikes me that the largest group by far, that of sentient beings on this planet who are exploited, tortured and murdered are non-human animals.
Sentient nonhuman animals are an almost invisible group because our group – the human species – otherise them. But the fact is they are 99.99% of the planet’s population. 1 trillion plus land and aquatic animals are tortured and murdered each year for mostly trivial reasons of palate pleasure. I say trivial reasons because we do not need to eat animals,wear them or exploit them at all. We do so for our pleasure, convenience habit or tradition. But concern for these sentient nonhuman lives follows the same logic that Nate Howard speaks of, that we are all inferior to none, and superior to none, and none of us have the right to abuse or oppress or use other sentient beings. And the rights of no group should be pursued at the expense of any other group. And no one should have a problem with the assertion that Black Lives Matter. Wouldn’t it be an amazing world if that was our species’ motto to live by? We could have such a peaceful and nonviolent vegan world if we take a first step and if we become vegan, we recognise the rights of all sentient beings.
Whether we are abolitionist vegan or not (and abolitionist vegans are inclusive as we reject all forms of discrimination), we should care beyond our own selves, beyond our families, our towns. We should care beyond artificial national borders we have constructed which reinforce a hierarchy of moral value. We should reject any construct or scenario which sets up a hierarchy of moral value, of US and THEM. As abolitionists vegans or whoever we are, we should not restrict our caring, or moral concern to just our friends and family, or to only our own groups or identities. And equally as importantly, we should NOT restrict our moral concern to just our own species. And when I say concern, I don’t mean a fleeting concern after we read something, wringing our hands or nodding our heads and then just continuing on with our daily lives. I mean an engaged moral concern. One which involves itself in social justice and in education.
One mistake we make in our species is the idea that injustice against vulnerable groups is out there some where, that it is not relevant to us and that injustice will not one day come knocking at our door. But if we pay attention to independent media, the injustice we inflict on others in other countries for our own gain, is coming back home. And many of us who have benefited from our government’s racism, and plundering and destruction in other’s lands, should have paid attention and cared about this when it began. Because it was wrong. It is wrong. Just as racism can’t be ignored by those who benefit, just because we might say “I’m not racist”, we cannot ignore any oppression that benefits us. Many of us benefit from racism, and most of us benefit from animal exploitation, even those of us who claim we are against violence, discrimination and oppression and even some of us who create careers promoting “happy” animal exploitation.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. I know we like to think it does.
Whenever we benefit from racism, whether that is the assumption that we are not criminals, that we are treated with less suspicion by police, and we are not being shot and killed for no reason, just because of the colour of our skin. We benefit from racism if we ignore the injustice that others are assumed to be criminals, or are seen as suspicious, or are devalued, shot and killed, simply because of the way they look. We become part of the oppression if we ignore this.
Whenever we ignore the suffering and murder of non-humans, when we eat their bodies, drink their secretions, or wear their skins etc, or when we generally exploit sentient animals for entertainment or other reasons, we participate in oppression and also the oppression of humans. It is no less immoral than the other forms of oppression I’ve address earlier. And whether we realise it or not, and this is an ongoing theme in my podcast episodes, what we do to nonhuman animals has, and is happening to humans, and that’s not a coincidence. The various forms of discrimination are inextricably bound. Obviously what is happening to humans is different and it is not to the degree, but it is happening.
Whatever we do to the most vulnerable among us, and in this case it is nonhumans, effects us all whether we realise it or not. And as vegans, particularly abolitionist vegans (and we all should be abolitionist vegans), to devalue one group – humans, and for us to ignore some human social justice issues, or ignore social justice issues altogether is a illogical, discriminatory, wrong-headed and it is complicit with that oppression.
For a long time now, thousands of years in fact, there have been some well known individuals who have been saying that we are all interconnected, and they included nonhuman sentient beings in that statement. Unfortunately they may not have enacted this belief by ending their use of nonhumans, but their moral inconsistency doesn’t devalue the truth in that wisdom. Nate Howard expressed it well when speaking about ignoring an illness in a part of our body. I liken ignoring the suffering and abuse of one group is like us having our hand caught in a door and pretending that our hand does not matter to us, till eventually our hand turns blue and gangrenous and our whole body then begins to suffer and eventually die. That is how illogical and problematic it is to pretend that the plight of any sentient being on this planet, no matter what species, is irrelevant to us, or that we can exploit them, torture them and kill them simply because we are in the position to do so and because we benefit from their suffering and death in some way. It simply makes no sense, and in the end, it will be us who suffer as well. We should take responsibility for our complicity.
Please remember if you are not vegan, then please consider going vegan. If you are not abolitionist, then please make that logical step to becoming abolitionist vegan. It’s about the whole, not the parts. It’s about acknowledging a truth of interconnectedness that has been talked about for at least 2 thousand years now. Please check out my comprehensive vegan resource in podcast form – HowToGoVegan.org
I hope you found episode somewhat interesting. I look forward to your company again. Thanks for listening.
Till next time.
Bye for now.
For more information:
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Ep 7 is targeted at a specific audience but I’m sure others will find it interesting. With the kind permission of the author of Vegan Ethos, I am sharing her recent blog post which you can view here: Intersectionality and Abolitionist Veganism Part 1
Disclaimer: Please note I do not necessarily endorse individuals, opinions, links or ads on external sites.
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