Wayne Hsiung
Published on
March 21, 2014

(Video) The Color of a Movement: The Curious Story of Race and Animal Rights (and Why It Matters)

The Color of a Movement: The Curious Story of Race and Animal Rights (and Why It Matters)

"You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies."The dehumanization of people of color has historically justified violence against humans and non-humans alike.

Racism and speciesism have important parallels. Yet despite the common ideological machinery oppressing both people of color (POC) and animals, POC comprise less than 3% of the animal rights movement (compared to 37% of the general population), and are consistently targeted by hostile and angry campaigns. Why?

In this talk and discussion, we will unpack the curious (and often disturbing) story of racism and speciesism, and you will hear about:

  • how psychologists at Stanford have identified the “animalization” of POC as a key factor in justifying discriminatory violence; 
  • the disturbing three step process used by both racists and speciesists to suppress empathy and trigger animosity towards “others”;
  • the subtle and unconscious racism that keeps POC marginalized in our movement, even in the most outwardly anti-racist communities;
  • the violent rhetoric used by prominent voices (“You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies”) to mobilize opposition to abuse of animals in “foreign” communities; and 
  • three principles of strategic and ethical campaigning, if you find yourself set against a community of color.

We also invited all participants to share their experiences -- stories of racism and speciesism, stories of exclusion and inclusion -- and discussed the affirmative steps Direct Action Everywhere has taken to ensure that underrepresented voices are included and integrated into our community. There were too many compelling points to discuss in a short post, but among the issues raised by our community members were:

 The wonderful participants!
The wonderful participants!

  • the importance of framing animal rights in a way that brings communities of color into the fold -- by emphasizing points of agreement, e.g. opposition to violence -- rather than focusing on areas of difference, e.g. differing cultural practices; 
  • authenticity as an important element in any attempt to bridge racial or cultural divides ("Don't 'bro' me!");
  • important similarities between racism, ableism, sexism, speciesism, and other forms of prejudice; 
  • why calling POC “minorities” is not factually or politically accurate; and
  • why the work of social justice activists -- fighting racism, speciesism, and other forms of institutional prejudice -- is so compelling and important.

All in all, it was a fantastic event, and we came out of it feeling more empowered to speak more strongly for oppressed animals (human or non-human).

DxE is planning to continue this series in the weeks and months to come, and a group of us are independently starting a group we are calling Animal Liberationists of Color, with a facebook page and (in the Bay Area) informal meetup.  

Take a look at the video.  Join one of the upcoming meetups. And keep fighting the good fight -- until every animal is free! 

- Wayne

Other articles