Black Lives Matter.
And it's about time that Black Lives Matter has finally gotten the international support and solidarity it deserves. It also goes to show what can happen when the possibility of real change (and fear of what will continue to happen if the status quo doesn't change) galvanizes people into action.
So what about All Lives Matter? Because from a vegan perspective, the idea that all lives matter (including other animals, specifically) seems to be reasonable and almost self-evident. And that notion IS what drives many vegan activists, this belief that all lives are worthy. Or to borrow from this quote:
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. --Paul Farmer
But we have to remember context here as the rallying cry of All Lives Matter has been used too often to dismiss the BLM message. A message often misunderstood. Black Lives Matter does not mean that ONLY black lives matter, but that black lives matter TOO. And that if black lives don't matter (with systemic racism suggesting they don't), all lives can't matter.
But for some reason this has confused people in a way that other campaigns have not. For example, those who fundraise for breast cancer won't get the pushback that they're ignoring other types of cancer. It's implied that all cancers are worthy of being eradicated, but that the particular focus here is a specific form of cancer. Same for other diseases. Campaigning for Diabetes, for example, doesn't mean Alzheimer's matters less.
So I was impressed to see Steve Jenkins from Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary thank the person who helped him understand why using the AllLives instead of the BlackLivesMatter hashtag was problematic, and state that he was willing to learn in order to be the best ally. Sadly though, I think a number of his followers didn't get that particular point of his post.
It takes humility to admit you may have been wrong, and strength of character to be open to growth. And isn't that what vegans hope nonvegans will do? Take information that may be new to them and consider it with an open mind? While I understand his followers defending him (because yes, Steve has a heart of gold and we see his values exemplified daily), it's a bit disheartening to see some followers continue to insist that saying All Lives Matter is absolutely fine, when actually, it isn't.
Also disheartening is that Canadians have been a bit ignorant (smug, even) in denying racism in our own backyard, as evidenced by Ontario premier Rob Ford declaring on June 2nd that Canada doesn't have the same systemic deep roots of racism that the United States does. Um, right. Thankfully he quickly backtracked on that comment after receiving massive criticism.
But the belief in the absence of racism in Canada is something many Canadians share. And I can even see how they may have that perception. Take the small town I live in; so incredibly white it's rare to see someone in it who isn't. You almost couldn't even blame anyone here for not knowing what white privilege is, and that almost everyone in this town benefits from it. That is, of course, if you conveniently forget the historic (and current) treatment of Indigenous people. Or the internment of Japanese Canadians back in 1942. No, racism is definitely NOT absent in this country.
What does systemic racism in Canada look like? Here are five charts illustrating the challenges Black Canadians face in terms of income, employment, education, and hate crimes. Contrary to the claim that systemic racism doesn't exist in Canada, Black Canadians say racism is just as harmful on this side of the border.
Want to be an ally in the anti-racism fight? Here are some actions you can take to help in the fight against racism.
Two books I have read recently that personally have helped me to better understand the topic of race are: So You Want to Talk About Race by American author Ijeoma Oluo, and Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by UK author Reni Eddo-Lodge. I highly recommend both.
The takeaway for vegans in particular, I think, is that we have to be willing to listen and learn. Just as the feminist movement was rightly criticized for being mainly relevant to white middle-class women, vegans have to listen when we're told that veganism is mainly relevant to white middle-class folk. (Did you hear the echo?) We have to listen, respectfully, when we're told comparisons between the animal rights movement and the civil rights movement may be problematic. We also have to pay attention when survivors of sexual assault tell us that having their experience of rape compared to artificial insemination of animals may be inappropriate.
We have to remember that the ultimate aim of veganism is to eliminate oppression, period. That includes racism, sexism, classism, ableism and a bunch of other isms too. While it may be tempting to say that you only care about animals, humans ARE animals, and we have to help end oppression of them as well.
And one way of doing that is to honour the fight for racial equality by not routinely saying all lives matter whenever you hear Black Lives Matter.