PETA Poses as Klan During Black History Month

htp vegans of color

There is never a time in which it is appropriate to dress up as members of the Klan in order to make a supposedly progressive point about consumption.

Perhaps the worst time to dress up as the Klan however would be black history month.

petaklan(Mary Altaffer / AP)

On Monday, February 9, 2009 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, dressed up as members of the Klan and passed out pamphlets on Madison Square Garden. Apparently ethics stops at the comparison of black people to animals, the respect for black history, and in not making light of a racist history and racist organization in this country whose ranks are actually swelling not waning.

It takes a certain level of both ignorance and privilege to believe you have the right to bastardize the oppression of an entire people on the month they have been given as a consolation prize for that oppression; the shortest month of the year. This behavior lacks any sense of history or respect for the struggle of African Americans. As I have pointed out in many of my Black Herstory Month posts that struggle not only includes powerful black women but also the hard work of anti-racist white people. So when PETA demeans African American history as a media stunt, it demeans not only African Americans but all of us and our shared history.

There has been a lot of talk on the radical woc blogs about what I have called “hipster hate,” a sense on the part of certain “progressives” that they can mobilize racist images and racist jokes because they have liberal politics, black friends, and work for progressive organizations. In PETA’s case this means that they are not insulting African Americans and the suffering of both African Americans and the anti-racist civil rights activists who lost their lives fighting alongside them (or the interracial couples who are beaten by klan, the black child who is permanently disabled b/c he was beaten on the day of the 2009 election by klan, or the immigrants who have lost their lives to severe beatings by klan and other white supremacists that have dotted the news and blogs in increasing numbers over the last 3 years), because they are standing up for the rights of dogs at the dog show and animals in general. My partner and I are long time animal rights activists who do not support the exploitation of animals in any form. We are long time members of the ASPCA and animal rescuers currently raising 5 rescued dogs. Unlike PETA we are also long time anti-racist activists who interact with people different than us every single day as part of our organizing, our work, and our lives.

One of the anti-racist trainings I used to do back in the day asked people to raise their hands if:

  1. you live in a largely homogeneous neighborhood
  2. you live in a gentrified neighborhood
  3. most if not all of your friends are the same race as you
  4. most of your co-workers are the same race as you
  5. your social justice work involved less than 20% outreach and work WITH (not for) people of color
  6. your downtime is spent with people from similar racial, education, and economic backgrounds to your own
  7. you have ever been a part of social justice campaign that was accused of racism
  8. you have ever been a part of a social justice action in which no people of color attended or if they did, they left shortly after arriving

These are only a few questions, modified for brevity on the blog, that help people think about how progressive they and the organizations they belong to really are when it comes to issues of difference.  The questions can be, and are, modified for other identities like gender, ability, class, etc. And they are also ones that we spent considerable time unpacking in group discussions.  But the point of them is to show that you can be a vegan, anti-capitalist, environmentalist, feminist and still spend 90% of your life interacting in social circles and organizing ones that vary very little from the dominant white, middle class, urban model.  When most people get called on it, the first thing they do is point to their handful of poc employees, their 1 or 2 friends of color from college, or the handful of outspoken woc organizers who if you push it make most of them feel guilty and ignorant whenever they show up to things.

My point . . .

Everyone makes mistakes but to do something so profoundly racially insensitive requires a certain level of removal from communities of color that begs the question: how does your progressive vision for the world lead to equality when you diminish the people around you in the name of liberation?

I’m tired of having to explain why Klan, nooses, or calling people haters b/c of their race is offensive. In terms of the two former actions, they call up a deadly history which is not as far away as “progressives” like to think. Please see my many posts on hate crimes if that confuses you or you think race based beatings, murders, and property damage (like spraying painting the “n” word) are only in the past.

This is not a rant. Rage is only helpful when it is productive rather than destructive. So I am going to ask you to follow the link trail so nicely laid out at Vegans of Color to educate yourselves on the facts of the event and what other radical women of color and their allies are saying about PETA’s stunt. And then please write PETA and tell them that you will not support them until they issue a public apology and include anti-racist training and anti-racist organizing in their core vision statement and organizing principles.

If you are a member, please tell PETA that you are canceling your membership until something is done. Members who want to complain about the campaign or cancel membership click here.

If you are not a member click here and scroll down to the form.

If you want you can borrow my text, in red below:

I will no longer support PETA nor any organization, actor, or artist who is a member of PETA until PETA apologizes for their racist behavior during Black History Month at the Feb 9 Madison Square Garden Dog Show. I expect PETA to not only apologizes for this racist campaign but also to outline how they intend to work toward not engaging in racist campaigns in the future. The Klan is very much alive and active in the United States and while PETA members may have the privilege not to know, they have been implicated in the severe beating and or murder of several immigrants, small children, and couples in the last 3 years alone as well as anti-immigrant and anti-black speeches, rallies, and “actions” during the election and around the border. The most recent case was the beating of a 9 year old African American child walking home from school on the day of the 2009 election; he is permanently disabled as a result of that beating.  When PETA dresses up as Klan they not only demean the bravery, the pain, and the death of black suffrage and civil rights workers but also the families and survivors of present day murder attempts and assaults. What they fought for matters. What they died for should not be made light of nor should their killers be made into a prop. Your ignorance is no excuse and your politics will not keep you from being held accountable. Racism is wrong and so is this PETA campaign.

Some people will say that it is a waste of energy to correct “progressive” organizations for racism when we have “more important neo-cons/issues to deal with” to them I say: racism makes my life as unlivable as pollution, domestic violence, poverty, war, etc. When that racism comes from the people supposedly trying to make this a better world then how much better can this world be if I am asked to stay silent about my oppression so that you do not have to face the oppressor in your mirror? Isn’t part of a better world equality or is it simply the exchange of power in which people of color will still be the tool by which you make your own gains?

Before you say racism has less meaning than the housing crisis, let me remind you that the banks targeted communities of color b/c of racism.  When you say we have to end the war, I say to you that advertisements in the school paper in communities of color are all bought up by the military, the quiet acceptance of torture, and the rhetoric justifying wars in the Middle East were all clothed in racism. When you say health care costs are bankrupting Americans, I say to you that it costs less to do preventive care than any other available services but health care disparities toward communities of color mean that they are less likely to receive preventative care, proper testing for presenting symptoms, or education and outreach and so health care costs soar b/c of racism. When you say we have to stop rape and domestic violence because it impacts all of us, I say back to you that the mass rapes in the Congo and of immigrant women (to name a few), potential by people patrolling the border to keep the brown people out, have met with such limited response because of racism.  When you say if we do not fix the environment none of us will have a place to live, I tell you that the Native Americans are running out of water because the mining companies have been allowed to leech all the water from their land because of racism.  When you say working families are having trouble affording food, I remind you that racism means that women of color get paid between 60 and 30 cents to every white male’s dollar and that grocery stores in black and brown neighborhoods sell out of date, high sugar, low nutrition products, because of racism. When you say there is a meth epidimic and the number one meth users are white, I say to you that welfare reform transformed many women into drug mules and drug cookers and that reform passed based on racism AND that racism focused the “drug war” on drugs in black and brown communities while drugs in rural white ones flourished unchecked b/c of racism.  When you say that gay people lost their rights in this election b/c of black people, I say to you the numbers do not reflect the actual final yes votes in which white voters, not black ones, were necessary for the bill to pass. AND that it took a queer woman of color to point out that none of the anti-prop 8 materials had been translated into the main languages besides English spoken in CA, and a queer man of color to point out that no anti-prop 8 spots were bought to run on black radio stations where he works & when he asked why he was told “there’s only so much money to go around” meaning organizers gave up on the black vote long before they blamed it, and queers of color to remind people of all the PSAs and organizing they did to stop prop 8 and that they exist at all and would never have voted against their own rights, all because of racism. When you say animals are being tortured so that we can all eat cheap meat, I say that racism puts high fat, meat driven, fast food chains in poor neighborhoods at an alarming rate and markets their products to people of color all the more while no similar building and marketing goes on in middle class white communities because of racism. IT IS NOT THAT THESE OPPRESSIONS: SEXISM, CLASSISM, THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, ENVIRONMENTAL DEGREDATION, ANIMAL CRUELTY, ETC. DO NOT EXIST WITHOUT RACISM; THEY ARE UNIQUE FORMS OF OPPRESSION IN AND OF THEMSELVES. HOWEVER, ALL OPPRESSIONS ARE INTERRELATED AND MY OPPRESSION AS A PERSON OF COLOR ULTIMATELY IMPACTS YOUR LIFE AS MUCH AS MINE.

So tell me that racism has no bearing on your life where the wars, the wages, the economic crisis, and the cruelty to animals all negatively impact you whether you are directly targeted or not. And where the cost, continuation, and expansion all flow along an intersecting river called racism tainting the water that you drink from as much as any person of color’s glass.

Telling PETA not to be racist is as important to me as all of these other things, not more and not less. If so-called progressive racism it is not important to you, then ask yourself how progressive are you and how equal is that world you work so hard to create. (And for all the people who post regularly about PETA’s sexism, where is your post about their racism? Where is your outrage for the women of color and the white women freedom riders whose histories are demeaned by PETA’s racist turn?)

2 thoughts on “PETA Poses as Klan During Black History Month

  1. thank you for writing this and for the links! I don’t even know how people can be so . . . so . . . I don’t even have a word for it. oh yeah RACIST

  2. Pingback: » Blog Archive » easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-02-21

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