A Note on Intersectionality and Solidarity

It’s hard to think about anything other than what’s going on across the country right now. The idea of spending any significant amount of time on a social justice cause unrelated to what happened in Minneapolis and the aftermath just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I can’t really articulate why.

So I was thoroughly disappointed by an Instagram post that’s been circulating around Twitter the past couple of days. The video, posted by Anonymous for the Voiceless (the cube of truth folks) just a couple of days ago, argues that “[i]ntersectionality has no place in the animal rights movement.” Animals, they say, are the most oppressed group of individuals in the history of the world, and deserve a movement of their own.

Right off the bat, the context could not be worse. They could have said nothing. They could have waited until things cooled off a bit (whenever that may be) before making their point. Instead, they chose the worst possible time — just as the nationwide protests began to be systematically and brutally shut down by law enforcement — to plant their flag.

It’s needlessly provocative, as well. What does it even mean for animals to have a movement “of their own”? What, exactly, is lost when people compare human rights struggles to the fight for animal rights?

The fact of the matter is that everyone’s moral circle begins with humans — your family, your friends, people like you and, ideally, all humans. For most people, it largely ends there. For ethical vegans, our circle has come to encompass non-human species. I would argue that a consistent moral sense expands in this way — from those close to us, to those like us, to all humans, and then to non-human animals. If that is correct, then comparing the struggle for animal rights to struggles for human rights may be the best tool we have.

That’s one reason I believe intersectionality to be important — not just for it’s own sake, but because seeking justice for animals requires that we first obtain justice for humans.

And then there’s the optics of it. Vegans are already accused of not caring about our fellow humans — this is the opposite of helping to fix that.

I don’t know the proper role of tangential organizations, like vegan groups (including The Reasoned Vegan), when it comes to expressing solidarity with related causes. As tempting as announcing “WE UNEQUIVOCALLY SUPPORT THE CAUSE OF RACIAL JUSTICE” is, there is a risk of diverting attention from those on the front lines who deserve it to those who don’t.

My current approach is to do little pontificating and more watching and listening — to what’s happening on the ground, to the people pushing for change. Maybe Anonymous for the Voiceless would benefit from taking this approach as well.

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