Whenever animal rights activists compared the treatment of blacks to the abuse suffered by animals, I balked.
I was not alone. Many black folks find the comparison an insult. How dare you mention black people in the same sentence with fur or a chicken or a cow being led to slaughter.
It feels reductive to compare people to animals because…we are more than that. We can think. We can speak. We have feelings.
Was the first dehumanizing act of “mankind” to reduce animals to “things”, to set them beneath us, to claim that they are soul-less, emotionless tools granted by God – to provide us with their labor, their hides, their flesh?
Does that act run in a straight line to the domestication of women, to the enslavement of people of color, to the African and Jewish Holocausts (“Eternal Treblinka“), to all of the organized brutality man heaps upon man, woman, child and planet? Could it be that the seeds of global oppression, the idea of a hierarchical order that has the divine right to call the shots for the planet, sprouted once man claimed himself separate from and better than animals while claiming dominion over them?
This is not territory that I envisioned trodding. I’m the last nigga that believed in giving animals an even break if I gave any thought to animals at all. But today, at this moment, I see the unity of oppressions.
There is no question that the “spiritual vivisection” of humanity, begun by Plato and his cronies, their crazed belief in “rationality”, hierarchy, in the ‘philosopher king,” their cleaving of the brain from the body and spirit, their creation of a profane, analytic, abstractive monster (this according to Marimba Ani in her brilliant “Yurugu”)….this is why we are the way that we are.
We are the soul-less, conscienceless monster that we decry. Its not the shark that is vicious – it is you. It is not the black slave that is vicious – it is you. It is not the whore who deserves what’s coming to her – it is you. It is the culture and its people who make a folly of the Goddess’ handiwork, denigrating two and four legged creatures and the earth itself – before abusing and destroying it.
The prepubescent serial killer, the gangbanger, the Christian, genocidal President, the Marine rapist, the stockyards, the chicken plant, the Southern plantation are all part of the same continuum. Speciesm begat Sexism begat Racism begat begat begat.
Part of our challenge as people who classify themselves as human, is to see the connections between us and everything, particularly other living things. We are trained and we train ourselves to stay in our mental shoe boxes, support only those causes within the shoe box, leave our brains in a safety deposit box – in our shoe box. DO NOT THINK OUTSIDE OF THE SHOE BOX.
I don’t want to talk about sexism when we’re talking about racism…I don’t want (white) you changing the subject. But I need to be able to see the intersection of racism and sexism, need to see how women are played off against men, how “minorities” are set in competition with each other, unable to see who is manipulating them, see who is behind the curtain.
This “inability to see” to see the obvious relationship between all things is conditioned; the shutters are scientifically implanted from day one.
If one truly wants to be correct, the root of oppression, the first oppression that one can identify clearly is that of animals. The ability to separate ones’ feeling self from what’s between their fork and their knife, the ability to care about some life – but not all life, the ability to laugh at or laugh off the suffering of animals…It took a long time and a steady dose of serious indoctrination to make people dead to these connections.
That deadening and the “selective compassion’ that results, is why we sit on our hands as Iraqis are blown to pieces, or now blow themselves to pieces in rage, in despair at the barbaric treatment that they suffer. Its why Darfur is happening and nobody is doing anything about it. Its why Bush can steal two elections. We pretend we’re better than animals but we are not…We are simply the tamest, most domesticated, most brutally detached animals on the planet.
As long as we are that, heaven help this world.