Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a vegan food justice nonprofit organization seeking to create a more just world by helping consumers recognize the power of their food choices. F.E.P. works in solidarity with farm workers, advocates for chocolate not sourced from the worst forms of child labor, and focuses on access to healthy plant-based foods in communities of color and low-income communities.
F.E.P. is also the chosen organization that will receive donations from sales of our newest book, Veganism in an Oppressive World, a Vegans-of-Color Community Project, edited by author & illustrator, Julia Feliz Brueck and with contributions from vegans of color from around the globe.
I remember when I started Food Empowerment Project and explained to fellow animal rights activists about some of our goals. I was told that racism isn’t that bad. Well, at this point in time, I don’t think anyone can deny the blatant racist comments and actions that are taking place across the country right now. The time is up for us to ignore it, and we must constantly use our voices to speak out against it.
For those of us, like myself, who are sci-fi fans, we know that one of the beauties about sci-fi is how writers can cleverly weave commentary about issues, such as racism, animal exploitation, sexism, etc. – within the story lines set in another time and place while making them relevant to the here and now.
My husband and I have been watching Twilight Zone episodes, and one struck me that I just can’t shake. The episode is called “He’s Alive,” and the description from IMDB summarizes that, “Around 1960, a tiny neo-Nazi organization struggles pathetically to succeed in a big city. A mysterious figure begins to ruthlessly guide a young, insecure U.S. Nazi leader, and the group begins to draw more attention.” The episode had me thinking about how people treat various forms of discrimination, including racism, homophobia, cruelty to animals, and the treatment of immigrants. You have those who speak hate and vitriol, those who listen and are uncomfortable with it but laugh as they do not know what to say, those who agree, and finally, those who speak against it.
I believe that it’s not unusual for many of us to experience these types of responses based on our reactions to conversations about discrimination, mostly from people we don’t know well or work with. I was faced with this when my husband and I chose to protest Prop 8 in California (Prop 8 made marriage equality illegal) by having our wedding in Massachusetts, which legalized marriage equality. I was asked, and continue to be asked, why we married out of state. People want to know if it is because we had family there or if we met there. Every time someone asked, I knew this was an opportunity to make a statement against hatred and discrimination. I told the truth and said it in a way that would assume that any decent person who does not believe that marriage inequality was discrimination would agree with me and understand why we had to make this choice. Did everyone agree with us and embrace what I had to say? Certainly not. Should I worry about offending people whose point of view is different to mine? To me, that would be no different than being silent and not speaking up about other forms of discrimination. And that is a small way in which we all can use our voice. It doesn’t mean we have to scream (although clearly there are times when this is necessary), but we must not be silent. We must not laugh or ignore the hatred that is being spouted these days. We should not listen to these shock jocks and laugh. We should not give them anything.
Why should those with the most constant and loudest voices be those who speak such absolute disgust? Even if we don’t have the microphones they do, we must use our voices because collectively we can be loud.
Now most people who are reading this (if you have continued to read) are not ones who would remain silent when animal cruelty is involved. However, I start to worry that this trend is creeping into our movement in an insidious way. Every time someone talks about “humane” meat or cage-free eggs, it is as if the discussion of the reality of the actual suffering, cruelty, and deaths of these animals is erased, because the conversation, for the most part, stops there.
Why is it that those who bring up these injustices are seen as not allowing others to have a good time? Why aren’t those that make homophobic, racist ,or sexist jokes seen as the kill joys?
These conversations, as uncomfortable as they might be, must see the light of day and not be overshadowed by laughter or the thought that it will all go away if we don’t talk about it. I don’t want to have to worry that my group will lose support because a racist or a homophobe reads this. Enough. We must take stands against those who seek to oppress people, even if they support animal issues. We must use our collective voices to speak out against all forms of injustice if we think we can ever chip away at it.
Veganism in an Oppressive World will help guide you towards consistent anti-oppression in our movement, so that we can truly create the just world we all want to be a part of.