Dear White [Vegan] People, Whiteness Matters Too: Books that Make You Go Hmmmm
Dear White [Animal Rights and Vegan] People,
Whiteness cannot be ignored. I have been asked by many of you, what resources are out there to help you become aware of the consequences of being ‘post-racial’ and/or assuming anti-racism solidarity has nothing to do with your pro-vegan philosophies. Below are two phenomenal new books I just read, by white vegan anti-racist allies, pattrice jones and Martin Rowe. Please check these titles out to not only understand how ‘whiteness matters’, but how to create your own role as an ally of anti-racism and anti-speciesism. Start now with the brilliant and engaging titles below.
Oxen At The Intersection: A Collision by pattrice jones.
This is a brilliant book by pattrice jones. jones tries to understand what led to the death of one of two oxen (Lou and Bill) who had been living at, and exploited by, Green Mountain College in Vermont. Written in the style of a murder mystery novel, jones brings in intersectional understanding to how Green Mountain College, as well as Vermont itself, has been mythically constructed as having always been a agricultural region based on ‘animal husbandry.’ Unraveling the mystery of the ox’s death means to unravel the mystery of how colonialism, white supremacist ideas around non-human animals should be treated, and the myth of ‘locavorism’ have greatly mis-informed and mis-educated the white Vermont imagination around ‘ethical’ and ‘green’ living for a post-2000 age. Also, many time the ableist rhetoric goes unchecked in mainstream society. Able-bodied vegans are not exempt from promoting ableist notions of heath, food, and ethical consumption either. I like how jones talks about eugenics and ableism and purity of whiteness are fused together when Green Mountain College representatives sincerely believe and tell her that when an animal is injured and is no longer ‘able-bodied’, they need to be euthanized when their injury permits them from being a ‘good slave’ for people; yet the injury isn’t life-threatening. Below are two excerpts from the book that were very central themes for me:
Skiers and leaf-peeping tourists notwithstanding, Vermont is dairy country. Even more than the state economy depends on cheddar, the state psychology rests upon the presumption that blond boy over brown cow is the natural order of things. Vermonters need to believe that this state of affairs is not only non-injurious but righteous. (location 91 in Kindle version of the book)Meantime, thanks to advertising by the tourism and dairy industries, the mythic white male settler with his livestock came to seem to be the only authentic ancestor of Vermont. And so we come to the Green Mountain College “farm,” at which a white man sporting and old-time had and beard raises an old-time buggy whip over the back of Bill and Lou. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that the farm manager or any of his acolytes were in any way aware of the implicit whiteness of their version of rural purity. Nor do I mean to say that Green Mountain College or its friends in state government in any way endorse the past program of eugenics and disinformation by which dairying and other forms of animal agriculture came to seem such a natural and venerable aspect of the Vermont landscape. But I am suggesting that the existential quality of the struggle over Bill and Lou– the emotional fervor with which college and state officials defended animal agriculture as if the very soul of Vermont depended upon the right of men like them to control and kill animals– was rooted in the history by which people with other ways of relating to animals were displaced by the ancestors of those who now see themselves as the rightful owners of the land and its wildlife. (location 986 in the Kindle version of the book)
You can purchase Oxen at The Intersection here or by clicking on the photo above.
The Elephants in the Room: An Excavation was written by Lantern Books co-founder, Martin Rowe. Another brilliant book, The Elephants in the Room guides the reader through how colonialism, white supremacy, and conservationism come to together within the sphere of human and elephant relationships in Africa. Rowe tells the story of two women from very different backgrounds: Noble Peace Price winner indigenous African Wangari Maathai, and Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the daughter of white male African imperialist. However, author Rowe does not exempt himself from the equation: as a storyteller and a man of white, class, and male privilege from England, Rowe engages in critical reflections around how his own layers of racial privilege shaped his [mis-]perceptions around his relationship to England, as well as the people and non-human animals of ‘the Dark Continent’. The book is an intelligent and thought-provoking work that brings the problems of colonial whiteness into the conversation about animal rights, conservationism, and the consequences of ignoring racial privilege during colonial and post-colonial times. Below is a notable quote from the book
Above all, I would have to confront a number of elephants: from the actual creatures we continue to slaughter, the bones of whose ancestors were stitched together in the Hall of Extinct Mammals, to the metaphorical ones that are apparent now but were, despite their seeming unavoidability, once invisible…and even now are hard to meet head on: the poisonous prejudices of racism, the troubling legacies of empire, and the noxious assumptions of patrimony and misogyny. I also needed to look at the other elephantine quality, memory, and more particularly of the evasions and occlusions that occurs when any of us try to tell our stories or those of others, and the fantasties we project onto the ‘other.’ (location in the Kindle Version of Elephants in the Room).
The Elephants in the Room can be purchased here. If you get a chance to check these titles out, I’d love to know what you think about them.
Dr. A. Breeze Harper