Thursday, July 28, 2011

PeTA and Racial Appropriation


PeTA has a terrible record when it comes to marginalized bodies.  From dressing up as the KKK, to employing the slogan "Are animals the new slaves," whenever possible, they have appropriated freely from Blacks. PeTA currently has a new exhibit across from the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
The six double-sided panel display exhibits images of animal cruelty next to images of human cruelty. One panel includes Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and some images show elephants in shackles and overcrowded conditions for pigs and animals next to images of Blacks in similar conditions.
A PETA spokeswoman told BET.com "that the goal of the exhibit is not to equate nonhuman animals with African-Americans" but "to compare the oppression of certain groups of people in the past to the continued oppression of animals today. It points to the terrible level of suffering that has been inflicted upon various individuals throughout our history and points out some of the cruelty that still goes on in society today. PETA's message is that oppression is wrong, regardless of the race, gender, age, nationality or species of the victims," wrote PETA's communications director in an email. (source)
Uh huh, they didn't mean to refer to African Americans, and they just accidentally chose a quote from an African American civil rights leader.  How can anyone possibly give PeTA the benefit of the doubt given their history of racist actions?  They were absolutely making an analogy to the African American history of slavery and the struggle for civil rights. When Dr. King said those words, he was not speaking animals, he was speaking about the historical state of inequality between Blacks and Whites.

I will not deny that the condition of slaughter houses are horrendous, but the very idea that it can and should be compared to something as horrific as slavery, jim crow, etc., is not only racist, it is ridiculous.  By juxtaposing these ideas, they are suggesting that Blacks are the equivalent of animals, a suggestion by the way perpetuated by Whiteness to justify the outright inhuman oppression that they have historically engaged in. I know that biologically speaking we are all animals, but only people of colour have historically been labelled animals to justify White supremacy.

PeTA seems to feel that because their cause is just, that any damage that they do is unimportant.  After all, who could possibly object to wanting better treatment for defenseless animals?  Celebrities jump on board, because this seems like a harmless cause to support, and by doing so, they ignore that PeTA routinely attacks the most marginalized members of society to push their agenda. 

PeTA's goal is for humane treatment for animals and ironically, they often behave in the most inhumane manner.  No matter how many times marginalized people have spoken out against their tactics, they continue onward, because for them we are just the othered remnants of society.  You cannot fight hierarchy by perpetuating hierarchy, and this is a lesson PeTA has yet to learn.  Though there are members of PeTA that are undoubtedly of colour, their leadership, like many organizations is White. This is specifically why they refuse to recognize the damage that they have done to people of colour.  If you don't have to face the consequences for your actions, what is to stop you from continuing to harm beyond a personal conscience? This is why I can say without a doubt that PeTA is a white supremacist, heterosexist, cissexist, sexist, organization and anyone who supports them, is not defending the rights of animals, but defending the right to oppress at will.