Tweet Follow-Up: This is Oppression

15 Aug

Wednesday I tweeted the following:

The idea that communities of color do not want healthy, non-violent choices is a racist assumption. It’s about access. This is oppression.

I’ve been confronted with this idea – the idea that people of color need to be convinced to live healthy, peaceful lives – in a number of venues recently.   I’ve heard this from animal rights activists and human rights activists, and I’d wager that some environmental activists have expressed the same idea.

This assumption is fundamentally racist.  To purport that people of color don’t want healthy food choices, don’t want healthy relationships, etc. is not only irresponsible, it is absolutely incorrect.  Check out the Vegans of Color blog, The Sistah Vegan Project, INCITE!, and about a million other examples you can find in one simple Google search.

This isn’t about a lack of desire.  Nothing about a person’s race or ethnicity excludes one from wanting to live a safe, healthy, happy life.

This is about oppression.  This is about systems and institutions that are set up to benefit the privileged – in this case, those who are perceived as white.  This is about communities that have unquestionably been denied fundamental, basic human rights such as access to healthy food and safe housing.  This is about individuals who are denied justice.

This is about white people in majority white movements feeling more comfortable talking individual behavior change than systemic and social change.  This is about white people framing the problem as stemming from the core of “the other.”  This is about white people protecting their privilege.

This is about white people feeling threatened by the use of the word “white.”

This is about honestly, critically examining our movements.  The questions from the folks at the table need not be, “How can we convince them this is a problem so they will come to our table.”  Rather, an appropriate question is, “How can we strengthen our table to address the root cause of the problem?”

Oppression is the core target of every one of our movements, but spreading false, dangerous, racist assumptions will only perpetuate the very problems we want to eliminate.

If we truly understand what’s at the root of the problem, feeding it, allowing it to thrive and grow, then we’ll run out of chairs at our table.

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