I have written repeatedly about the offensive nature of PeTA’S campaigns because I find that their approach is often dehumanizing. Much of the time, they buttress their position by saying that we are no different than animals and therefore are undeserving of special treatment. This line of thought does not solely apply to PeTA. Many animal rights groups are fond of pointing out that humans are also animals. This is a biological fact, however; using it to defend your position can be extremely problematic and it is rarely to ever acknowledged as such.
For centuries, POC have been compared to animals, as a way to dehumanize us. Telling POC that we are the same as animals cannot be taken in a positive light. We can all agree that animals deserve to be treated with respect and love. They are vulnerable and we are the top of the food chain. Very few people would openly say that they approve of cruel slaughter methods or housing them in terrible conditions. The more that we can improve conditions that animals live in the better, however; until we can get to a point where there is equality amongst the human race, demanding such equality between humans and animals is going to be an issue.
It was just last year that Obama was depicted as a chimp in the post. A German zoo named a monkey after him. A bar decided to sell t-shirts with Obama depicted as Curious George. Not to be outdone, Former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller commented, “Rahm Emanuel needs to put “Gorilla Glue” on his chair to keep him in the Oval Office”. To ensure that Michelle Obama felt included Rusty Pass a state Republican activist, claimed that an escaped gorilla was an ancestor of the first lady.
Who could forget Howard Cosell with the famous quip, “Look at the little monkey run,” during a Monday night national football broadcast.
Chihuahua’s are heavily associated with Latino’s (see Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Disney’s Oliver). Who could forget that lovely little Taco Bell dog. In fact almost every time you see a Chihuahua in the media, one can almost be certain that there will be a connection between it and Latino’s
With the rise in Islamophobia, camel jockey became a very popular slur. Often this terms competes with sand nigger, for the most derogatory term to refer to people from the Middle East.
When the largely white run animal rights groups approach people of color for support, is it any wonder that we bristle when we are once again told that we are just like animals. Whiteness can afford such a comparison because it is still the dominant and the norm. It is not reduced by such a comparison because its power has become socially entrenched and its humanity validated.
Like any other social organization, these animal rights groups are largely White run and this leads to a form of myopia in organizing. They cannot readily see the connection between race and animal rights or why certain phrases may be offensive to people of color. They may scream biology until the end of time but we remember when such comparisons were used to justify slavery, rape, and segregation. For as long as my skin is Black I will be a devoted speciesist. My dignity and humanity demand no less.