Dear white people...
It happened overnight. I went to bed, and woke up vegan. I didn’t really know what happened to animals in farms. But considering the amount of information available, it was MY choice — until I came across a documentary that showed male chickens thrown into a grinder just because they can’t lay eggs. As someone who believes that all animals have the same rights, I could not unsee that.
What hasn’t happened overnight in my life is racism. On May 25, 2020, personified by a white cop, racism murdered African American George Floyd. The cop knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying face down. People who look like me are brutalized by the police every day, but apparently white people manage to unsee it.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison once said, “My feeling is that white people have a very, very serious problem. And they should start thinking about what they can do about it. Take me out of it.” Her words couldn’t be any clearer. White people created racism, so it’s your responsibility to use your privilege to combat it.
We black people have been treated by racist policies like hunters treat animals: we’ve been shot — while jogging, sleeping, eating, driving — and whites choose to unsee it. White friends have told me to not suffer with the news. To them, it’s news. To me, it’s reality. Whites have the ability to detach. I can’t. That neck could be mine. So if you care about the blacks around you, you’d better have these uncomfortable conversations.
INACTION IS RACISM
Empathizing with black people’s sufferings, having black friends, dating black people and hiring black professionals mean nothing if you condone systemic racism. The book "How to be an antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi states there’s no neutrality when it comes to racism.
If you don’t work fiercely to fight your white privilege and prefer to benefit from a system built to oppress people like me, you’re being racist. You don’t need to actively support racist policies to be a racist. Racism is so insidious that inaction is enough.
TWICE AS GOOD
The hunting also happens in the shadows. Most black people work to be “twice as good” as whites, so we can have something close to equal opportunities in our personal and professional lives. Fluency in three languages plus two decades in journalism and corporate communications haven’t prevented my resume from being at the bottom of the pile. Most of my education and work experience were gained in South America. I’m not seen as relevant as you are.
How would you feel if you’d been told by an instructor that you’re wasting your money because you don’t write well despite your As? Or invited to a job interview, and noticed the disappointment in the recruiters’ faces when they saw you’re white? Or when they rushed the interview hoping the next candidate was a black person with your skills? Have you ever been hired by an organization that wanted a diverse team, but never heard you, trusted you or respected you? Have you ever brought crucial issues to the ones in power, and met patronizing and condescending responses? Have you ever had your hair touched because you’re “exotic?” Have you ever been cooked food from a country whose population has the colour of your skin because they think it’s all the same?
Much like educating yourself on the reasons to go vegan, you have a unique opportunity to understand systemic racism and learn how to combat it so we can create a world that is better for everyone. As for me, I recently heard that an obstacle to antiracist policies is that people in power don’t want to share the cake. Well, I love cake, and never give up my slice.
Originally published by Canadian Vegan Magazine.