ACE unequivocally supports racial justice and is firmly in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter uprising currently happening across the globe.
Anti-Black racism1 is deeply embedded in the U.S. and much of society. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, and Philando Castile at the hands of the police are evidence of this ingrained racism; the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Trayvon Martin, and James Scurlock at the hands of others acting as police underscore this point.2
As a leader in the effective animal advocacy movement, it is our duty to speak up in support of antiracist efforts. Even more, it is our duty to listen. Last week we paused our online activities—including making our own statement—to actively listen to the voices of those who are most impacted by structural racism. As approximately two weeks have now passed since the uprising began, we want to now make clear our position on this event and address why ACE considers racial justice such an important internal and external value.
Why Antiracism Is Important for the Effective Animal Advocacy Movement
ACE supports the Black Lives Matter movement, acknowledging that justice is not a zero-sum game; i.e., progress in one area doesn’t take away from progress in another area.3 More specifically, progress we attempt to make toward racial justice does not compromise the progress we are committed to making for animals.
Not only do those efforts not compromise each other, they may even complement each other. In Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters, decolonial theorists Aph and Syl Ko eloquently argue that the oppression of nonhuman animals is inextricably linked to the oppression of human animals in that they have the same root causes of white supremacy and patriarchy. If the root causes of racism and speciesism are the same, then we may be able to make even more positive impact by addressing both issues simultaneously.
The effectiveness of our animal advocacy also depends on the people who make up the movement. If we are not actively antiracist, we are not able to adequately support our activists who are Black, Indigenous, or of the global majority.4 Being antiracist helps us attract and retain talented people who bring much-needed perspectives to the table and who otherwise may feel unwelcome or burn out because of the explicit and implicit racism they face.
Finally, just as we have determined that nonhuman animals are worthy of moral consideration, so too are human animals. No individual’s moral status should be determined by their race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or preferences, age, ability, national origin, citizenship, or any other such feature.
Upholding antiracism is crucial in embodying our ethics as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of our movement.
Areas for Growth at ACE
Being antiracist includes taking a critical look at how our own organization reinforces white supremacy. (If these words make you uncomfortable, we highly suggest reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.) For example, the decisions we make on what groups in the movement receive financial support (via our charity recommendations, Effective Animal Advocacy Fund, and Animal Advocacy Research Fund) are made by a majority white team and supported by a majority white board. We’re aware this may implicitly bias us against certain initiatives and approaches that have valuable outcomes.
What We Are Doing
Antiracism requires much more than words; rather, it requires a “radical reorientation of our consciousness” as well as practical implementation. While ACE is a work in progress, we have made a concerted effort to weave representation, equity, and inclusion throughout our work, especially over the last nine months.
Our tangible actions include improving our performance evaluation process to minimize implicit bias, increasing our benefits such as paid time-off, making our benefits consistent across geographies, and balancing socio-economic variables when determining compensation. (The latter is an ongoing discussion as we develop a thoughtful new compensation program.)
We rewrote our anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy, now called our Respect in the Workplace Policy, from scratch to make it as protective of our employees as possible. We also developed an accompanying Code of Conduct to further improve people’s comfort and safety.
In addition, we have extensively discussed the concepts of calling-in and calling-out, formalizing our community agreements on our Intranet and socializing them among our staff. We have a required-reading Slack channel dedicated to our culture in which we regularly post readings about racial justice and which is active with raw and honest conversation.
At our last staff retreat in March, we held space for a three-hour discussion on how ACE can more meaningfully incorporate the tenets of representation, equity, and inclusion in our core programs: our charity evaluations, grant-making, and research.
For example, we have funded scholars and nonprofits working toward racial and food justice such as Christopher Sebastian McJetters, Thrive Baltimore, Black VegFest, Encompass, and Food Empowerment Project through our Effective Animal Advocacy Fund and continue to encourage other organizations with a justice orientation to apply for our current round of funding, which is open until June 18.
We also encourage advocates who are Black, Indigeneous, or of the global majority to consider applying for our current opening for a Philanthropy Officer.
What We Can Do as a Community
- Learn from and support Black vegans. In addition to the aforementioned names, check out Vegan Voices of Color, Afro-Vegan Society, Omowale Adewale, A. Breeze Harper, Aph Ko, Syl Ko, and Black Vegans Rock.
- Learn more about racism and how it manifests. These antiracism resources for white people (especially Ibram X. Kendi’s seminal work How to Be an Antiracist) and these additional resources compiled by Encompass5 are a great place to start.
- Speak up against racism in animal advocacy. Speak up when you see racist remarks in the Effective Altruism Forum, Effective Animal Advocacy Facebook groups, or other social media platforms and online communities. Racist remarks are not always overt; they can be subtle, appearing in the form of microaggressions. Remember that impact matters more than intent and silence favors the oppressor, never the oppressed.
- Learn from and support initiatives that work to improve your country’s justice system. For example, see the grants by Open Philanthropy Project on U.S. criminal justice reform or the specific recommendations by Chloe Cockburn, Program Officer of this focus area at Open Philanthropy.
- Be self-reflective about growth opportunities related to representation, equity, and inclusion within the institutions and organizations of which you are already a part. Encompass and A. Breeze Harper both offer systems-level strategic consulting for organizations in the animal advocacy movement. Be mindful that working toward racial equity is an ongoing process of engagement; one-off training sessions are not enough.6
- Consider joining and supporting antiracist initiatives in your local community. For example, consider signing up for Black VegFest’s platform for white vegan allies and commit to their Seven Points of Allyship.
ACE is grateful for all those working to create a more equitable society for humans and nonhuman animals. Social movements are strongest when they work together and support one another.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “[m]oreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
ACE endorses Encompass’ statement on the uprising and encourages animal advocates to read it.
According to Encompass, “[b]ased on extensive research, trainings without additional, more substantive efforts, can backfire and hurt marginalized groups. They can also have the opposite intended reaction and actually promote racial prejudice and bias. The culture and tone of an organization is set at the top, so Encompass starts at the leadership level to ensure these concepts are inculcated before working at the staff level.”