I recommend Sean Parson’s “Cecil the Lion, White Supremacy, and Speciesism.” Parson is the Interim Editor of the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, and after reading this article, I’m excited to see the next issue of the journal!
I found his writing very thought-provoking, but I’m still figuring out what I agree with. Comment below and let me know what you think!
What I want to argue here is that white supremacy operates differently than does speciesm and as such we need to understand media coverage of the topics will be different. When we use a more critical perspective to look at this debate we realize that the media coverage of Cecil does not show Americans’ love for nonhumans but instead the coverage serves as a way to hide the systemic and structural violence committed to both people of color and nonhumans in our society. In addition, the debate over Cecil shows the dangerous potential for how animal rights can actually support white supremacy.
How white supremacy and speciesism are advanced by the differing media coverage:
Because race and speciesism operate differently the media coverage of the topics looks uneven but in reality they are serving a similar purpose…The anger around the murder of black men and women shows the violence of white supremacy, and is therefore silenced; the celebration of Cecil’s life hides the violence of speciesism, and is therefore yelled from every bullhorn the media has to use. In this way both function similarly in that they hide and avoid conversations around systemic violence.
How a non-human can be protected by the system of white supremacy:
But in some instances, such as with Cecil, a nonhuman can be given certain privileges and rights that make them “almost human” and at that moment the system of white supremacy is used to protect that nonhuman animal.
What to take away from this as activists:
The fact that Cecil gained aspects of white privilege highlights the complex relationship that exists between different systems of oppression. It also points to a dangerous pitfall for activists’ interested Animal liberation: work done to protect certain nonhumans can actually reinforce and support white supremacy. Working to stop the uneven violence of white supremacy must be seen as part of the larger movement to end the enslavement and exploitation of animals and this means not using the system of white supremacy as a short-term way of protecting nonhuman life.