Weekly Newsletter from Christian Vegetarian Association CVA - April 4, 2021
From Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Below are two responses critical of my essay from two weeks ago [March 21]. I will offer brief comments in reply, and my subsequent essays will hopefully address many of the concerns they raise.

1. From Mike Nestor

I was disappointed by your essay on "cancel culture" last week on several levels. I was waiting for your follow up essay to see if you had set up a "straw man" argument to knock it down with historical context, but that essay did not materialize so I will address the one you did publish as it seems to have garnered (so far) nothing but positive responses.

First off, you seem to be parroting the US Conservative movement's narrative talking points on "cancel culture," itself an updated version of their early '80s boogeyman "political correctness" narrative which was in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically the affirmative action programs that were set up to correct systemic and historical imbalances. This immediately and uncritically reinforces that conservative white supremacist perspective. A clue here is that you cite no specific instances (save one that I will get to later), just general platitudes ("prevalent at universities"/"CC prohibits articulating" unpopular ideas/"companies... instituted severe penalties for "insensitivity,"" etc - I would love to see actual evidence for this.) You also equate CC with "social media mobs" in your first sentence, which is inaccurate. And when did CC become an "autocratic regime?" This is woeful and misleading hyperbole. You would have been better off to start your essay with a little deeper dive and analysis on what "cancel culture" actually is so everyone is clear on what you mean here.

Here are 2 good essays to start with:

Secondly, the one example you do cite is framed as such: "I recall an article in a major newspaper in which some people have condemned anti-fur activism as racist. They insisted that opposition to fur prevents Blacks from making a fashion statement." You offer this with no citation (another clue of a fairly shallow analysis). I also "recall" this story as I was doing anti-fur demos in the late '90s (which are dodgy at best as they often target women.) Framing it in this way - as "preventing "Blacks (sic) from making a fashion statement" illustrates the very problem in a nutshell. That statement is stereotypical and inaccurate and misses the broader point. The issue with predominantly white people demonstrating against black fur-wearers, rodeos, etc. is the unconscious (perhaps) reinforcement of white supremacy (white people restricting a racialized minority group access to what white people of means historically take for granted.) That is what was racist about the action, not the prevention of a trivialized (by you) "fashion statement." To stand up to these animal abuses takes a nuanced approach, which your "memory" and subsequent essay do not address. For a good resource on how to do this with sensitive issues in the AR movement without reinforcing a white supremacist, colonialist approach (consciously or unconsciously), I recommend the following:

Claire Jean Kim's "Dangerous Crossings:Race, Species, and Nature in a Multicultural Age" which looks at AR issues around the live animal market in San Francisco's Chinatown, the Makah whaling controversy and the Michael Vick dogfighting response by AR activists.

pattrice jones' "The Oxen at the Intersection" about the Green Mountain College in Vermont controversy over their announcement to kill 2 oxen named Bill and Lou and serve them as hamburgers to their students.

I have enjoyed your essays in the past. I particularly loved your work around "scapegoating" and the Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard. I found them illuminating and I cite them often to this day. I hope you do a better job on this topic in your next essay. Thanks for listening.

- Mike Nestor

2. From MN

I am a Christian and a vegan, but now I am considering leaving because I am disappointed in the message of this essay.

It is unfortunate that you see “cancel culture” as hampering your freedom of speech. I am also surprised that you feel comfortable claiming that a minority could be falsely claiming oppression where there is none.

The things being “canceled” so to speak are causing harm to others.

Whether you see or feel the harm being done is irrelevant because it is not being done to you.

We need to trust and lift up those speaking out as victims and hold others accountable for not just their intentions, but also the real life impact of their words, attitudes, and actions.

Just as my Christian beliefs re-enforce my commitment to treating all God’s creatures with care and respect, it is equally important to me to treat all God’s children with care and respect and to treat them as if a member of my own body, since we are all One in the Body of Christ. Jesus called us to care for the least of these...the oppressed.

Instead of being scared of the possible consequences of “cancel culture” we should welcome the accountability and opportunity to continue to grow and learn about minimizing and eliminating harm to all of God‘s beloved...human and animal, even and especially if it does not impact us directly.

Like any other form of activism we will not be truly effective without being intersectional. We will not truly grow if we stay scared of being called out, instead of embracing correction and the possibility of a different point of view. We can never assume we have nothing more to learn.

Thank you for your time.

- MN


I appreciate these thoughtful replies.

I have found open and honest discussions with people I trust to have broadened my horizons and, hopefully, made me a more sensitive and compassionate person. I am concerned about the effects of “cancel culture” on social justice issues about which I am passionate, including animal rights.

Here are two articles regarding opposition by Blacks to a fur ban in New York City:

Here are some of many articles identifying “cancel culture,” and some describe its effect on discouraging discussing controversial topics:

Regarding Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying at Evergreen State University: Fox News (washingtonexaminer.com)

I have a friend in California who is part of a musicians’ Facebook group. During riots that followed the George Floyd killing, a piano store was vandalized and many Steinway pianos were destroyed. (Steinways are among the world’s best pianos.) One person bemoaned these lost works of art. This person was denounced by many list members for worrying about pianos and failing to denounce the killing of Black people by police. Did any fellow musicians defend this person, perhaps on the grounds that society-at-large benefits from art in general and music in particular, perhaps on the grounds that vandalism hurts everyone, or perhaps on the grounds concern about destruction of culture is a legitimate concern, even in trying times? No. Perhaps fearing ostracism and professional death in the insular world of music, the person apologized profusely for the remarks.

Every story can be interpreted in different ways, though each way is not equally reasonable. Perhaps the people described above deserved the consequences they received for their words or actions. Perhaps railing against “cancel culture” is no more than tool by political conservatives to encourage poorer Whites to vote against their economic interests.

So, I ask readers to reflect, whatever you think overall about these issues, would you post on social media arguments against affirmative action, against defunding police, or against the view articulated by Ibram X. Kendi that unequal outcomes among people of different skin color are de facto racist? Would you discuss these topics in a social context among people whose views you did not already know? If you refrain from articulating arguments or data out of fear of social and/or employment consequences, then it would appear that “cancel culture” has silenced your voice. If you have felt free to openly express views that seem to argue against “woke” ideologies, then perhaps some of you will share your stories.

Stephen R. Kaufman, MD

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