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Aph Ko Explains How Animal Oppression and Black Oppression Are Related


Do you include an analysis of animal oppression or speciesism in your anti-racist work? Should we make justice for animals a central principle of Black Lives Matter movement? Aph Ko and Syl of Aphro-ism and Black Vegans Rock think so. In fact, from their perspective, it’s imperative that we do. As far these two black vegan powerhouses are concerned, anti-speciesism does not function apart from anti-racist activism. And your intellectual toolkit is incomplete without a radical re-imagination of “the animal.”

Related: 5 Black Vegan Women You Should Know

Aph Ko and Syl’s analysis come at a moment when there is still a lively debate being waged within activist spaces about how exactly speciesism and racism should be “linked” together. Forgive me Syl. That is, where is the line between appropriate and inappropriate methods of identification?

One writer, in fact, believes that there is a “moral limit” to equivocating speciesism with racism, and making use of black peoples’ oppression to legitimize animal activism:

No matter how strongly you feel about the rights of animals, it’s still so wrong to use images of other people’s slavery to make your point. This isn’t because it’s offensive to compare a human to a cow – the whole point of veganism is that animals are equal to humans, after all – but it’s hugely offensive and insensitive to co-opt another group’s history of brutal oppression.

Over at their site, the duo is not only working to nudge activists, thinkers, and scholars of color to expand their analytical horizons by embracing an evolved understanding of “the animal” in the human condition. They’re innovating new theoretical tools to help us do it. These tools in turn are applied to help address a range of concerns, including the issue of co-optation disussed above.

They’re also using digital media to get the message out in case you “zoned out” while reading the heavy duty theory in their articles. We’ve got one here and you should watch it. And when you’re done, watch it again. You know, in case you missed something.


Let us know what you think below. Oh, and head over to Aphro-ism for more.

For the full transcript of the video, click here.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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