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An Apology for Harm Done

On Saturday evening, February 21, Works In Progress was contacted via Facebook by Steffany Brown. Her message, regarding a graphic comparing this nation’s use of animals to the enslavement of Blacks in the January 2016 issue, is as follows:

“As a black vegan and resident of Olympia, I would really like an explanation as to why you all felt it appropriate to publish this image by a white woman comparing black people to nonhuman animals, as if we still have not been compared to animals enough.

“Usually my people are compared to animals when police justify shooting us, imprisoning us, when the media compares our athletes to animals, when our impoverished communities revolt, etc., so I’m curious why a “progressive” media outlet found this in any way acceptable.”

Upon reflection, we agree. It was inappropriate.

This is what we have come to understand:

Though not all of us are vegan, or even vegetarian, we all believe that animals must be treated in an ethical and humane manner; however, in advocating for the rights of animals, we now realize that the methods used must not include co-opting the experiences of another oppressed group as an analogy. Those advocating for animal rights, including Works In Progress, must take into consideration how their words, images, or comparisons affect others, in this case, the African-American community.  How can we possibly be effective in combating injustice, any injustice, when we trample on the sensitivities and emotions of others, especially those who still deal with oppression on a daily basis?

We, in Works In Progress, deeply regret the harm and insult our actions have caused, and we are grateful to Ms. Brown for  her decision to challenge us.


  1. Steffany Brown March 8, 2016

    Thank you for this thoughtful response and accountability.

  2. Brian L. March 8, 2016

    Harm done is harm done regardless of intent, but after reading the article that went with the art piece I got the impression that the artist wants equality for all beings and would have used white slaves if she had known that black people were going to look at the piece and see that she was comparing them to animals.

    It seemed to me that the artist point was “these are not completely unalike systems where one is seen as moral abhorrent and the other is the status quo”, which I found interesting because previously I had never thought to apply the literal definition of slavery to anything besides what we all know it as.

    I don’t agree with matter-of-factly stating that the artist and white vegans co-opted the oppression of black people to push their own vegan agenda. I’d argued the artist was comparing the concepts between human slavery and animal slavery conceptually separate from race, although presented it in a culturally insensitive way by choosing black slaves/cotton as visual motifs.

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