Someone finally -- finally! -- has drawn the obvious correlation between NFL quarterback Michael Vick's killing of animals in an illegal dog-fighting ring and the monstrous injustices committed against blacks during slavery and the civil rights movement.
What's hardly surprising is who's making the connection -- Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC's go-to gal for all things racial, appearing last night on "The Rachel Maddow Show" with guest host Bill Wolff to discuss President Obama praising the Philadelphia Eagles for giving Vick a second chance after serving time in prison and Tucker Carlson saying on Fox News that Vick should have been executed.
Harris-Perry, as is her wont, sought to put matters in historical perspective (video after page break) --
We want to be really careful here, but also try to recognize that there's some complex issues at stake whenever you're talking simultaneously about African-Americans and talking about issues of animal rights. And it may not seem like those two things have anything to do with each other, but in fact historically, questions about the humanity of black people and the relative importance of the life of animals, have in fact been deeply connected.
Look, the fact is in this country, our horror about the treatment of animals is pretty restricted to a particular set of animals. In other words, we're not really all that horrified about the, you know, animals that we kill to wear on our backs or the ones that we, you know, do horrible things to before we slaughter them for our food source. But animals that are supposed to be our domestic pets are, you know, they're almost like a fetish. We really love them and we see them as innocent and as without, as without any kind of sin. So anyone who would do something bad to those kinds of animals is considered sort of beyond the pale of human action.
But remember that in this country one of the ways that black people were enslaved, one of the ways that segregation and other civil rights violations were allowed is that black people were equated to animals. They were called apes or chattel or beasts of burden. And remember also that during the civil rights movement and even during slavery, dogs were often used directly against black people. And so there is a weird kind of interconnection and anxiety when you start talking about, simultaneously, issues about race, and often when you're talking about black athletes and in this case also a black president, and then animal rights. And so there's a lot of emotions that, and old historical stuff, that comes up.
In other words, Vick's abuse of animals and the controversy that followed are further tragic legacies from slavery, segregation and the backlash against civil rights for blacks. Why not say so instead of euphemizing with banalities such as "weird kind of interconnection"?