Smiley & West: In the Face of the Vegan Truth
By Amanda Crow, Guest Contributor
Veganism’s infiltration into the rest of the world is exhilarating (Yay! No longer ignored!) and terrifying (Please don’t be mean and dismissive!). More and more it is appearing at times when we least expect.
As a vegan obsessed with current events and alternative independent media, I am a regular listener to the PRI radio program The Smiley & West Show with Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West.
Among many other things, West is a philosopher and professor of theology, and Smiley is an author and long time talk show host. They are tireless activists with a primary focus on nonviolence and poverty. Several posts could be written on these incredible men of color. Their honesty and proliferation of Martin Luther King, Jr. is so rare and beautiful – it’s hard to believe they even exist in this terrible world. I am in awe of their strong voices that do not stray from the truth, especially in the face of public opposition.
What I admire most about them is their ability to critically think and not be afraid to critique and take criticism while always being respectful. This is so important to them that they have a segment called “Taking ‘Em to Task” where listeners can write or call in with grievances, and one per show will be invited on to discuss it. At the top of the most recent show, Tavis announced that this week’s listener was taking them to task because, “If they are against the death penalty for people, then why aren’t they against the death penalty for animals?” (Listen to the segment here.)
Sadly, like so many people, Smiley and West are still ignorant to the cost and detriment animal agriculture has on the environment (minorities being disproportionately affected), climate change, hunger, labor issues and health problems, especially for those less privileged. The underlying theme of MLK’s legacy is nonviolence, and eating animals is violence – at its core and in everything surrounding it. There are so many believers in the principles of nonviolence; why aren’t they all vegan?
Smiley and West’s reaction to the listener’s question was unprecedented. Never in all the episodes I’ve heard has either man been speechless, especially from a listener’s challenge. West immediately told the listener, a vegan gardener from California, that he knew many wonderful va-gans (ok – I found it kinda cute when they both said it like that repeatedly, but only because of what else they said) like socially-conscious artists Erykah Badu and Common. Smiley could only say that there is a difference between the truth and the journey to the truth and that they were on their journey.
Wha wha wha?? That is NOT what I expected. It really shows me the depth of their convictions because in the face of the truth, they could not say anything. Any justification would be a lie. They even had time to prepare for this segment, so it says a ton that they were still without words.
I was so relieved and excited by the outcome of this discussion. I would have been crushed if Smiley and West were dismissive or gave the same awful excuses that we’ve heard from others. If these true purveyors of peace and nonviolence are on their way to veganism, then we are on our way to a vegan world.
Photo credits: KCTS 9 and jystewart