Aph Ko had the pleasure of interviewing Clifton Roberts, the Humane Party Presidential Candidate, about his political perspectives as well as his personal journey into veganism.
BVR: First and foremost, when did you first hear about veganism and why did you decide that it was for you?
CR: I was exposed to the word, Vegan, nearly 20 years ago. I read a book by Marilu Henner (of Taxi fame) which offered sound, logical, and practical benefits of excluding animal secretions from the human diet. Since I had already conceded that the muscles of animals was unnatural to eat, this revelation about animal secretions and fluids made complete sense to me.
The logic and science behind this epiphany collided with my compassion for non-human animals and I immediately realized that the consumption and exploitation of all beings, in any form, was an insult to my own common sense and compassionate view.
BVR: How did your friends and family react when you became vegan?
CR: This is a great question! Naturally, I assumed that those closest to me would quickly embrace a new way of thinking that was based in logic, science, and compassion. I had always been known by my family, friends, and co-workers as a human being very capable of offering 'first thoughts' and new ways of thinking. Since all of the relationships I maintained with both family and friends had evolved into ones that were mutually beneficial, I viewed this healthy, compassionate, and ethical way of life as a way to also enhance the lives of those who I care about...the same exact dynamic that was used in numerous other exchange of ideas leading up to my newfound admiration of veganism.
Unfortunately, this was not the case at all.
Initial reactions clearly illustrated a sense that they were more worried about me than they were understanding and welcoming of this refreshing, ethical, empathetic, and scientific approach to improving their own health and to evolving into an even more compassionate human being.
BVR: How do you think anti-racist issues intersect with non-human animal rights issues today?
CR: They both intersect in a major way.
While most humans have failed to recognize the intersection of racism and species-ism, the Humane Party platform underscores the historical exploitation of non-human animals, who lack the intellectual advantage we enjoy as humans, as a contributory component in our mistreatment of each other, especially of those who encounter inequality, on any level, because of their race, gender, sex, or class. Marlene Narrow, radio host of VeganNation, beautifully articulated this intersection: "When we free the other animals, we free ourselves. All that we force others to experience, we will, eventually experience ourselves. What happens to the least of us, happens to all of us. As we practice discrimination by giving some species rights, while denying those same rights to other species, we experience a society impregnated with injustice & discrimination."
BVR: When did you become interested in the political sphere?
CR: I've always been interested in politics. I minored in political science while attending the University of California at Berkeley and participated in mock Supreme Court sessions where I would play the role of one of the justices in offering consent or dissent positions to a particular historical case. However, it wasn't until 2014 that I admitted to myself that I needed to assume a more influential role in politics to better manage the outcomes that consistently disappoint me year over year. I came across the Humane Party, who's social, economic, and political positions aligned with my own.
I immediately offered to volunteer as an officer.
The Humane Party Board of Directors eventually reached out to me, and because of my decades of corporate/enterprise experience across a multitude of business sectors, asked me to assume the helm as its Chief Executive Officer.
BVR: Could you explain what the Humane Party is to our audience as well as the basic tenets of its political mission? Also, how does the Humane Party differ from other political parties like the Democratic Party and the Green Party?
CR: The Humane Party is the very first political party, in the history of this country, dedicated to protecting the rights of all living beings. This is the most visible (and controversial) difference the Humane Party maintains when compared to any other political party.
Additionally, the Humane Party platform calls for fundamental change on many levels, including:
- the elimination of systems and practices that create profit motives to incarcerate people, as well as engage in war
- eliminating the electoral college
- modernizing freedom-of-information laws which would protect, versus criminalize, whistle-blowers who expose illegal governmental practices
- designing and implementing a comprehensive system to remedy the series of unprovoked acts and consequences of transatlantic human slave trade
- cultivating excellence in education and scholarship by fostering humane education and the passing of the HEARTs Act (Humane Education Advances in Research & Technology)
- defending our air, land, and water resources against on-going contamination and depletion
These are just a few of the issues we confront from a political and social perspective and other political parties that list an environmental component on their platform looks to the Humane Party as a party that leads by example. We are the only political party that recognizes, and publicly touts, the impact animal agriculture has on our planet's resources. Most importantly, all officers and candidates running for public offices sign a notarized oath to live their lives according to humane values. A high bar when it comes to environmental positions and one that is un-approached by any other political party.
BVR: Why did you decide to run for President?
CR: I run, and will continue to do so until I win, because I am a citizen who is fully vested in the direction of his country; and as such, I own, just as much as those currently in power, the management and outcomes of our political, social, and economic discretion.
I run because every four years, we've been promised change. And every four years, those promises have been exchanged. I run because most citizens are naive or unaware that our continued consumption of death and turmoil soils our souls and darkens our conscious; leeches on to our logic and compromises our compassion. I seek the executive office of the United States of America so that our country has a leader who tells the whole truth to every single citizen of the world, not just of this country.
I run because I want to embody the voice of those who possess an unwavering desire to change our country's course and to personify their visions of a nation that leads with intellectual power instead of coercive strength.
As fatherhood has taught me, I run because I want a future full of wonder and promise for the generations to come. I run because I love our planet and I want to protect her from us; and protect us from an unethical, non-practical, and destructive path.
BVR: During this election cycle, the Democratic Party has been making it a point that Black folks should vote for Clinton. The Democratic Party even enlisted the mothers of the movement to amplify the message. Why do you think black folks in particular should vote for you this election cycle?
CR: Earlier, I mentioned my position that the Humane Party is committed to remedying the series of unprovoked acts and consequences of transatlantic human slave trade. This position will, if elected, manifest itself as the Genocide Recognition and Reparations Act (GRRA).
If you couple this with the fact that both of this election cycle's Humane Party candidates for President and Vice-President are black, the question of why vote for us can be supported by data. Black folk can rely on data that substantiates the Humane Party's understanding of the historical conditions that have led to, and continue to contribute towards, modern day inequalities. I'm confident that Black folk will feel a very natural kinship with two candidates who share in their experience as two black people who are fighting for initiatives like the GRRA and who have dedicated their lives to exposing and resolving inequalities on every level.
BVR: Tell us more about your decision to choose Dr. A. Breeze Harper as your Vice Presidential pick. How does her expertise contribute to your political platform?
I asked Dr. A. Breeze Harper to join me as the Vice-Presidential running mate because, as BVR would say, she rocks! I had come to know Dr. Harper as an extremely intelligent, clever, and well-educated human being, known for her extraordinary work in exposing and confronting diversity challenges through community engagement, activism, and scholarship. I had come to know her as a well-respected author, vegan, loving mother, and family woman.
From a campaign perspective, her nearly two decades of work dedicated to exposing socially and culturally constructed categories of discrimination interacted on multiple and simultaneous levels helps the party, as well as America, better understand and come to terms with the foundational elements that have contributed to systematic social inequality.
I was equally impressed with her patience, thought, and consideration during the time I courted her into considering being my running mate. Many people, including myself, couldn't be more thrilled with this partnership.
BVR Fun Question: If you could have a Humane Party National Convention that was televised, what would it look like and how would it differ from the DNC?
This is indeed a fun question! A Humane Party National Convention would be entirely different. It would be a lot more festive and positive. We would not spend, or lend, one second talking about the flaws of other candidates. We all have flaws. Every human being in the world. Rather, we would spend every minute of the convention to highlight the biggest issues facing our country, the solutions our candidate(s) offer, and celebrating the compassionate intelligence and strengths that the members of our party have to lend. And we would encourage the rest of America to consider giving us their vote based on the merits of our accomplishments, the vision for the future, and understanding of the collective.
The world and the citizens of this great country would witness genuine public servants dedicated to their interest versus those of special interest groups. That day is now here with this party, and it shall be the image and spirit of our country in the future!