From the parrot-dealing pet shop right down to the parrot keeper and their family, let's face it: the parrot community is overwhelmingly white. Even if you take the position that this is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, you have to admit it does create some problems.
For one, having few people of color involved in parrot care and advocacy means that the crucial perspectives of these groups are often left out of important conversations about how to best care for our feathered friends. Our pets need access to the types of humans who have the most empathy and are best equipped to understand marginalization and abuse.
There are many ways to address these issues, so much so that when we fielded ideas on parrot keeping diversity, we came up with this list. Here are 8 ways we can increase inclusion of people of color in the parrot keeping hobby.
#1. Advocate for more diversity in your social media feeds
When it comes to parrots, mainstream media typically perpetuates harmful stereotypes about them as “wild” and “exotic” creatures that are only suitable as pets for rich and "responsible" white people. This needs to change, and you can help by calling out racist or offensive portrayals of parrot keeping whenever you see them.
One easy way to minimize media harm and diversify the parrot community at the same time is by following people of color on social media who are involved in avian care and advocacy. Additionally, seek out movies, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment that feature bird keepers of color in a positive light, and share these resources with your friends and family members. Save any articles, images, and media featuring parrot keepers of color, so that they can be reposted on a regular basis to an otherwise unbearably white social media feed.
Making a commitment to this undoing of media stereotypes will help ensure that a wider range of voices and perspectives are being represented in the conversation about how to best care for our feathered friends.
#2. Connect with local bird clubs and remind them about the need for diversity
There are likely bird clubs in your area that would proactively welcome new members of color from all walks of life if you reach out remind them about our lack of diversity. Joining one of these groups is a great way to meet other parrot enthusiasts and learn more about responsible caretaking practices, and they would function as a great support network for pet keeping folks of color who historically haven't had a lot of experience in this field.
#3. Seek out and volunteer for bird charity groups committed to social justice
Animal shelters and rescue centers typically have a need for volunteers, and working with them is opportunity to get involved in avian care while also giving back to your community. Working with animals who have been abandoned or abused can be incredibly rewarding, and you’ll gain valuable experience caring for our feathered friends if you decide you want to adopt one yourself down the road.
Also, if you'd like to do a bit of travel, there are several amazing parrot sanctuaries around the world that prioritize environmental conservation and social justice work in their mission statements. Visiting one of these places is a great way to learn more about responsible avian caretaking while also supporting an organization that’s working to make the world a better place for all creatures, human and nonhuman alike.
Working with and learning from charitable groups can help white people build up empathy levels to the point where inclusion and diversity can be achieved -- even in the overwhelmingly white parrot keeping world.
#4. Educate yourself on avian diversity & conservation issues affecting people of color globally
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about birds online, which often leads to misunderstanding and even fearmongering about our feathered friends. One way to combat this is by learning accurate information about different species of birds from reputable sources like scientific journals or wildlife organizations committed to avian conservation work.
Additionally, take some time to learn about how white humans have impacted wild bird populations around the world through things like habitat destruction or capture for the pet trade industry. Both problems disproportionately affect communities of color globally who are least likely able benefit economically from such exploitation, yet pay dearly when natural ecosystems crumble. Understanding these complex social justice issues will help equip you with knowledge so that you can better advocate for policies that protect birds (and all animals) -- and pet keepers of color -- from future harm.
#5. Create + advocate for mentorship programs for people of color who are interested in adopting a parrot
One way to increase inclusion of people color in the parrot keeping community is by creating and/or advocating for mentorship programs that pair up potential adopters with experienced bird enthusiasts. These relationships could provide much-needed support and guidance for those who are new to avian caretaking, and help ensure that our feathered friends are placed into loving forever homes where they will receive proper care.
Additionally, these types of programs would also be beneficial for children or teens from communities of color who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to interact with birds on a regular basis. Research has shown that interacting with animals can have positive effects on mental health, so providing young people of color with access to avian companionship could potentially do wonders for their overall wellbeing.
#6. Parrots are expensive. Create access to parrot buying funds for people of color
There is no denying that parrots are expensive animals to acquire and keep, and this often puts them out of reach for many people -- especially those from low-income backgrounds or communities of color. One way to increase inclusion in the parrot keeping world would be to create financial assistance programs that help make these pets more affordable for folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford one.
These kinds of initiatives could potentially take the form of scholarship funds, microloans, or even crowdfunding campaigns specifically designed to help cover the costs associated with adopting a feathered friend. Additionally, partnering with local bird rescues or sanctuaries could also provide an opportunity for people of color interested in becoming pet parents access to avian companionship at little-to-no cost. No matter what shape they may take, making it easier for people color to acquire parrots will go a long way towards increasing diversity within our community.
#7. Support PoC-owned pet businesses when buying products & services related your birds' needs (food/cages/vets)
There are many different types of businesses that cater to the needs of pet bird owners, and supporting these companies is a great way to ensure that our feathered friends receive the best possible care. However, it’s important to make sure that you’re spending your money in ways that will also benefit communities of color.
Make an effort buy products and services from PoC-owned businesses whenever possible, as this will help support entrepreneurship within marginalized groups while also ensuring that your birds have everything they need to live happy and healthy lives.
#8. Recognize & denounce harm done by "bird people" who perpetuate racism
Sadly, there are some members of the parrot keeping community who hold racist beliefs or engage in discriminatory behaviors towards people of color -- both online and offline. There are also still bird people who think it's funny to teach parrots racial slurs and hate speech.
It’s important for white folks to call out this harmful behavior whenever we see it happening, as silence can often be interpreted as complicity.
Also take some time educate yourself about how systemic racism manifests within avian caretaking communities so you can better identify problematic attitudes or practices when they occur. Chances are good you'll encounter them at some point if you haven't already.
No one is perfect, but making a commitment learn and do better is crucial if we ever hope increase inclusion diversity within our little part of the greater pet world.
Finally, I would like to add a personal note. If you’re a person of color who experiences racism within the pet or parrot community, please know that you are not alone and that many of us stand with you. Feel free to reach out to us any time at [email protected]. We are actively addressing justice issues with all of our available labor -- so that your Black body can be safe and happy in a hobby that's ultimately all about love, care, and friendship.