Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Question November 27, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noemi M @ 3:22 pm
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question: You’re going to a meeting/event or small gathering where there might be or might not be other vegans/vegetarians there. In their flyer they say they’ll have food. Do you email and ask if it will be veg. friendly? Would your answer change if it was a community organizing or activists geared meeting/event?
In the events I organize with the community group CAFE Revolucion (Community Activists for Equality) , we always offer veg. food because everyone can enjoy it. If we have something that might have milk or cheese, it’s clearly labeled non-vegan on the outside.

 

two links

Via the Veg Blog, here’s an article from Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (ugh, why take a PETA-like name?) on why the Heifer Project is a bad idea. It’s not just about the environmental toll of meat, and the inefficiency of meat-based agriculture in addressing hunger, but also about the fact that many people of color (such as those in countries the Heifer Project focuses on) are lactose-intolerant. So pushing dairy cows on them is a stupid thing to do.

Neva Vegan writes here about the cognitive dissonance among omnivores who are appalled at animal sacrifices in religions like Santeria (& you know a lot of that horror is racially tinged), yet think it’s absolutely fine to kill animals for dinner.

 

Colonial mentality in US-based activists? Say it ain’t so! November 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:38 am
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EasyVegan.info has posted some recent calls to action from Kinship Circle. They were apparently sent out to Kinship Circle’s e-mail list with the subject “One Country’s Companion Is Another’s Cuisine.”

That’s a very true statement, but my heart sank nevertheless as I looked at some of the alerts. Headlines include No More Dogs for Dinner in the Philippines and Outlaw Korean Dog/Cat Meat Trade For Good.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think people should be eating dogs or cats, just as I don’t think they should be eating cows, sheep, pigs, or chickens. But there’s a long tradition of the United States, & the West in general, telling other countries (hint: the non-white ones; sometimes they’re referred to as “the developing world” or the “global south” or “the third world”) what to do — and colonialism & imperialism are hardly things of the past.

Given this background, I find it highly, highly troubling that organizations like Kinship Circle are encouraging people in the US to write to the governments of Korea & the Philippines condemning their cat/dog meat trade. It certainly isn’t going to win the animal rights movement any friends over there. Like the Philippines hasn’t had enough with hundreds of years of colonialism (first from Spain, then from the US) that it is still scarred by today? Do they really need — or want — more Americans telling them what to do? Do United States-based animal rights activists think that this is going to be received warmly? Oh, thank you for enlightening your little brown brothers! I don’t think so.

I find it disturbing for the same reason I am wary of how feminists here respond to the issue of female genital mutilation: feminists in the US rightfully condemn this action. But swarming into African countries where this is still custom, with the attitude (conscious or not) that you’re going to save your slightly backwards sisters from their barbaric cultures? Not productive. Not helpful.

And in the case of eating animals, it’s not like we’ve made such amazing progress trying to get folks in our own country to stop, which I think makes it even more obnoxious that we’re being encouraged to lecture other countries about this nasty habit. (Not to mention I really, really hate the whole dogeaters thing.)

So what should United States animal rights activists with a yen to become involved internationally do? How about connecting with local animal rights activists abroad & listening to them, learning from them & trusting in their knowledge of, & experience with, their culture? And letting them take the lead in their own countries? That’d be a good start.

ETA: I just noticed that, in an article that Kinship Circle sent out along with the action alerts, they say: “In 2007, Koreans and Filipinos acknowledged global opposition to dog meat with rules to Westernize their dog-eating ways.” (Emphasis mine) WOW. Well, at least you’re clear about the intentions you have, huh? Not just to quit with the dog-eating but to Westernize, which is a hardly-veiled way to say “colonize.”

 

News Flash: “Miso” Is Not a Subject/Verb Combo! November 25, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:40 pm
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Am I the only one who detests those “miso” t-shirts? You know — the ones that proclaim, “Miso Happy” or “Miso Vegan”? Weak puns based on the supposed inability of Asians to speak English (& which hearken back to Full Metal Jacket & 2 Live Crew)? Give me a break.

Here are a couple shirts I like a lot better from Blacklava: I Speak English & I Will Not Love You Long Time. Take that.

ETA (5/18/08 ): I am clueless, but it took me a while to realize perhaps some of this post could be misconstrued. I am, by no means, in the English Only camp; what I like about the “I Speak English” shirt is that it addresses the presumption that any Asian –or often other POCs too — is a foreigner & couldn’t possibly speak English or be born here. In hindsight I can see that the shirt without context might well be misread though. And I certainly did not mean to imply I believed English speakers were superior; apologies if anyone thought that!

 

Fair Trade & Eastern Allure in England November 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:40 am
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Last week I spent in England — my partner is contemplating grad school there, so we went to visit some campuses. I myself spent some time at university in York, & it was wonderful to be back there after 10 (!) years.

In Sheffield, we ate at the Blue Moon Cafe, where I was delighted to find vegan pasties. I used to grab pasties on the run all the time when I lived in York, & one of the things that made me sad about returning as a vegan was anticipating not being able to indulge. I guess pasties count as English ethnic food, huh? I meant to take a picture of my glorious pasty, but was too busy eating it, alas.

One thing I noticed when we were there was that some veg*n restaurants do the same thing they do over here: pour on the “mystical Eastern” stuff. Like Cafe Maitreya (whose food is amazing, don’t get me wrong; they weren’t twice-named the best veg restaurant in the UK for nothing), whose name is apparently Sanskrit for “universal love” or “loving kindness.” Now, thematically, that makes sense for a veg restaurant (although really, it’s not like vegetarianism is actually cruelty-free either). But what’s w/the fetish for “Eastern”/Asian/”Oriental” naming? Especially when, in many cases, the owners & patrons of veg restaurants are white? But even if they’re not, what does it mean that the mysterious East gets trotted out as something that’s going to pull in the customers (extra-suspicious when the cuisine isn’t even particularly Asian)?

I’ve read a lot of reviews of Hangawi here in New York, for example, that rave about how going there is like being transported into a Korean temple, & it’s all so enticingly exotic. Now Hangawi does serve Korean food, & I’m guessing it’s owned by Koreans (but I don’t know) — & yes, the calm, beautiful atmosphere definitely serves to highlight the wonderful food. It’s still creepy to see folks drooling over how it’s just like taking a trip to Asia, but you’re right in NYC! (subtext: & you can return to your comfortable American lifestyle immediately afterwards, without experiencing any of the hassles of actually traveling to those weirdo countries.)

Returning to a positive note, there was fair trade stuff everywhere in England. Okay, we stayed in two veg B&Bs, & so it’s perhaps not surprising there, although the non-veg B&B also had fair trade coffee & tea in the room. But we kept seeing cafes that had fair trade drinks, saw shops frequently that sold fair trade goods (I was able to get vegan fair trade truffles in a mall in the Bristol city center!), & on the York campus, the student cafeterias appeared to have lots of fair trade stuff as well.

Breeze Harper wrote recently (also here, near the end) about how important fair trade is, & how vegans drooling over vegan chocolate need to step up & demand fair trade goods as well. It is encouraging that this appears to be happening over there. I’ve heard that the UK not only has more vegans per capita than the US, but more vegans, period — which if true, is astounding given the population difference. I’ll have to dig up a cite behind that, but anyway, I’m hoping that this is a sign that perhaps vegans there are starting more broadly to understand multiple -isms. (Not that avowed “anti-racists” can’t be screwed up on race, too, of course…)

 

admin note November 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 4:10 pm
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First of all, welcome to the fabulous Noemi, whose first post is directly below this one. Thanks for joining this blog!

Secondly, tomorrow night I’m going away for the week, & will probably not have a ton of Internet access, which means that things like comment approval etc. might take a little bit more time. But hopefully my trip will fill me with inspiration for lots of things to post about!

 

¡Se me chispotió!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noemi M @ 1:34 pm
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more lessons-”can vegans eat mexican food?”


oh oh poor me and those pesky mexican restaurants …

I mean, come on. Taco bell?

ta ta ta ta…

Come on. Dios mio

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

*cross posted on my own blog

**This post brought to you by El Chavo Del Ocho.

*** ta ta ta ta is what one character (Profesor Jirafales) would say when he got angry and left speechless.

 

Dolphin slaughter = Pearl Harbor? November 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:10 pm
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Eric at An Animal-Friendly Life posted recently about Hayden Panettiere’s direct action against the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

His post included a photo of a protest he attended last year, which he wrote up in this post. The photo shows a banner (which, to his credit, Eric says he didn’t like) that says “1941 Pearl Harbor” and “2006 Dolphin SLAUGHTER” with a Japanese flag in the middle.

Pearl Harbor. Dolphin slaughter. I think that’s a really irresponsible comparison, & no, not out of speciesism — not because I think Pearl Harbor is more serious because it involved the deaths of humans (which I’m sure is the objection many people will make). No, I think it’s problematic because it is racially inflammatory. Remember what happened after Pearl Harbor (or maybe you never learned about it in school — I know I never did)? You know, the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans? Because, as they said, a Jap’s a Jap. Japanese people will always be loyal to the emperor & can never be true Americans, no matter if they were born here, had ever been to Japan, spoke Japanese, etc. Seize their property & lock ‘em up! (German Americans & Italian Americans did not receive the same treatment — sauerkraut got renamed “liberty cabbage,” but there were no internment camps.)

Think those sort of sentiments died off after World War II? Think again. I remember when that Pearl Harbor movie came out a few years ago; I took a look on some mainstream movie message boards & saw an astounding number of people spouting the same racial hatred: Japanese (like all us inscrutable Asians, let’s not forget) are perpetually foreign, Other, of dubious loyalty. And they’re sneaky — why else would they have done something like Pearl Harbor? So of course they deserved to get nuked, right?

Back to the banner — sneaky Japs are killing dolphins? Is that the message we’re supposed to get? What purpose is served by fanning the flames of this race hate? I also just don’t think the banner’s logic is effective: it seems to imply that killing dolphins, like Pearl Harbor, is an affront to the United States, & is something that the US would never engage in. Because animal slaughter never happens here, right?

What does rhetoric like the banner do for the dolphins? I’m not sure, but I can tell you this: ever wonder why there aren’t more people of color in the animal rights movement? Tactics like this are part of the reason why.

 

Do I look like a dogeater to you? November 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:00 am
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When I first saw the dog on a plate shirt, I thought it was clever. The text says, “Why not? You eat other animals, don’t you?” To me, that’s a fairly reasonable & succinct way to point up how subjective this society’s view on animals is: some of them we think are cute, so we keep them as part of our family. Some of them we don’t think are cute, so we feel okay about eating them. It’s not logical at all.

Other societies revere & revile different animals: cows in India, for example, have a different status than cows here. And, you know, there’s that whole Asians as dogeaters thing.

I’m not denying that some Asians, at some times, have eaten dogs. What gets me is how pernicious the stereotype is — all Asians as savage dogeaters! They’re eating Fido & Fluffy, what barbarians! — & how it ignores the fact that Western society has its own subjective values about what animals are, for some reason, okay to kill. And it plays into the whole idea of Asians as mysterious, dangerous, & very Not Like Us.

The other day I was looking at vegan shirts online & saw this shirt again. I imagined myself wearing it… & wondered what people would think, seeing an Asian woman wearing a shirt with a dog on a plate, with the most visible text reading, “Why not?”

I decided to pass on the shirt.

(Mind you, as a mixed-race person I get identified incorrectly a lot — but that, & the issue of why people feel they have the right to stand around in public & try & guess “what” I am, is another post for another blog…)

 

Exotic to whom? November 3, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:18 am
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A few years ago, there was an article in a veg magazine that was called “Exotic Produce 101.” I think it was meant to be part of a series; anyway, the one I saw focused on Asian produce. Apparently, “[f]or your family and friends, [Asian] greens are exotic enough to be interesting but familiar enough not to be scary.”

Let’s unpack the assumptions in that sentence. First of all, the assumption that whoever is reading this is unfamiliar with Asian vegetables — & thus is probably not Asian. Second of all, that “exotic” equals “interesting.” And also, that while “exotic” is good, too exotic is bad, Other, frightening.

Now I know that vegans pride themselves on the wide variety of food they cook & eat. Me too; I’ve long thought that veg*ns (especially vegans) eat a more varied diet than omnivores. And I like to learn about new cuisines to try too. But sometimes it starts to feel a little colonial, a little imperialist, you know what I mean? Calling the article “Produce from Around the World,” for example, would’ve been a lot less loaded than “Exotic Produce 101.” If we are what we eat, what does this imply for folks for whom this “exotic” produce is normal? Are we exotic & exciting & Other, too? Are we to be coveted for our ability to spice up your (white) life? (Oh yeah, I forgot: that’s how it works. Gwen Stefani wearing a bindi = cool. People who wear bindis because it is part of their cultural background & tradition are “too ethnic” & get targeted by people like the Dotbusters gang.)

Related to this, I mentioned online that one thing I wish I could find a really good vegan substitute for was bi bim bap — the vegetarian kind that has a fried egg in it. A few people mentioned that they had no idea what food I was even talking about. Okay, I’m not Korean, but I am Asian, & I have friends who are Korean & w/whom I’ve eaten bi bim bap. For me, it’s part of my cultural experience of being Asian. I could’ve substituted in pancit or lumpia from my own cultural tradition (both of which are easier to veganize, but let’s just use that as an example) & probably would’ve received the same bewilderment. Sure, there are probably lots of vegans who know what all these foods are (some of them are probably even Asian too). But because the only response I received was puzzlement, I feel safe assuming that there are many vegans who don’t. It felt kind of lonely. If I had said, “I want a really convincing mac & cheese recipe!” I don’t think anyone in the thread would’ve had trouble understanding what I was looking for.

Oyceter writes here about common & hidden cultural knowledge (Coffeeandink has a round-up of responses here). She says:

Your holidays, the ones that you travel miles away to celebrate, are always the ones people forget about. Your history, the one where you trace back where your ancestors came from, is never taught in class. You have to explain what you’re eating. You have to sit there and feel dumb that you don’t get a reference when everyone else in the room does, or face their disbelief when you say that you don’t get it. But when you mention something from your culture, everyone shuts up and doesn’t know what to say, since they don’t know what it is.

It’s not people denying you a job or refusing a loan, but it’s still isolating and painful. And it can be a little thing, like a non-knitter sitting with knitters. But the non-knitter can go back to non-knitter society pretty darn fast (ha! darn! get it? ok-i’ll-go-away-now).

Yeah. Vegans feel alienated from mainstream society a lot. And some vegans feel further alienated by vegan society, y’know?

 

 
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