Vegans of Color

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

The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl May 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:08 pm
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In the last post, Nadia questioned why some white male vegans harp on their suffering, as vegans, when actually, veganism & animal rights rightfully center the animals.

In response, Dave Warwak (the teacher canned recently for forceful advocacy of veganism to students in his junior high school art class) left this comment, saying in part:

How about we prioritize our time and energy by bashing factory farming instead of bashing our own kind for speaking out against injustice? I am all for pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and part of that is speaking out. Many silent vegans struggle with oppression – we all feel it, but to ponder about “why white guys feel discriminated against” does the animals a great disservice in these extremely urgent times when we could be focusing our energies on real good.

The essence of this comment is that those of us concerned with anything else rather than the suffering of non-human animals are divisive, are weakening the vegan cause, are traitors. And we should just stop complaining & hew to the vegan party line.

It sounds remarkably like white feminists castigating women of color for calling out the racism of mainstream US feminism.

Instead of critiquing white male privilege within vegan circles, let’s go do some “real good,” right? Because heaven knows opposing racism & sexism, especially if we — gasp — critique other vegans, is a time-waster, a distraction from the REAL issues.

We’re being asked to identify as vegans over any other aspect of our identities & our lives. Again, the parallels with the feminist movement are just astounding. Women of color get punished for speaking up about racism in feminism. Vegans of color questioning whitecentric vegans also are penalized for such heretic thoughts. Color me surprised (pun intentional).

Do (white, male) vegans see themselves as my ally automatically when they learn that I, too, am vegan? Do they assume we’re on the same side? (Is it even a conscious thought?) Such vegans divide the world into two parts: people who are vegan, & thus allies, & those who are not vegan.

Some of us don’t have the luxury of seeing things that simply. Some of us will never, ever have the privilege of ignoring, if we want to, the rest of who we are in favor of focusing solely on our diets. Why? Oh yeah, because the world won’t let us. Because being who we are — completely aside from veganism — can be very dangerous sometimes. Some of us are getting raped or fired for being gay or pulled over for Driving While Black or losing our homes due to gentrification or being harassed on the street or getting deported or being tortured or having the franchise taken away from us or struggling to get health care or…

Oh yeah, & how about how race & class affect who has access to affordable vegan food (among, you know, the many ways discussed on this blog that these issues intersect with veg*n ones)? Oh, wait, I’m being divisive again, aren’t I?

Warwak also says, “Veganism is for all animals. ‘All animals’ includes humans.” Yes. Then why should vegans pretend that the only oppression that matters is non-human?

The very idea that one should ignore the impact of markers such as class, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. is completely repugnant. Clearly this viewpoint is steeped in deep, unthinking privilege. It is no secret that a lot of people of color, for instance, are put off animal rights issues because of racism & colonialism in the movement. Women are put off when they see veganism used to encourage women to hate their bodies.

None of these critical issues are going to go away. They are all interconnected. To claim to be able to pull one strand, one lone form of oppression, away from the whole tangle, & to hold it up as the One Thing Worth Fighting For? Naive at best, & damned offensive & dangerous at worst.

And stifling dissent, as Warwak would have us do, is the mark of a cult. That’s no movement I want to be part of, & people who think that way are not my allies.

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39 Responses to “The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl”

  1. Megan Says:

    As Bob Torres said, the minute we stop questioning the movement and people in the movement, etc, is the minute we become a cult (which = lame!).

    Love this post!!! I want to print it out and bring it to the Beyond Patriarchy conference at my university this weekend. :) Very insightful.

  2. [...] The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl « Vegans of Color “It is no secret that a lot of people of color, for instance, are put off animal rights issues because of racism & colonialism in the movement.” (tags: veganism race class) [...]

  3. Katie Says:

    OMG you kick serious ass. This is so on point.

  4. nosnowhere Says:

    his reference to our “own kind” points straight to this. as a white male he can apply any identity of his choosing to his “default” exterior. we’re expected to be able to do the same even though we aren’t operating from the same “default” position?

  5. [...] some great, often brief, posts on topics of interest to all people of color, vegan or not. The most recent post, expanding on previous comments on white, vegan centering of themselves to struggles, is sharp. The [...]

  6. [...] The very idea that one should ignore the impact of markers such as class, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. is completely repugnant. Clearly this viewpoint is steeped in deep, unthinking privilege. It is no secret that a lot of people of color, for instance, are put off animal rights issues because of racism & colonialism in the movement. Women are put off when they see veganism used to encourage women to hate their bodies. None of these critical issues are going to go away. They are all interconnected. To claim to be able to pull one strand, one lone form of oppression, away from the whole tangle, & to hold it up as the One Thing Worth Fighting For? Naive at best, & damned offensive & dangerous at worst. The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl [...]

  7. A Says:

    Amazing, amazing post.

  8. You make some really excellent points. And I think overall your post is great. All of us white people can do a much better job at being inclusive and at looking harder at our own privilege and racism.

    Warwak’s words are a good example. But he himself is not a great example. The poor guy gets the ‘crazy’ stigma bad. He lost his job because of that crazy vegan stigma. So, when he makes the point that vegans are marginalized, he’s talking about his personal experiences.

    And those experiences matter. It really frustrates me that so many vegans won’t stand up for him and his right to speak the truth to his students. Instead, even vegans are saying he’s crazy and preaches too much. Sometimes it’s not always just about the animals. Sometimes it really is about each other. If we just brush off the fact that vegans get fired for being vegan, we’re not doing animals or vegans any good.

    Moreover, I don’t agree with you that veganism is being an ally to animals. I think it’s much more like a religion or an allergy. Being an animal advocate is being an ally, but veganism is the practice of not eating animal products. Some people do it purely for health reasons or because they were raised that way. it’s not the same for them as it is for you. They aren’t animal allies; they’re just vegans.

    When seen as a religion or allergy it’s easier to understand the perspective of people who say they’re maginalized and/or victimized.

    I also think there’s a big difference between people who chose veganism later in life and people who grew up vegetarian/vegan. There are different identity issues there.

  9. johanna Says:

    Heh, thanks everyone. A Beyond Patriarchy conference sounds like good stuff!!

    Elaine —

    Being an animal advocate is being an ally, but veganism is the practice of not eating animal products. Some people do it purely for health reasons or because they were raised that way. it’s not the same for them as it is for you. They aren’t animal allies; they’re just vegans.

    See, to me this is debatable. I’ve seen a lot of people online state that people who don’t eat animal products (for health reasons or whatever) are “total vegetarians,” while people who try to abstain from animal product use throughout their lives are vegan. Would someone who only eats vegan food, but buys new leather sneakers or a fur-trimmed coat, be vegan? From what I have seen & heard, this issue is open to debate but it seems public opinion tends towards using the “total vegetarian” (or “strict vegetarian”)/”vegan” model.

    I’m also not of the opinion that any publicity or any advocacy is good advocacy. I don’t think Warwak got fired for being vegan, I think he got fired b/c the way he chose to present his views to the students was ineffective & disruptive. Having teachers challenge their students’ beliefs is something i think is v. important (in junior high I initially stopped eating veal b/c my English teacher spoke about what goes into veal production). But from everything I’ve read about this situation, it sounds like he did a bad job of it. Sure, he got a lot of press coverage. But I am dubious that the coverage did more good than harm.

    I don’t think PETA’s anything-goes style of vegan advocacy is a good one, & I don’t think Warwak’s is either. Yeah, I think he did get fired for being a “crazy vegan.” I think it can be seen as a lesson on how to win over hearts towards veganism, & how to alienate a whole bunch of people (including other vegans).

  10. Ico Says:

    Just want to chime in with others on how great a post this is. :) Especially this part: “To claim to be able to pull one strand, one lone form of oppression, away from the whole tangle, & to hold it up as the One Thing Worth Fighting For?”

    Word. True for so many movements. Good for you, laying this out about veganism!

  11. johanna, you said: “I think he got fired b/c the way he chose to present his views to the students was ineffective & disruptive. ”

    It wasn’t just his particular methods. It was the content, the idea. Even in NYC where people are pretty educated and open about veganism, I’ve spoken to elementary school teachers who say they can’t even talk about veganism or animal rights without fear of getting written up or fired.

    Here’s an example of what he did: He passed out fliers at a parade. This is a legal activity and is considered free speech. But police intervened and told him he wasn’t allowed to do that. They escorted him home.

    Regardless of whether or not you think he’s effective or disruptive, the truth is, he’s having his basic civil rights infringed upon because he’s an outspoken vegan and animal advocate. That is discrimination.

    You wrote: “I’ve seen a lot of people online state that people who don’t eat animal products (for health reasons or whatever) are “total vegetarians,” while people who try to abstain from animal product use throughout their lives are vegan.”

    Veganism can be thought of as a boycott or a consumer choice or personal lifestyle. It’s a practice that often embodies a philosophy of being an ally for animals, but it’s not actually being an ally. Animal advocacy is being an ally to animals. Advocates write letters, participate in marches, rescue animals…
    I think of it like this: someone who strives not to be bigoted, racist, or discriminatory towards people of color is practicing the philosophy of anti-racism, but they aren’t actually being an ally unless they do something to truly help people of color. Choosing not to engage in oppressive behaviors ones self isn’t true advocacy. It’s just keeping the blood off one’s own hands. Being a vegan by itself doesn’t really help many animals. But being a vegan who also rescues or advocates, now that really helps animals. That’s being an ally.

    I know this analogy is offensive to some, but I’d like to make it to illustrate my point. Would we say that someone who doesn’t own slaves is an ally to enslaved people? No. Even someone who goes around advocating that other people shouldn’t own slaves might not be considered an ally. From the slave’s perspective, only someone who actually works to free them is really an ally.

    I don’t think people who buy fair trade are allies to enslaved workers. They’re just keeping the blood off their own hands and trying to encourage fair trade practices within the system that also encourages unfair trade practices. Likewise, veganism alone, without animal advocacy, is just keeping the blood off one’s own hands. It’s not really being an ally.


    You wrote: “I think he did get fired for being a “crazy vegan.” I think it can be seen as a lesson on how to win over hearts towards veganism, & how to alienate a whole bunch of people (including other vegans).”

    The reason he was fired was because he was actually “winning over hearts towards veganism.” The problem was that the hearts he was winning had parents with different opinions.

    And his actions in the classrooms didn’t alienate other vegans. None of us ever even knew about them until he got fired and got press about that. You’re conflating two separate things: You’re combining 1) the very real discrimination he experienced with 2) his reaction and the publicity afterwards. And by the way, much of that publicity exhibited vegan marginalization, too.

    An example of some of the things Warwak did:

    Warwak said he became disturbed last school year when some students in his class talked about harming animals with guns and knives.

    In a special project, he distributed Peeps, the marshmallow chicks, to students, telling them to keep them safe for three days.

    Warwak took the returned Peeps and put them into an in-school art display showing what people do to animals. Some were in cages, some between slices of bread. A few had their heads mounted like trophies and some were mashed on the grilles of toy trucks.

    The art was up for two days before school officials told Warwak to remove it.

    http://www.theweekextra.com/news/0907/092407veganteacher.html

    To me, that sounds exactly like something an art teacher would and should do. It sounds like his projects were being censored because of their content. It sounds like prejudice and discrimination against vegans.

  12. johanna Says:

    I’m interested in this idea of what does & does not constitute being an ally. I have found that a lot of people are turned off activism because they receive the impression that it involves long, contentious meetings every night & long rallies every weekend (which is also something that not everyone has the time or ability to do). So I like the idea that how we live & behave every day is in itself a form of activism (certainly not the only one, obviously). I would say not eating animals, not participating in the system that sees them as objects for consumption, is certainly ally behavior to the animals.

    How much do vegans have to do, in your view, before they can be considered allies? What about someone who mentions to their friends that they are vegan, & answers questions about it? Is that being an ally, or advocacy, or just conversation? What about someone who serves their friends & family good vegan food, so that they see that being vegan isn’t a life of deprivation? Is that being an ally? Or is that just being a foodie? How do vegans qualify for the title of ally? If it is just stuff like the 3 things you mentioned (writing letters, going on marches, & rescuing animals), there are a lot of people who are shut out of most of ally-hood, then (not everyone can physically go on marches or rescue animals, for example). How disappointing for them.

    I’m also curious about your comment re: people who buy fair trade. Should they not buy fair trade then? What would that do? If I have the choice, & the financial privilege, to either buy sweatshopped clothing or non-sweatshopped clothing, are you saying it doesn’t make a difference which I choose to do? What if a million people made this decision, & chose the fair-trade clothing?

    Money talks in this world. I am unsure how refusing to participate monetarily in a system of exploitation would fail to make some kind of impact (scaled depending on the number of people, natch). I don’t think that’s the end-all, be-all of activism, of course, but I don’t think it’s nothing either.

    You are right in that the bulk of Warwak’s alienation of other vegans happened after his story hit the news. There are ways, & there are ways, to handle media (even unsympathetic media), & I know that I’m not the only vegan who felt that he made a v. poor showing in the media (& in the comments he leaves on blogs — not just this one! — & on message boards… & I don’t find his own website persuasive or even readable). Fighting his termination while stating he won’t come back unless the cafeteria goes all-vegan? I’m sure the school board shrugged & said, “Let’s go find another art teacher, then.” How effective is that? The whole “child endangerment through animal products” thing — sensationalistic, yes, media-attention-grabbing, yes. I would argue it didn’t play out to be an effective tactic, though.

    I agree w/you that handing out literature @ a parade is protected free speech, but telling the students not to tell their parents about all the vegan/AR stuff? Kind of shady. Also, Peeps aren’t vegan…

  13. johanna Says:

    (Oh, & Ico, thanks for your comment!)

    Elaine — one thing I forgot to mention in the previous comment… the fact that he bought copies of The Food Revolution (w/his own money) to give to his students? Honestly, I think I would find that disturbing, were I a parent of one of his students, no matter the subject matter of the book. It just seems v. v. pushy & inappropriate. One of the blog posts I read about this whole thing pointed out that (generally) proselytizing religious people would get a similar reaction in many classrooms. That makes sense to me, & is interesting as well in light of your earlier comment comparing veganism to a religion.

  14. warwak Says:

    Here we go again with all the judgmental vegans who were not even in the room when I was teaching. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? A big lesson that I was teaching the kids and eventually the adults and now you all. Do not believe everything you see, read, and hear. The verdict of my appeal will not even be announced for another month or so, and yet you all know the truth. I never said, “keep it a secret” and yet some people on this board know more than me. The kids chose to keep it a secret because they knew I would be fired.

    I was fired for calling attention to the false commercial advertising in school “Milk Mustache'” posters and incorporated them in a lesson on advertising and how it shapes the morals and values of society. My lesson was only in response to the school’s refusal to even discuss the poster’s message. The Food Revolution was only for those who wanted it and is a non-fiction book that would help students see another viewpoint. Why do all the judgmental vegans come out of the woodwork ready to latch onto any old lies? Lies printed by the meat-eating media.

    As far as this race issue – I am offended as a white person, just as a black person should be offended when they are referred to as “black people” or “black guy” instead of by their name. If you want racism to end, stop referring to others as black or white or vegan for that matter – just call them by their given name. That is why I take offense to all this wasted time typing away because someone calls attention to my white-ness or my vegan-ness. As I said before, spend your time wisely and prioritize your efforts against the biggest evil in our midst – factory farming. Leave this non-racist compassionate white vegan alone

  15. warwak Says:

    And the poster wrote, “The very idea that one should ignore the impact of markers such as class, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. is completely repugnant. Clearly this viewpoint is steeped in deep, unthinking privilege”

    I never said to igore those things. I took offense for being singled out as a white vegan animal rights activist. As if I have no right to feel oppressed.

    Humane education reinforced with a vegan school lunch at an early age would end all types of discrimination. So I prioritize my efforts at the heart of the problem. You may not see that though. Children raised with humane education are respectful people who do not pick or choose as they wish what to be respectful of. They have no choice but to respect everything.

    As far as the rest of your comment, … I think it speaks volumes.

    The things we dislike most in others are often just mirrors of our own demons

  16. Ico Says:

    Warwak,

    Myself, I’m not judging you on your teaching. I don’t know a lot about the circumstances around what happened (I read an article, but I don’t put much stock in anything the media says). I thought the peeps idea sounded really cool, actually. A very creative way to get students thinking about these issues.

    But I do take issue with your comments, both the one Johanna quoted and some stuff you said above. I think she makes a fair point — not just about you specifically, but about all vegans who experience white and/or male privilege and don’t carefully examine the nature of those privileges.

    You wrote: “If you want racism to end, stop referring to others as black or white or vegan for that matter – just call them by their given name. That is why I take offense to all this wasted time typing away because someone calls attention to my white-ness or my vegan-ness.”

    To me, this sounds an awful lot like colorblind rhetoric. It’s like saying, “it doesn’t matter if I’m white, and it doesn’t matter if you’re black.” It *does* matter, because you get treated entirely differently based on your white privilege. And if someone points that out, the appropriate response isn’t to say “why are you starting this infighting instead of focusing on the real problem: the animals.” Because yes, we’re all fighting for animal rights. But we’re all fighting to end other forms of oppression, too. And we shouldn’t use cries for unity as a means of ignoring racism and/or sexism within our own ranks.

    It’s something that has happened a lot in various social movements (esp. in feminism in recent weeks, as Johanna linked above), and it’s important to recognize it so that we can end it. You may not be consciously trying to play into this paradigm, but…

  17. johanna, you wrote: “proselytizing religious people would get a similar reaction in many classrooms. ”

    That’s a matter of debate, likely depending on the state and county. For example, I grew up required to Pledge Allegiance everyday in elementary school even though I was/am non-religious. When I complained, I wasn’t allowed to just sit it out. The “compromise” we reached was that I had to stand and recite everything except “under God.”

    But even if teachers had proselytized to their students about religious matters in a way similar to Warwak’s methods and fired for doing so, the teacher would at least have more legal protections from discrimination than Warwak had. Veganism is not technically a religion, but there are real reasons for treating it as one – both for vegans’ rights and for animals’ rights.

    For example, when McDonald’s lied about using 100% vegetable oil, the religious vegetarians’ cases had the most merit. They won the battle in court. Without them, there would have been no real case. Atheist and agnostic vegans have virtually no recourse from deliberate discrimination against us. Granted, it’s not nearly as bad as discrimination against people of color, but it IS discrimination.

    You wrote: “re: people who buy fair trade. Should they not buy fair trade then? ”

    That’s not what I suggested. I think people should be vegan and buy fair trade.

    I was pointing out the difference between being an ally/advocate and being someone who merely refrains from harming. I think the reason some vegans center themselves is because veganism really is centered on the vegan. It’s about the vegan’s consumption more than about the animal’s lives. I say this as a former vegetarian animal advocate. I think acting on behalf of animals is a different ballgame than refraining from harming them. One is positive action and the other is inaction. They’re both good and by all means, do which ever or both you want to do, but veganism alone is not really being an ally to animals.

    Here’s what I mean: If I lived outside of mainstream society and no one knew who I was or what I did, would my veganism matter? Do you think my veganism would make a difference to animals? Maybe to the few I chose not to hunt/fish/raise myself, but if I’m already not part of the economy, what does my veganism really matter? It might save a few lives here and there, but an individual’s choice to be vegan isn’t a choice to be an animal’s ally. It’s a choice to refrain from harming.

    Here’s a better example: an anorexic recluse who eats nothing but apples and wears nothing but cotton PJs is accidentally vegan. But she’s not an animal ally. She probably doesn’t care about animals at all. Same goes for someone who is dependent upon another person if that caregiver is vegan. For example, vegan children. They’re vegan, but they’re not true animal allies (yet).

    Anyway, all of this is not really on your point. Your point is that animal advocates and vegan proponents ought to consider overlapping and intersecting oppressions when working for animal rights and encouraging veganism. And you’re absolutely right.

  18. johanna Says:

    Ico — thank you for your response to more textbook comments!!

    Elaine —
    That’s a matter of debate, likely depending on the state and county.

    Yeah, I realize that–that’s why I said “many” & not “all” or “most.” Although I know nowadays the number of places that would be okay w/that is probably sadly shrinking.

    If I lived outside of mainstream society and no one knew who I was or what I did, would my veganism matter? Do you think my veganism would make a difference to animals? Maybe to the few I chose not to hunt/fish/raise myself, but if I’m already not part of the economy, what does my veganism really matter? It might save a few lives here and there, but an individual’s choice to be vegan isn’t a choice to be an animal’s ally. It’s a choice to refrain from harming.

    This is an interesting hypothetical. Is this relevant to the many vegans & potential vegans who do live in society, though? (not snarky — honest question) I mean, most of us will never face this situation. I think that putting our money into ethical options wherever we can is powerful, not just for the actual abstention from harm itself, but for the discussions it potentially generates. Like Gary Francione said on his blog a while ago that when he’s on a plane, when his meal comes he always says something like, “Yes, a vegan meal, w/no animal ingredients,” & he frequently gets people asking him about it who are thus provoked to think about their own consumption. Now maybe that would cross the line into advocacy in your view, but I think it’s possible that, even if Gary doesn’t say anything, someone might see the label on his meal tray, or hear the flight attendant announce it as a vegan meal, & get to thinking.

    The point about accidental vegans is a good one. I’m still not sure, though, that it wouldn’t mean that they are accidental allies.

    Anyway, all of this is not really on your point. Your point is that animal advocates and vegan proponents ought to consider overlapping and intersecting oppressions when working for animal rights and encouraging veganism.

    I appreciate your mentioning that — I don’t mind the digression, though.

  19. warwak Says:

    Megan wrote, “As Bob Torres said, the minute we stop questioning the movement and people in the movement, etc, is the minute we become a cult (which = lame!)”

    Bob the Vegan Freak cannibal cult member –

    [audio src="http://www.inslide.com/bobwantstoeatdave.mp3" /]

  20. I just want to chime in and say this is an excellent and important post, Johanna.

  21. [...] been painting and hauling and packing and cleaning, I’ve been thinking about this post and this follow-up from Vegans of Color. Joanna and Nadia pick apart the bizarre phenomenon of vegans who make [...]

  22. lagusta Says:

    Hello VoC! Thanks for an awesome post. I won’t dip into the issues raised in the comments section except to say that this atheist’s skin gets super prickly when people refer to veganism as a religion – eeew! Leave me out.

    In response to your great thoughts, I blogged about this topic here: http://tinyurl.com/5gabak

  23. johanna Says:

    Thank you Joselle! And thanks Lagusta for a great post.

    (I’m agnostic, but I can see the veganism as religion thing just in that, sometimes when people “see the light,” they get all super-preachy & evangelical… & it doesn’t always work too well in either case.)

  24. neva Says:

    A very good and thought provoking post.

    I wanted though to respond to just one comment from Warwak:
    Humane education reinforced with a vegan school lunch at an early age would end all types of discrimination.

    I’m going to have to disagree with this one. I’m all for humane education and vegan school lunches so far as such things can be implemented in the current climate. However, one thing that shocked me when I first got involved in animal rights and continues to shock me even now is that there are a fair number of vegans, activists even, who act or speak in racist and sexist and classist ways without realizing or questioning it.

    Simply adopting a vegan lifestyle, eating vegan foods, and learning a great deal about animal issues doesn’t always fix the reflexive kinds of ugliness that can come up. For example, I’ve met really nice guys, vegan guys, who will swear up and down that they are liberal, that they are feminists, etc. But when it comes down to it, they might still respectfully listen to every other male in the room, but cut off, interrupt, and even just dismiss the ideas of female activists. Likewise, vegan guys or actually even vegan women might also promote campaigns that are degrading to women, or as you say, try to promote veganism by teaching women further (as if we needed any help) to hate our own bodies. I don’t mean to just pick on the males here.

    Of course, I have had to question my own assumptions and understandings too. It’s not enough for me to think “wow, that was a really sexist comment.” I also have to ask myself if things I’ve said unthinkingly can give offense or reflect ignorant unhelpful assumptions that I grew up with. So I have to try to refine my own attitudes and behaviors too. Most importantly, if someone comes to me and says that I’ve said or done something hurtful, I need to listen to that and try to understand why.

    But if I find myself in the unfortunate position of taking issue with what someone else, another activist or an organization is doing or saying, then I’m told I’m being divisive. I’m told that sure sexism is bad, but we’re not sexist, this is helping the animals, so shut up and play along. And all that vegan food spread out on the table didn’t solve or prevent such circumstances.

    We are complex creatures, and capable of all kinds of things. Just being an advocate for animals in one area, just being vegan, doesn’t mean that we’re incapable of taking actions that harm animals and maybe even harm the cause. Just because we went out to hold signs in support of our homosexual friends at a protest doesn’t mean that the next day we won’t be dismissive of their concerns. Just being female doesn’t mean that we can’t act in ways that are sexist toward other women actually. Just because someone campaigned for Civil Rights doesn’t mean that they’ll never make a racist or xenophobic comment at some point.

  25. Delux Says:

    Many of the comments on this thread embody why so few people of color can be bothered with a lot of the animal rights movement, whether they are vegetarian, vegan, or omnivores.

    Excellent post, J.

  26. [...] whether or not vegans themselves are oppressed — discussed recently on this blog here & here, & also from VoC readers on their own blogs here & here. I come down more on the side that [...]

  27. warwak Says:

    Neva wrote, “However, one thing that shocked me when I first got involved in animal rights and continues to shock me even now is that there are a fair number of vegans, activists even, who act or speak in racist and sexist and classist ways without realizing or questioning it”

    I am talking about raising/teaching children early on. The racist/sexist/classist vegans you refer to were not raised as vegans from birth and taught humane education. So I disagree with your premise and stand by my original statement. Respectful people do not pick or choose what to be respectful of. They respect everything. I don’t know anyone who was raised as a vegan from birth and taught humane education. Do you?

  28. [...] 27, 2008 · No Comments The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl – from the blog Vegans of Color The essence of this comment is that those of us concerned with [...]

  29. [...] The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl [...]

  30. johanna Says:

    Delux — thanks for the comment; I totally agree (obviously, heh).

    Katie — thanks for the link!

    And Neva — yeah, I remain skeptical that humane education can drive out all the -isms within us… even if implemented early (first of all, it’d have to be practically as soon as we’re born — people start treating babies differently based on gender pretty much from birth!). Thanks for laying out your experience & thoughts.

  31. Browne Says:

    “Some of us don’t have the luxury of seeing things that simply.”

    You know what’s weird at one point I thought seeing the world simply was a luxury, but if you really think about it, it’s not.

    Being a guy or rich or white or all three, I mean it must be really hard to see the world outside of your bubble. Being a woman or being a person of color or being economically disadvantaged or disabled or a lesbian, or a combination of all of those things are a few them, to me that’s a luxury. That gives you empathy. That gives you a perspective. Being an American (assuming most people on this board or who visit it are American) already gives you a real narrow perspective on suffering. Not that an American can’t suffer, but you get what I am saying.

    But I think being a member of an oppressed group really helps in such matters as living beings justice, because you know what injustice brings first hand, not from a book or tv, but from life experience. I think that helps in being able to think about things. I think having that depth of experience gives you a leg up in regards to any kind of political oriented cause.

    To me if you are a member of an oppressed group and you are a member of an industrialized country and you get to be educated and well read and you have the ability to travel you’re almost required by karmic law to do something with that. You know the imperial gov’ts from the inside and you are in a little way part of that and wow think of all of the things you can do with that from the perspective that you have.

    Browne Molyneux

  32. [...] In the comments of my post here questioning the conference, it was suggested that bringing in race issues to AR spaces would be kind of a distraction from the real work of AR, something suggested more blatantly by folks responding to (& inspiring) this post. [...]

  33. Gary Says:

    The “peeps” project seems like a very creative, educational, and non-offensive way to illuminate tendencies toward violence and perceptions about and/or learned behavior toward animals. I could see where it could be a very useful springboard for further discussion.

    I wonder if the concept could be expanded… What if the kids had to take care of a toy stuffed cat or dog for three days, or two dolls, one black and and one white? What if the dog or cat was dirty from the start, to see if that would affect how it was treated? Or one of the dolls was fat?

  34. warwak Says:

    This was the handout I gave the children

    http://inslide.com/respect/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=31

    See pictures from the Peep Show
    How much more gentle could I have been?

    http://veganica.com/artist/category.php?artistid=370&catid=654

  35. ThoughtCriminal Says:

    Hi Warwak,

    I think the Peeps were a creative idea but when this happened I was seriously confused. Perhaps you’ve answered this at another time but I’ve got to ask… Were/Are you aware that Peeps are made with the crushed bones, organs, connective tissues, and intestines of other animals?

  36. I was going to just say FUCK YEAH! to this post. but the comments are hurting my brain.

    Disclaimer I’m a white womyn, I usually lurk so I don’t detract from conversation. And I’m using my privilege here, because we all know that white people take racism more seriously when white people are talking about it.

    Did this thread really end up discussing the burden of the poor white men vegans?

    A lot of these posts are “I agree but…” which is the same thing as “I’m not racist, but…”

    “As far as this race issue – I am offended as a white person, just as a black person should be offended when they are referred to as “black people” or “black guy” instead of by their name. If you want racism to end, stop referring to others as black or white or vegan for that matter – just call them by their given name”

    yes lets all be colorblind, then its much easier to ignore the systematic oppression that POC encounter every day. racism = prejudice + power. there is a HUGE difference between referring to someone as “that white guy” and referring to someone as “that black guy.” This also sets up an idea of racism as between white and black and makes any other POC invisible.

    “Being a guy or rich or white or all three, I mean it must be really hard to see the world outside of your bubble. Being a woman or being a person of color or being economically disadvantaged or disabled or a lesbian, or a combination of all of those things are a few them, to me that’s a luxury.”

    my brain just exploded reading this. It is a luxury to be oppressed? Really? there are situations when being a womyn casts me as an oppressed person. Those situations suck much more than when I gain something from the unearned privilege of being white. The burden of recognizing inequality is much less than living it.

    Every white person on this thread making these comments needs to unpack their knapsack: http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf

    and please keep in mind (from the about section):

    “This blog was started (by me, Johanna, with the encouragement of some friends) to give a voice to vegans of color.”

    if you are arguing against the racism that a POC is experiencing, you are taking away that voice and shutting it down. because someone living that experience is WAY better situated to tell you what it is like.

    Sorry. I’ll go back to lurking now.

  37. nakedthoughts Says:

    I’m so sorry. This was linked recently and I admit I was confused as to why it didn’t show up on my rss feed… but I only. Just realised this is ab old thread that obviously didn’t need rehashing. Sorry to any moderators that had ro read through that. Feel free to delete these connents. I’m so embaressed that I missed something as blatent as the date.


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