Vegans of Color

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

Against Cultural Day-Tripping February 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:40 pm
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(I was going to start this post with some vaguely sarcastic line about how it’s all exotic all the time around here lately, but… it’s blatantly clear that some readers DO just come here to gawk at the weirdo non-white vegans & their weirdo ways. Which, by the way, fuck you.)

Ida over at The Vegan Ideal posts about vegan cultural tourism, something I, & many of the bloggers here, have witnessed countless times:


A few months ago I got an email announcing a vegetarian get together at a Cambodian restaurant. Eating food associated with Cambodian culture is a perfectly valid basis for a vegetarian gathering, and I’m totally in favor of having an event at a place like a Cambodian restaurant. But what struck me was how the event was advertised as a “foray” into the food of Cambodian culture.

She describes why this terminology is offensive & potentially alienating to those who are not white/Anglo/Western, & also notes that the very idea of a “foray” into another culture presumes that “after the evening out, attendees are expected to go back to eating “normal” (Western) vegetarian food.”

In other words, it’s fun to see how wacky brown people live for a meal (because you can really tell from one meal, of course!), & then everyone (again, an assumed white/Western/Anglo “everyone”) goes back to their “normal” lives.

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13 Responses to “Against Cultural Day-Tripping”

  1. Doris Says:

    Great blog posts – both this one and the original written by Ida.

    And these groups wonder why they’re not attracting more veg*ns of color . . .

  2. I always suggest that folk read Lisa Heldke’s “Exotic Appetities: Ruminations from a Food Adventurer.” It’s a white middle class straight woman’s critical reflection and postcolonial and anti-racist critique of such types of “cultural adventures” that Ida wrote about.

  3. Exy Says:

    “it’s blatantly clear that some readers DO just come here to gawk at the weirdo non-white vegans & their weirdo ways. Which, by the way, fuck you.”

    Uh, yeah, except that it’s “all readers”.

  4. Keda Says:

    Thanks for the post and thanks breeze for the reference: Exotic Appetites sound like a must read.

    • The thing is, there are plenty of non-white racialized minorities in the USA that use the term “exotic” in a way that is also problematic. I was reading the book Pimps Up, Hos Down: Hip Hops Hold on Young Black Women and there was a chapter dedicated to how certain black heterosexual men in the USA have sexually exotified Brazilian women and literally go on special vacation “tours” to Brazil to engage in sex with them (because there is the notion that Brazilian women know how to take care of a man’s needs in a way a black USA straight female cannot). Really good chapter that looks at the complexities of these particular black males engaging in a system of racialized-sexual exploitation (she named white heteropatriarchal colonizing attitude) when they (black males) have been literally “exotified” by the same system. It’s a good read and moves beyond the simple binary of “white people abuse the term ‘exotic’” vs. “racialized non-white minorities are solely victims of being objectified as ‘the exotic Other.” Hope I’m making sense. is the link to the book. It’s by T. Sharpley Whiting.

      • johanna Says:

        Hi Breeze — thanks for the reminder; this is definitely true! (I’ve definitely been exoticized by POCs before) I’d say given the huge power imbalance (certainly in US society) between POCs & whites, it’s a slightly different dynamic, but yeah, definitely happens.

        • Yes, the dynamics are different. It reminds me of Memmi’s “Colonizer and the Colonized”. He speaks of the complex dynamic of when “the colonized” starts emulating the colonial standards of “his master”. It’s another excellent read I recommend to folk who want to move past the simple binary that I spoke of in my other message.

  5. Crys T Says:

    I’d just like to second Breeze’s recommendation for Exotic Appetites: it’s had a profound impact on how I think about and approach eating food from cuisines that are not my own.

  6. Ricorootz Says:

    BREEZE WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL OF MY LIFE! YOU ARE RIGHT ON WITH YOUR OBSERVATION. OUR BLACK PEOPLE IN GENERAL ARE TAKING ON THE COLONIZER’S WAY OF LIFE, I HAVE BEEN ON JOBS WHERE BLACKS PEOPLE WILL AKNOWLEDGE WHITE PEOPLE AND ASK HOW’S THEIR WEEKEND AND WALK RIGHT BY A BLACK PERSON. WHAT’S WRONG BOSS? WE SICK, AND WILL GO GET SOME MEDICATION FOR THEIR (MASTER), BOSS. I HAVE BEEN LABLED WEIRDO, BECAUSE I’M VEGAN, AND DON’T GOSSIP WITH THE OTHER CO-WORKERS, AND WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO CUT YOUR LOCS THEY TO LONG, IT’S REALLY UNFORTUNATE THAT BLACK PEOPLE STILL HAVE A SLAVE MENTALLITY. HOPEFULLY ONE DAY OUR PEOPLE WILL SEE THE LIGHT, AND NOT THROUGH THE EYES OF THEIR WHITE OPPRESSORS. ONE LOVE TO, ONE AND ALL.

    RICO

    • I’m also fascinated by how one’s concept of liberation/freedom manifests through consumption philosophies. I see mainstream hip hop videos conveying the following: black and brown men’s perception of freedom is consumption of : fine jewelry, fine liquors, usually hypersexed “pass the brown bag color test” women of color, expensive cars, designer clothes made by exploiting human and non-human animals…. Wait a minute, this sounds a lot like the colonizer’s model of the “modern free man.” As a matter of fact, “modern” during the era of racialized colonialism and institutionalized slavery was conveyed through performing this consumptive praxis: gold, diamonds, silver (fine jewelry), rum and fine liquor, objectifyng the Other as “exotic”, possessing not just a white middle class lady as your wife but also possessing and sexually exploiting women of color, wearing clothes made from fabrics and labor from suffering….
      Yet I will hear a simple binary being laid out by so many black Americans I have interacted with: “The real problem is that only white people exploit non-white people. ” But it’s not that simple. How do we talk about how a significant number or black Americans engage in exploitation of brown and black people, of engaging in consumption activities that reinforce colonial ideologies, of engaging in practices that are very much part of internalized racism/internalized colonialism/internalized Othering? When so many of us black American’s hair STILL is patrolled by other Black Americans, and we’re told our locs and afros need to be “tamed”, we are being seen by our own people as “the Other” and our natural hairstyles we’ve chosen are seen as “dangerously Exotic”. Many of us ladies of African Diaspora in the USA are expected to buy into “creamy crack”, despite the toxicity it creates in and on our bodies. I could go on and on about this… but I won’t…
      …Yes, “whiteness as the norm” is heavily problematic and those part of this norm frequently engage in “exoticism” in a way that seems “unharmful” in the eyes of many white identified people who engage in it… But yea, there are plenty people of color who also engage in colonialistic modes of living and internalized “exotifying the Other/themselves” as well and have interpreted it as “freedom/liberation/ ‘I am no longer shackled.’”

    • Also, Rico, I have a video blog post that loosely relates to what you’re talking about. http://sistahvegan.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/consumption-and-decolonial-possibilities/ . For this video blog, I reflect on what it means to construct your sense of “freedom” or “liberatory politics” if you are aware of (or unaware of) the influences energy consumption (energy can be food, media, thoughts, etc) has on the development of your consciousness.

    • I am reading the article “The shadows within: internalized racism and reflective writing” by Beth Kaufka. She provides a great definition of internalized racism:

      The monster inside: internalized racism defined
      Loosely defined, internalized racism is a mechanism of oppression that causes us to carry out our own abjection through believing the destructive images of our groups, constructions of dominant culture. Penny Rosenwasser (2002) describes the inwardly directed blame that results from oppression:

      “Internalized oppression is believing the derogatory messages and stereotypes that people outside our group say are true about us. We learn to loathe ourselves, rather than understanding that these destructive beliefs are instilled in us by a socioeconomic political system that constructs us to blame ourselves and our people. (p. 54)

      Thus, instead of devoting our energy and resources toward understanding the structural aspects of oppression, we turn our anger inward – we become the agents of our own subjugation. Suzanne Lipsky (1987) maintains that ‘most of the actual damage done by any oppression results from the operation of the internalized form’ (foreword). Lipsky (1987) defines internalized oppression as heavy, chronic distress patterns. These distress patterns are

      created by oppression and racism from the outside, [which] have been played out in the only two places it has seemed “safe” to do so. First upon members of our own group – particularly upon those over whom we have some degree of power or control, our children. Second, upon ourselves through all manner of self-invalidation, self-doubt, isolation, fear, feelings of powerlessness, and despair.” (Lipsky, 1987, p. 3)

      We become the agents of our own oppression; we agree to/with it and perpetuate it. Dominant culture does not necessarily need to exert power over us through coercion, the threat of direct retaliation for not submitting; we do it ourselves, enforcing the values and codes of dominant culture on ourselves and our communities. Thus, we damage our own communities through outwardly directed internalized oppression. (cited from page 138)

  7. jazze33 Says:

    It’s really interesting that they would use the word “foray”. Here’s the definition from dictionary.reference.com:

    noun
    1.
    a quick raid, usually for the purpose of taking plunder: Vikings made a foray on the port.
    2.
    a quick, sudden attack: The defenders made a foray outside the walls.

    It’s got a violent, unilateral, oppositional definition, although it’s also used to mean “trying something out”. I’m not even sure how it came to mean this. Maybe in the sense of taking on a challenge.

    It also kind of sounds 1492-ish to me; there are parallels between this and “brave” white voyagers discovering a new land, while creating an “other” out of people they’e never met before and subjugating them, regardless of how long they had been there. This culture and food are normal for Cambodian people, but must be framed in terms of its newness to the tourists, who are always the reference point to come back to. It’s only normal if it looks, acts, walks, talks, and eats like you.


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