Vegans of Color

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

VegNews: Making The “Exotic” Safe For Privileged Western Vegans February 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 12:55 pm
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VegNews is offering a “Great Adventure” to “exotic India.” Let’s take a look at the itinerary.

You’ll start off in Delhi, which they describe as “[r]uled by Hindus, Muslims and eventually the British” — & oh yeah, now India is actually an independent country, but the badly-written sentence doesn’t mention what happened after the British. Who cares, right?

Also scheduled is a visit to Jaipur, which “has intrigued and seduced travelers, wanderers, caravans and traders throughout history.” Yes, OOOOH EXOTIC. There you’ll “have dinner with a local family” for that oh-so-authentic touch of “traditional warm Rajasthani hospitality”. (I am reminded of how Thailand’s tourist industry bills it as the “Land of Smiles,” & how the Philippines is often referred to as full of friendly, helpful people. Shall we examine what might incentivize such behavior? Shall we look at what might motivate the West to view certain nations in these terms?)

You’ll also do yoga, by the way — I suppose you might be familiar with it since it’s such the rage in the West among health-conscious types like vegans. But I bet it’ll be even more enlightening when you do it in India!

Journeying to a “rustic yet charming” village, you’ll also enjoy traditional folk dancing & even stay with a Raja & his family in their palace! Because they’re the “long time friends” of the tour operators — I am sure the lure of commerce has nothing to do with why they might be hosting you!

In case you were possibly feeling a bit conflicted about your role as a rich Western tourist, never fear; after enjoying the Raja’s hospitality you’ll then head “to a local village school to donate, on behalf of the group, much needed school supplies and books and where [you'll] be welcomed as honored guests of the students and teachers who have a special surprise waiting.” Phew! Nothing like a bit of band-aid charity to soothe the tourist soul (but make them earn it! Sure hope that surprise is a good one!). Then your conscience will be clear before that night’s attendance at an “auspicious Hindu ceremony.”

To continue with the extra-special-authentic nature of the trip, you’ll also visit a Bishnoi village. Bishnois are vegetarians & “many of their villages, like the one [you'll] be visiting today – look quite similar to the way they have looked for hundreds of years.” Yay! Western tourists love to see earthy primitive brown people living like they have for hundreds of years! It’s so quaint! You’ll get to visit a village girls’ school & then enjoy a farewell party that the Raja’s family will throw in your honor — purely out of his affection for you, no doubt.

Next stop Udaipur, where you’ll traipse through “one of the five holiest sites in the Jain religion.” Don’t worry, I’m sure the temple is completely as it was before hordes of tourists started coming through! It will all still be totally authentic!

After some time at an animal sanctuary (that part does sound good), you’ll be off for a cooking class — so even after you return home, you can still have a bit of the Other with you whenever you want to cook an exotic dinner! Then yet more yoga & authentic folk music & dance as your trip winds down.

What’s that? Your luggage has exceeded the weight restriction for the airline? Well, yeah. Your Western cultural & financial privilege makes for a pretty heavy load.

(… & if anyone is going to comment suggesting that the point of this post is that no one should travel anywhere, then you’ve vastly missed the actual point of this post, so don’t bother.)

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81 Responses to “VegNews: Making The “Exotic” Safe For Privileged Western Vegans”

  1. steph Says:

    Yay! Where can I sign up?

    >o(

  2. supernovadiva Says:

    sounds like a trip where you’ll hear your fellow traveler say “They have very little, but they’re so happy!”

  3. Doris Says:

    Wow – this language is disappointing. It seems that most of the offensive language comes from the travel company, Veg Voyages.

    When they say that the villages “look quite similar to the way they have looked for hundreds of years” it’s like they’re saying, “You’ll see brown people the way they’re supposed to be! They won’t challenge your stereotypes like the ones you meet in the U.S. – they’re *real* brown people! ”

    I recently visited China, and was stunned when some American travelers talked about how surprised they were that the buildings looked so modern. They pointed to a reproduction of an old Chinese gate (like the kind you see in every Chinatown in the US) and actually said they thought the entire country would look like that.

  4. indo Says:

    note also the missionary language of the animal welfare organization that the trip pairs with: http://animalaidunlimited.com/history.html

    vegetarianism and animal welfarism have (at specific times and in specific circumstances) been aligned with nationalist violence against muslims and other minorities in india. my guess is that the tourists won’t hear about this history.

  5. chinarose Says:

    This is why I don’t subscribe to VegNews. As a matter of fact, I tossed out the free copies I received. Quite brainless stuff & loads of advertising. Seemed like mostly advertising with some cliched text to make it “magazine-like” I like my vegan info REAL. Fun is good, but real is best. Vegan living should be simple, even spartan with an emphasis on compassion. Not crapola.

  6. dersk Says:

    That is pretty egregious. Especially the amount of stuff they’re trying to cram into 12 days. It’s like every American’s 10 day tour of Europe. The animal shelter in Jaipur is pretty well known, though – it was written up in both our guide books when we honeymooned in India in 2008.

    A question for you and for Doris: when I go to Delhi, I don’t particularly care to see the modern bits – they’re just cities. I’m a lot more interested to see the older, historical buildings and neighborhoods. Similarly, although there’s some cool modern architecture in Chinese cities, I’d be much more interested to see older, smaller, towns built in a more traditional way. Does that count as wanting to keep the brown and yellow folks down? I mean, the whole point of travel (for me) is to see stuff that, to me, is exotic – as in different.

    But with the cooking class: are you saying I’m a jerk for being white, taking a cooking class in Delhi on our honeymoon, and making dahl and chapatis yesterday? Actually, I am a bit of a jerk, because I forgot to bring them on my 2 day business trip so I’m relegated to Dutch cheese sandwiches. And my wife just called and said the chapatis turned out perfectly for once. ):

    • johanna Says:

      Hi dersk. I remember you from the cookbook post. I’m still not going to engage in a discussion w/a baseline assumption that “exotic” is a neutral, value-free term for “different.”

      • dersk Says:

        OK, let me restate without the word exotic, since you give it a different meaning than I do: when I travel, I’m most interested in human experiences (culture, architecture, whatever) that are different than mine. For the same reason, I prefer Amsterdam and Munich to Rotterdam or Frankfurt (which were both bombed during the war and are just generic cities now).

        Doris – (I’m American, been living in Europe for 15 years): I’m not arguing against the extreme example from that brochure (though, if an old raja wants to sell access to himself, or a ppor family want to make some rupees by hosting some tourists, more power to them). I guess the point isn’t that this is how they lived hundreds of years ago. It’s this is how they’re living now, and how they’re adapting (or not) their traditional culture to modern opportunities and requirements (the example in my mind is a trek I went on in Sapa (northwestern Vietnam) – we stayed in a Hmong family’s house overnight and it was very cool to see how they’d provided themselves electrification using water power to run a 40 year old radio).

        In your comment two below, it seems like it’s more the motivation and the why, and the semantics of how its described, than the actual act of (for example) staying overnight at some family’s house. Is that an accurate way to put it?

        It’s definitely not your responsibility to contact VegNews and teach them better – but do you think it would be possible to put together a cultural tour like that in a way that you wouldn’t find offensive? In other words (I guess this is the same question as the previous paragraph) – is it what they’re doing or how they’re describing it?

    • Doris Says:

      Hi, Dersk,

      The Indian village is not “historical.” It’s not a trip to Gettysburg.

      Imagine a tourist from another country coming to the U.S. (I assume you’re American?) and saying, “I’m not interested in modern America. I want to see how American people lived a hundred years ago. How can I visit a really poor family in Appalachia with no electricity and no running water?”

      If you want to learn about how Indians lived hundreds of years ago, visit a musem. Not a poor village.

      Doris

      • Anon2 Says:

        If they visited a museum to learn about cultures, wouldn’t some people here argue “You can’t see how people live from visiting a musuem” and accuse them of being priveledged tourists whom are afraid of getting their expensive western clothes dirty?

      • Doris Says:

        They are privileged tourists no matter what they do, but the issue is whether they are going to treat people in India as 3-dimensional human beings or as props in their already-formulated mental diorama of what India is.

      • Doris Says:

        Hi, Dersk,

        In response to, “In your comment two below, it seems like it’s more the motivation and the why, and the semantics of how its described, than the actual act of (for example) staying overnight at some family’s house. Is that an accurate way to put it?”

        It’s not just the motivation and the semantics. It’s the act of treating a human being like a zoo exhibit, which would be wrong for any kind of human or non-human animal. If you were visiting someone’s house because you made a new friend, that would be different.

        Enticing customers with a visit to a place where life hasn’t changed for hundreds of years, I believe, objectifies those people. It invites tourists to come gawk at the local poor people, and that appeals to some tourists because it reinforces their stereotypical perception of what India and Indians are. They feel safe having their prejudices validated.

      • Anon2 Says:

        Doris, I dont think many people would pay thousands of dollars and travel around the world to just gawk at poor people….as they could take a cheaper route. I think the tour company is trying to point out (albeit poorly) that they will experience real people/real situations/food/art/history etc as opposed to seeing an ‘authentic’ tribal dance staged by professional dancers at their hotel [ this statement alone could cause 1 million posts here..but that is not the point ]

        (Counterpoint: if the writeup said “You will be seeing an ‘authentic’ tribal dance staged by professional dancers in the comfort of your hotel”…this board would be enraged as well for reasons I dont need to spell out )

        I dont see how traveling to a poorer area is always a causation for objectification…as sometimes different areas have architectual/natural wonders, amazing culture ( dance/art/food/history) etc and which can’t necessarily be experienced/appreciated by seeing it in a book.

        Many people want/enjoy to see places the way they were before logos and corporate sponshorhips, mass industrialization, row-like urban planning etc and they dont want their experiences in life coming from a book. They dont want to eat ‘Americanized’ Indian food at their local market. They dont want to see India from the once-yearly Indian cultural festival that rolls into town. They want to experience it first hand.

        My issue is that many people in the comments here have indirectly made a case for *no* travel or tourism at all..because…if people go see areas with ‘poor’ people ( as posters point out)..they are objectifiers. If they skip those areas then they are wrong for not seeing what is *really* going on in the country..IE Hiding behind their wealth—not getting their expensive Western priveleged clothes dirty. So its appears to be a lose-lose.

        I think the hangup here is people are upset on how the travel write-up was written…in which case I stand by my other posts…if people dont like it…educate the tour company.

      • Doris Says:

        Why, when it comes to people of color, does “real” mean “poor”?

        A professional dancer in India is not a “real” dancer? I understand that you’re trying to point out the offense of the “tribal dance staged by professional dancers at their hotel.” But why is “real” the opposite of “professional”?

        This is what I meant when I wrote above, “They won’t challenge your stereotypes like the ones you meet in the U.S. – they’re *real* brown people! ”

        And yes, I believe there are problems with tourists visiting poor neighborhoods. What are they expecting or hoping to see or get out of the experience? Do you visit the poor areas of your own town, state or country as a tourist, hoping to see how “real” people live? You might visit a specific person, store, or restaurant, but you don’t go to gawk at the poverty.

      • johanna Says:

        Anon2, do you think you have a right to go see whatever you want in the world as long as you can pay for it? Do you think this desire trumps all other considerations?

        If you do, you are certainly not alone. Plenty of tourists like you travel every year.

        It’s an astounding privilege to assert.

      • Anon2 Says:

        Johanna, I think I have ‘the legal ability’ to go see whatever I want if it is legally acceptable to the location I might have interest in. I specifically do not use the word RIGHT because everyone would criticize the word in terms of privelege. In this case: India legally allows visitors to come into their country..for tourism, business, etc. If a legal tour bus company wants to take me to an ‘ancient’ city which hasnt changed much over hundreds of years…Im not intentionally going to go see poverty. I’m going to experience the art, food, culture, architecture and yes the good and the bad ( as that comes with it naturally as in any city– unless I don’t want to leave the bus). Of course, just because I have that legal ability, that does not mean I am necessarily rude, insensitive or poverty gawking, like many people on this blog post imply about this tourism.

        Also, complaining on a blog for the sake of venting or supporting others whom share similar views is great but it does not change the ‘offensive tour writeup nor does it educate the tour company so they don’t repeat it. And of course…in terms of veganism…bashing a vegan tour company ( as opposed to helping them learn )–which can actually hurt the company — does not help the animals.

      • johanna Says:

        Oh yes, laws are always just & always have the best interest of people in mind. And just because someone may have the legal right to do something means that they should do it if they feel like it.

        Privilege, privilege, privilege.

  7. Jacqueline B. Smith Says:

    I’m disappointed too, but not with what you would imagine. Frankly, I’m disappointed by your tone and your criticism of this trip, and (mainly for some of the commenters) of VegNews — which has really changed its tune in the past few years.

    I have always wanted the opportunity to visit India, but have always felt similarly to you: that it was a privileged thing for me to do, to just show up in India, step over a starving cat or a starving child, and enjoy my “tourist” trip.

    I had heard about VegVoyages — specifically, about this particular trip — before reading your blog entry. I thought: finally, someone who is TRYING. Granted, the organizers of this trip do not have it 100% correct, but a vegan vacation, where you don’t stay at a lavish hotel — rather, an animal sanctuary, or a with a host family? A vacation where you spend part of your time getting a better grasp at Indian culture? Not contributing to senseless cruelty? Trying to make a difference? THIS is what you’re criticizing? Don’t you think that even if you have an issue with this particular trip, it would have been more productive for you to reach out in an honest, open way to the organizers of VegVoyages and explain why this is unintentionally offensive? Maybe try to enlighten them, rather than jump down their throats? Are these people really the enemy here??

    And as for VegNews, though I also stopped subscribing a while back, I borrowed a copy for a friend about a year ago, and I was truly blown away. Though there are most certainly still ads, still fluffiness, etc, you’d really be surprised by the actual (soy) MEAT that is in there now. Some of their writers are RIGHT ON. The topics they cover now, as opposed to a few years ago, remind of the late and great Satya Magazine. They, too, obviously still could stand to get less fluffy, but 1. the fluff is why most people buy it and 2. those “most people” are then exposed to some real and really contentious issues, things that might truly make them think.

    I love your blog. I read it religiously. I usually vehemently nod with most things you say, or I feel compelled to look at things in a different light after seeing your POV. You often educate and enlighten me, you touch me, you entertain me.

    But, I’m sorry, you are very very off with this one.

    • johanna Says:

      Yay, it’s anti-racism bingo!

      (The tone argument, for those of you playing along at home.)

      • Anon2 Says:

        Jacqueline gives a reasonable suggestion “Don’t you think that even if you have an issue with this particular trip, it would have been more productive for you to reach out in an honest, open way to the organizers of VegVoyages and explain why this is unintentionally offensive”.

        Why do you not address this?

      • johanna Says:

        Tone argument redux!

      • noemi Says:

        i don’t think they even clicked on your links.

      • Anon2 Says:

        I did click on the links and read them. I made the followup comment because Johanna’s response to Jacqueline’s post was filled with sarcasm and not helpful or inciteful. BUT…as long as you mentioned it…Can the tone argument apply to POC as well as non-POC? When the article mentions “At the core of this expectation of politeness is the idea that the POC in question should teach the offender what was wrong with their statement”
        What if another POC requests/suggests the teaching? Is this still the tone argument? This is an honest question.

  8. Anon2 Says:

    So what you are saying is instead of VOC coming up with creative solutions and educating the travel agency with their choice of words, you are going to just answer with catchphrases? Well at least we know that you will have the chance to criticize the travel agency in many more blog postings as they do not know what they are writing is potentially insensitive and will most likely continue to use the same language.

    I was really hoping some or all of the VOC authors would collectively point out to the travel agency and be solution-finding as opposed to just using their vacation description as posting fodder.

    • johanna Says:

      No, I’m saying stop presenting the tone argument to me & pretending it’s not the tone argument: similarly to how recently you claimed you weren’t asking me to do the heavy lifting to educate you, while simultaneously continuing to ask me to do just that. Amazing.

      I certainly hope that you have already written to Veg Voyages & VegNews yourself, given your comments.

      Also, I find it fascinating how many people expect every blog post critiquing something to be worthless if not spearheading a letter-writing campaign. Absolutely fascinating.

      I’m done w/this part of the discussion.

      • Jacqueline B. Smith Says:

        The reason that I would not email VegVoyages or VegNews about this, Johanna, is because I am not the one with the problem with them or their program — you are. What you are presenting in both your blog entry and in your follow-up comments is nothing but unproductive and immature; in short, the opposite of activism. If you are at all involved in social justice causes, which obviously you are, then why aren’t you trying to foster healthy PRODUCTIVE communication, both with this organization and with the people who are leaving comments and attempting to discuss this with you? Instead, you are ignoring our questions and proclaiming that you are “done with this discussion.” What a waste of a situation that could’ve potentially shed some light for us as your readers to learn about your experiences and point of view, VegVoyages & VegNews for not realizing their offensive language, and for YOU, someone who I am starting to think is more interested in just hearing yourself talk than in actually helping to set the necessary groundwork for social change. At least VegVoyages & VegNews are doing something for the greater good. Even if they are not 100% *with it* in everything they do, they are doing something, they are reaching people, they are bringing animal issues to the mainstream, and they are looking beyond their own reflections.

        • I know each of the VOC contributors are coming from their own experiences. I understand where both you (Jacqueline) and Johanna are coming from. However, I would probably respond much differently than Johanna has responded. I tend to point people to sources that could help them understand how, for example, exotic is pleasurable for some while simultaneously painful for others. I personally would like to continue a dialogue about what is transpiring here, but that’s just me. I don’t think it’s an easy binary of “people who like ‘exotic’ are bad” vs. “people who like ‘exotic’ are just curious and innocent.” A lot of it is left to interpretation and it’s interpretation based on one’s own racializing experiences. I personally find museums I grew up attending for K-12, for the most part, offensive because it was very colonizing in my own opinion. But I know plenty POCs who enjoy these type of museums I had to see for K-12 USA education and didn’t find it offensive. On a side note, I’m reading Pedagogies of Crossing by Dr. M. Jacqui Alexander and she dedicates quite a bit to understanding how imperialism works in the tourist industry in the Bahamas and why it’s so painful for her, not just along the ideas of racism, but also homohobia and sexism. These are idea she presents that I never even thought of. It’s some deep stuff and as I read it, I understand more and more why she find emotional pain in the Bahamas as a tourist “paradise” for the West, but simultaneously hell for those who brown and black people expected to service the West.

          I was interviewed by VegNews a few weeks ago to talk about whiteness and lack of awareness around “colonizing” language that is used and often not understood as potentially offensive to many people. I am hoping the article will be helpful and productive.

          Everyone is on their own journey and some of us are really freaking angry and become exhausted with what we think is always trying to point out what we feel is the obvious. Some of us (like myself), are at the emotional level in which we feel like we can handle answering questions about race, whiteness, colonialism, in a manner that both helps the person asking the question and in a manner that doesn’t cause emotional anxiety or pain to our own selves. I can only speak for myself, but I enjoy engaging in answering questions posed by people who personally feel that ‘exotic’ is not painful… or that is is not pleasurable…

          Sorry if this is a long answer, but just wanted to share my two cents.

          • Doris Says:

            Hi, Breeze,

            I have seen some offensive museum exhibits in the U.S. I should have specified that they should visit a museum in India, if they want to learn how Indians lived hundreds of years ago. It may still be offensive in some ways, since exhibits are curated from a certain point of view, but probably less offensive than seeking out a poor village in India to observe.

          • johanna Says:

            Hi Breeze — wow, another upcoming magazine appearance, exciting!

            I’m not willing to engage in a discussion where, as dersk suggests, “exotic” is defined as merely “different” — as value-free & as a neutral term. As a baseline for discussing tourism I find that not useful at all & loaded w/privilege.

            • dersk Says:

              Again, I’m happy to use “different” if you find “exotic” too loaded a term, and I understand your argument that it’s often used in a context that assumes superiority of the base (the tourist’s) culture.

              And I would point out to the folks who think you have some responsibility to follow up with the tour operator that there’s a fine tradition of ranting on the Internet, so it’s perfectly apropos to vent without following up or trying to effect change.

              It would be nice to drill down a bit, though, into your opinions as to what would make staying at a local family’s house or whatnot acceptable (i.e., is it what they’re offering or how they’re describing it?).

              And my dal turned out AWESOME (and vegan, not just veg, come to think of it). Chickpea chapatis with chopped coriander and onion FTW. Irrelevant, I know, but boy was that better than two slices of bread and one slice of cheese for lunch.

              • antonia Says:

                I agree with Dersk here. I’d be totally curious to know more about your thoughts, Johanna, regarding why it is offensive to stay with host families, etc. And Dersk brings up a good point, too, that it’s not your obligation to contact this group, but given the mission of VOC, and given the importance of good writing, it would be important for someone who is unfamiliar with why this kind of trip is “offensive” to be let in on your thoughts, since you brought it up. Otherwise ppl (like me) wind up just thoroughly confused. And noemi, you said that there is so much more wrong with this than just the word “exotic.” i’m totally wanting to know what. i feel like i and others keep asking WHAT THE DEAL IS?? and we are just being given answers like “there is a lot that is the deal”, but what is it? tell me, i really want ot know. Noemi? Johanna? BREEZE? can someone let me in on the actual reason please? in a coherent way, as opposed to just telling me that i couldn’t possibly understand?

                • Good morning everyone! I just wanted to clarify that I never conveyed that anyone would never be able to understand. I can give you a reading list if that is helpful. I wish I could send you the 30 page chapter I wrote about “exotic” within veganism, but I think MIT Press won’t allow it. But I can point you to a few texts to get started.

                  Also, as someone about to get her PhD and become a professor who teaches the very subjects were dialoguing about, I enjoy teaching about this to those who are unfamiliar. But remember, that’s just me and we’re not a monolith (us VOCs). Some of us like to do the teaching and some of us do not.

                  My best,
                  Breeze

                • johanna Says:

                  Antonia, I don’t blog in order to give people Exoticism 101 or Racism 101 — if I answered every time someone asked me to hold their hand & explain things, I would never get anything else done. Not to mention there is a ton of information on the internet for anyone who cares to take some responsibility for learning the basics of racism or exoticism or colonialism or orientalism. Have you looked at any of the resources linked in the post on the sidebar?

                  I think for many people coming to this post who are not needing Exoticism 101, what is wrong w/the tour doesn’t need further explaining (as evidenced by a lot of the comments here).

                • noemi Says:

                  what do you believe the mission is of VOC?
                  I’m not an educator. I’m not here as an educator. It’s not my job to convince others of their (white privilege). I am here primarily for support and to support other vegans of color.

              • noemi Says:

                the very fact that you can swap different for exotic doesn’t seem problematic to you?

                • dersk Says:

                  Not particularly. To *me*, the words are synonyms. I wasn’t aware that ‘exoticism’ had become a label in bias studies and is perceived as a loaded term. As a parallel: I thought the whole uproar in DC some years ago about the word ‘niggardly’ was pretty stupid, but I wouldn’t use the word nowadays knowing how some people perceive it.

                  • Why was the uproar stupid to you, in terms of the word ‘niggardly’?

                    Let me now if you’d like a bibliography about the connotation of the word ‘exotic’ (versus denotation) in the context of Western racialized colonialism and why it’s still hurtful for many non-white racialized minorities to hear or see the word. bell hook’s “black looks” was beneficial for quite a few people that I directed it to. “Pedagogies of Crossing” by M. Jacqui Alexander is really intense. She talks about the creation of tourist economies, looks at how “different” is used in the context of “different from white Western middle class normative”, etc. It’s a 400 page book, but well worth the read.

                    Lisa Heldke’s “Exotic Appetites” is another good one. I know not everyone has the same connotation to the words ‘exotic’, ‘niggardly’, ‘different’, but in my PhD work, I am very interested in why some people find “pain” in the same words/sounds that other people experience as “neutral” or “pleasurable.” Even more fascinating and often problematic is that those who find the word “painful” have difficultly trying to express why it is enraging… and vice versa (those who find certain words pleasurable, find it enraging that the other side is so angry and hurt about it.).

                    Mentioned before, each VOC is unique on this blog. I can only speak from my experience and say that I would like to answer any questions or confusion that anyone has. I will be a professor in these subjects soon and I feel that is it my spiritual path to pursue this type of work. I understand this is not everyone’s path. I have fused Engaged Zen Buddhism with Pedagogies of Critical Race Theory and want to use the platform (if that’s the right word) of rage, enragement, anger, suffering, and pain to try to dialogue around extremely triggering and traumatic topics related to race and [neo]colonialism. I acknowledge and appreciate it’s really f*cking hard for just about everyone involved and I know what is transpiring right now is absolutely normal in this process. I don’t expect everyone to be comfortable with it or supportive of it, because from my own personal experience, I know it can be really exhausting, high blood pressure raising, stomach churning, etc., if you are simply not ready for it. I do apologize if I have hurt anyone for writing this, and do ask that you point out what I may have said or done in this message that hurts you so I can be more mindful and aware of it in the future.

                    Best,
                    Breeze

                    • dersk Says:

                      The reason I found it to be silly was that the controversy was at heart irrational – the etymology of the word ‘niggardly’ is completely separate from the racial epithet that it sounds like. I could understand an initial outcry if people didn’t understand that, but not after. The comparison’s a stretch, but it’s like white folks getting annoyed if someone referred to a Kleenex as a hanky (I know, wrong power relationship, but I couldn’t come up with any better wordplay (: ).

                      Not to go all post-modern and Wittgensteinien, but it seems to me that the issue is the different attitudes towards meanings of words. I mean, the dicitonary definition of ‘exotic’ (and above, ‘niggardly’) are completely bias-free. It’s the meaning the speaker imputes (as in ‘exotic’) and the meaning the listener infers (as in ‘niggardly’). My guess as to why people find it difficult to express why a particular word is painful is that they’re starting from a defensive position already, having to explain why it’s painful. And to understand the pain requires empathy, which requires opening up and making oneself (even more) vulnerable.

                      Johanna’s post on the reasons, by the way, pretty much answered my question. Interesting that a lot of those concerns align almost completely with issues in sustainable travel.

                    • Liriel Says:

                      I can only respond to your statement of “it seems to me that the issue is the different attitudes towards meanings of words” with equal parts an exasperated “OF COURSE it is!” and disbelief that you simultaneously hit the nail on the head and yet missed the whole house.

                      Let me ask you this, if a white man has for his entire life, used n*gger as the default term to refer to black people with no knowledge of its baggage, does that make his use of the word inoffensive? Of course not, because regardless of his personal beliefs and whether or not HE is aware of its significance, that word has PAINFUL significance in the hearts and minds of other people. Significance which was built into the hearts of blacks by the colonialism and slavery of whites who were often completely oblivious.

                      It is thought that “n*gger” was once also a ‘neutral’ word formed from the mispronunciation of the word “negro.”

                      This is why the word “exotic” is triggery. When you say “exotic” you hear the dictionary definition. I see the “Yellow Peril” cartoons of the 19th century & the Islamofacism blogs of the 21st century. I recall Madame Butterfly & Dancing With Wolves. And I hear “Ching-chong baby! You gonna love me long time?”

                      Listen to Suheir Hammad tell it like it is in her poem “Not your Exotic” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVkylZEgsY8 Look up her references to La Malinche and the Venus Hottentot, hopefully then, you will understand why “neutral” isn’t neutral at all.

                    • Liriel Says:

                      P.S. It was unfair of you to demand that Joanna explain why “exotic” was a loaded term to her or to insist that it was a ‘neutral’ term to you. Even though I choose to write this explanation, it frustrates me because I feel that I have to justify my anger at a supposedly ‘neutral’ term when if I were to describe someone as using the presumably ‘neutral’ term “fat” (it’s just the opposite of thin isn’t it?) most Westerners would immediately gasp as my viciousness. Having to justify WHY something is hurtful to POC is like having to justify why you stabbing me hurts me but not you. I can go into a long speech about proprioceptors and nociceptors but I shouldn’t have to and that isn’t my primary concern anyways. My primary concern is that I want you to stop stabbing me.

                  • Jesse Says:

                    Dersk, I am from India.

                    Can you imagine this scenario: You are living in a small village, doing some chores at your home. Suddenly, a throng of Europeans or Americans appear and start taking photos of you doing the things that you do every single day. They start talking about how amazing it is that you live this way. They tell you they’re impressed, even grateful for this opportunity to have their own lives reflected back at them. Finally a group of them comes to your home and expects you to feed them, because of a prior business arrangement with a tour operator.

                    How would that make you feel? Can you even imagine it?

                    Angry that you have to resort to receiving money to host these people and pretend you are friends with them? How much money would it cost you to put aside your dignity and play house with people who are amazed and marveled by the fact that you can maintain a household without the aid of Western civilization?

                    It’s not the same thing as if villagers came and visited you at your apartment building in downtown Amsterdam (for example). In that scenario, I argue, a person who has lived their entire lives within the privileged enclave of white society cannot extricate themselves from a sense of patronizing superiority. As if one were providing an eye-opening experience for these poor people.

                    I don’t know what the proper analogy would be. Imagine if, as an American, a group of Europeans came and visited your hometown and marveled at how civilized and advanced you and your family lived. This is a group that should have no reason to feel superior to you, but even as they walk around praising you they are doing it because they have a low expectation of you.

                    Does that make any sense? You’re saying there’s no reason to take offense or be bitter about these Americans touring an Indian village. I’m saying there should be no reason for them to regard it as anything worthy of a tour. People who live differently than Americans aren’t fit subjects for a tour simply for that reason.

                    That’s the assumption here, that people who live differently than Americans most be novel, interesting creatures that we should go inspect and witness firsthand. It assumes that there’s something superior to the American way of life. Are those the kind of people you want traipsing about your village?

                    I imagine you might respond by asking, What if these tourists are coming to have their notions of superiority broken? Is that the function of these villagers, to revert you back into a human being? Just bring all your baggage to them and they’ll sort it our for you?

                    It’s the same thing happening on this blog, where some commenters are expecting people of color to do the educating. It’s like saying “I can’t stop offending you unless you teach me how.” Whose responsibility is it to teach you to act like a human being?

            • Hi johanna. Yea, I’m nervous about how what I said will be interpreted, but I can only do my best. I’m actually surprised I was asked to talk about the problems of whiteness in the mainstream AR/Veg movement. I think what I’ve been trying to do is explain that it’s not a “diversity” issue, it’s a “lack of awareness around white middle class normative” issue. I am always asked, “How can we (‘we’ as in the white middle class collectivity) address our diversity issues?” I am trying to use language that conveys that diversity is not the best word to use, from the get go. The word and question itself detracts away from the problems of white middle class lack of awareness around how racialization-class processes that have shaped this demographic’s consciousness and perception of justice, ethics, morality, consumption, etc. OF course, this is my humble opinion, but hey, VegNews asked me, so I hope they can handle my honesty. :-) I hope I’m making sense….

      • johanna Says:

        I’m confused as to why everyone thinks I suggested Jacqueline e-mail Veg Voyages, when my comment appears directly below Anon2’s comment. Unless they are the same person?

      • noemi Says:

        no far Johanna, they must receive vegan cookies try Trying!
        So what you are saying is instead of VOC coming up with creative solutions and educating
        don’t you just love this.

      • Anon2 Says:

        Johanna, I am not the same person as Jacqueline.
        And while your point of “I find it fascinating how many people expect every blog post critiquing something to be worthless if not spearheading a letter-writing campaign….” is extremely fair, I was merely trying to make a point that if nobody ‘educates’ the people deemed offensive, then the offensive situation will keep occuring..thus continuing hurting/bothering people. I also know it is not your job or VOC to do this, yet I find a blog post of just a complaint with no solution, feedback from offender, or call to action — on a very important topic a missed opportunity for all parties involved.

        Like other posters, I will not write because I am not personally as offended by the tour description as other readers might be.

  9. chinarose Says:

    Why should VOC be responsible for educating everyone? That in itself is offensive. It’s pretty condescending, as if some of us (usually women) are supposed be the “teachers”, “nurses” and “social workers” to the world. I get sick of it of people saying, “tell me all about it; I’m listening.” The fact is, I learn about things by researching them. Anyone can do it. But most people are incredibly lazy, and prefer to allow what they consider “a teacher-type” to do the work for them

    There’s another factor, and that is: “If they haven’t figured it out by now (the nature and outcome of of racist stereotyping), why bother?” We really can’t change anyone’s mind when it comes right down to it, they have to figure it out themselves.
    As I sometimes tell my partner, “if you don’t know, i can’t tell you”

  10. Rodney Says:

    Chinarose, I’m confused. You seem to be directing that toward Jacqueline, but Jacqueline was only responding to what Johanna was saying, that Jacqueline should email VegVoyages and educate them. You said “why should VOC educate everyone,” but my questions is “why should Jacqueline”?

  11. Jacqueline B. Smith Says:

    Thank you, Breeze. I totally hear you.

    I look forward to reading your forthcoming article in VegNews.

  12. antonia Says:

    If you are against Veg News, then why do you boast that you won their bloggy award on your web-site? I have the new edition of this magazine. I was glad to see it displayed on the shelf of my whole foods. I read some great articles from it during a long train ride today. About world hunger, about meat in china, and about eco tourism. hardly “brainless,” as china rose points out. good stuff. I was also pleased to read about the vegan voyages trip. Looks like the people planning it are doing their research and trying to give a well-rounded trip. i agree the word “exotic” was an unfortunate choice, but overall, it is not worth my time to harp on that. there are bigger fishermen to fry.

    and regarding “tone”, i agree that the tone of this piece was unproductive, though it’s cool to see a rant sometimes. but as a. breeze said, maybe do that within the scope of actually providing resources or spinning it in a way that can be beneficial, rather than just saying “fuck you, and i’m not telling you why i’m telling you fuck you.”

    good conversation, BTW.

    • johanna Says:

      Antonia, I’m confused as to why you think a post against one thing VegNews is doing automatically means I’m “against” everything that VegNews has done, ever?

      Your yardstick,btw, would mean that I was against VegNews before they even gave us an award; if you check the archives of this site you’ll find posts critiquing their exoticism way back.

      • antonia Says:

        i was responding also to chinarose, who had thrown away their copy of the magazine. but i really want to know what the critique of exoticism is?

        out of curiousity, do you think that if a magazine such as VN messes up like they did here, or are insensitive to something like you say they were here, do you think one should protest it and never read it? that wasn’t a judgement: i was really just curious. since it seems that chinarose would just say that it’s all bullshit and just toss it out, not giving it a chance to make any difference whatsoever.

        for me, much like dating, sometimes there are things that are wrong with someone, but you take the whole picture into account, and you don’t toss them out if there are other things that you see eye to eye about. IMHO.

  13. noemi Says:

    mean VOC bloggers who say go educate yourself are criticized for their tone, attitude, unwillingness to educate and “create communication”
    VOC bloggers who engage are giving thank yous
    I could write a post about this.
    “maybe do that within the scope of actually providing resources or spinning it in a way that can be beneficial”
    as far as I know, there is no criteria that specify this must happen in every post at VOC.
    Antonia, there is so much more wrong with the write up and the entire premise of the trip that using the word exotic.

  14. Rodney Says:

    I’d disagree with that, Johanna. From my experience, the way I’ve viewed the comments here are not as in its a given. Seems to me people want to understand where you are coming from with your accusatory blog post. There have been at least a few people in the comments, from what I can see anyhow, that don’t agree with your assertions of this tour company and of this magazine. I think it would be great if you could further delve into your reasonings so that if people were missing the boat, we could know why. The last thing I want to be is insensitive to other people’s experiences, but how will I know if I’m being insensitive I don’t know why certain words are a no-no?

    • johanna Says:

      Rodney — repeat: I do not blog in order to spoon-feed people Racism 101 or Exoticism 101. Is there a reason you have not gone off to Google about why exoticism is problematic? Because that would be a good starting point instead of expecting someone else to do it for you. Is there a reason you feel that you can demand that I educate you on this very basic point? This is a common theme: people from marginalized groups are, over & over again, told that they HAVE to explain things. Basic things. Over & over. No, actually, sometimes people have to show some effort & do their own damn work to start off with.

      http://derailingfordummies.com/#educate

    • noemi Says:

      its called unpacking your own sack full of privilege.

  15. Allen Says:

    Johanna,

    I’m having a real hard time seeing your point and your defensive posturing and refusal to answer honest questions just comes off as snotty.

    What if VegNews were promoting a “Great Adventure” to the “American Midwest” instead? The itinerary might include seeing a part of the Oregon trail that “intrigued and seduced travelers, wanderers, caravans and traders.” They might schedule a dinner with a local farmer and his/her family for that “oh-so-authentic touch of traditional country charm” that is reminiscent of “a simple, but happy life.” You could go hiking in the hills too. Of course, you could take a walk in the city, but being out in nature is all the rage with those health conscious types. I bet hiking will be even more enlightening when you do it in the country!

    Journeying to a “rustic yet charming” western town, you’ll also enjoy traditional folk dancing & might even pay a visit to a traditional Amish school and donate some needed school supplies before attending a traditional Amish church ceremony.

    To continue with the extra-special-authentic nature of the trip, you’ll also visit to Manitou Springs or some other old west themed tourist spot, where things are “quite similar to the way they have looked for hundreds of years.” Yay! Tourists love to see earthy cowboy types living like they have for hundreds of years! It’s so quaint!

    After some time at an animal sanctuary (don’t worry that these animals aren’t living the same as they did hundreds of years ago), you’ll be off for a cooking class — so even after you return home, you can still have a bit of the Other with you whenever you want to cook an old country dinner! Then yet more hiking & authentic folk music & dance as your trip winds down.

    So except that you seem to be reading way too much racism and Western privilege into your almost unintelligible critique of VegNews, I’m not sure what the difference is between wanting to experience a fairly traditional old school India and wanting to experience a fairly traditional old school western town. But I’m sure you’ll have some biting sarcasm (sans actual argument) to put me in my place. I’m eager with anticipation.

    • johanna Says:

      Oh, Allen. The tone argument again. Really? And I’m taking things too seriously? Two bingo squares in one comment: well done!

      What’s your point? The inappropriateness of gawking at the Amish can coexist with the inappropriateness of gawking at POCs.

      • Allen Says:

        My point is you see racism where it doesn’t exist. It’s in your other blog posts too. It’s not that I think you are taking things too seriously. I think you are making a mockery of much more valid and pressing issues.

        In another post you ranted about how African stew recipes in vegan cookbooks are racist because you have never heard of a European bean recipe. A quick Google search reveals tons of examples to prove you are overreacting e.g. warm German potato salad: http://www.vegfamily.com/vegan-recipes/sides/german-potato-salad.htm

        What is the point of condemning everyone who ever dares talk about non-Western foods, traditions or lifestyles? You come off as an ignorant screaming child. It’s not just your tone, it is your utter lack of coherent logic.

        • Jesse Says:

          Are we supposed to take seriously someone who claims that racism is a valid and pressing issue, then presumes to tell others that they aren’t seeing racism?

          If you want to create a real analogy, Allen, try this: take your tour of the Midwest and now make it take place in an economically-depressed area. And make it set where Americans have historically have been oppressed by people of another race. And make the tourists people of that race.

          Seeing that this has never happened, the closest thing you could do is arrange for a tour of the American south. It would be given exclusively to northerners, highlighting southern charm and touring the good people of the south. I think more than a few southerners would take objection to such a tour, which probably does exist.

      • johanna Says:

        Allen, your comment shows you didn’t even understand the post you were referencing. I wasn’t saying that there were no bean recipes in Europe at all, but that they are generally called by more specific names — as the recipe you cited: German potato salad. The recipe isn’t called European potato salad.

        And wow, yet another bingo square for you:

        http://derailingfordummies.com/#moreimportantly

        I don’t have anything else to say to you, nor do I want to waste any more time on your trolling.

      • TeriSaw Says:

        You are seriously telling a POC that they are seeing racism where it doesn’t exist? Hey look everyone right here we have the omniscient expert of all things racist! Why speak for your own feeling when he can speak for you? Come one, come all!

        Now the countdown to the tone argument at my comment.

  16. dersk Says:

    I’m not asking you to educate, I’m not asking you to defend, I’m just asking you to clarify your opinion.

    By the way, maybe my google fu is lacking today, but I was unable to find any pages talking about problems with the term exotic vs. different. So again I’m assuming that the problem is it reinforces the cultural norm, belittles the folks in the ‘target’ place, and belittles folks who aren’t members of the dominant culture in the ‘source’ country.

    Assuming that’s the problem with the term in a nutshell, I ask your opinion again, again based on the last sentence of your post: is the trip itself the problem, or the motivations for it and the way it’s described?

    • johanna Says:

      Tourism itself is v. v. fraught w/issues related to power & privilege, esp. wrt travel to the darker nations (to borrow Raj Patel’s phrase). A few things I would want to know more about:

      Does tourism coexist with previous ways of making a living in a place? Do people have a choice to work in tourism, or is it the only game in town? What happens if someone wants to opt out of the tourist industry? What effect has tourism had on the local economy/ecology/culture? How much control do they have over what form tourism takes (& in what amount)? Is tourism genuinely sustainable economically for them?

      And… why are people traveling there? What do they want to see? What lens are they looking through (& thus what gets rewarded economically)? etc. etc. etc.

      • antonia Says:

        There is actually an article that covers these questions you pose (and more) in, ironically, this month’s VegNews magazine. Really interesting and thought-provoking piece; I recommend it. It discusses the pros vs. cons of ecotourism. It covers the privilege aspect but also goes into why “ecotourism” certifications don’t consider animal products when they determine what counts as ecotourism. One thing I found interesting in the article was — on the “pro” side of travel (even though most of the article was more the “con” side I think — it mentions that some so-called “developing” countries absolutely rely on the tourism industry. But then, as I mentioned, it gets into the fundamental flaws within that. Good piece. I was impressed that came from VegNews.

  17. zoe Says:

    johanna, i want you to know that you have succeeded in alienating me — and many others in the community — who are talking about your post here. this is three steps backwards, at least. i have no desire to read any of your posts from now on; i will skip over them because i have no interest in wasting my time. what you say is unfounded, empty, and cruel. and you have not even remotely attempted to back up your silly claims. how ironic that you, of all people, are so irresponsible with your use of language. though we’ve never met in person, i have known your online presence. just wanted to say: goodnight, and i wish you luck in evolving to a place where you can actually communicate.

    • Noemi M Says:

      this is probably a good time to step back and ask yourself why you feel alienated and where you’re anger comes from.
      It strikes me as funny when a privileged person is demanding to be educated, doesn’t get the desired answer, then walks away from “silly claims” without even trying to go educate themselves.

    • Jesse Says:

      Yeah, anger can be alienating. Why would you expect someone who is angry over these issues to anticipate and meet your expectations of dialogue? Especially when the anger is over issues of how privileged people act.

  18. [...] VegNews: Making The “Exotic” Safe For Privileged Western Vegans « Vegans of Color "Also scheduled is a visit to Jaipur, which “has intrigued and seduced travelers, wanderers, caravans and traders throughout history.” Yes, OOOOH EXOTIC. There you’ll “have dinner with a local family” for that oh-so-authentic touch of “traditional warm Rajasthani hospitality”. (I am reminded of how Thailand’s tourist industry bills it as the “Land of Smiles,” & how the Philippines is often referred to as full of friendly, helpful people. Shall we examine what might incentivize such behavior? Shall we look at what might motivate the West to view certain nations in these terms?)" (tags: exoticization race) [...]

  19. Katie Says:

    To those demanding explanations or action, expressing outrage or disagreement, etc.: why is Johanna responsible for your feelings? Why is she responsible for your education?

    View your own anger and confusion as part of your process of learning. This might sound condescending, but everything you’re saying, every angry feeling you’re having, someone else has had before – AND DOCUMENTED ON THE INTERNET. Do some antiracist research and you’ll see.

    Johanna – awesome post. F**k the haters. Stay strong.

  20. TeriSaw Says:

    A good deal of the comments have been chock-full of defensiveness. Guess what, most people have participated in othering or played into the idea of exoticism at some point. Even once you become aware of it there will be times when you slip, and when that happens it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to 1. accept responsibility 2. acknowledge you have been wrong and/or apologize 3. take steps not to do so again.

    Yes, it sucks to realize you’ve been a jerk but it is super dismissive to be digging in your heels and whining that VOC are So Mean for pointing this out in a less than soft and puffy way or that they MUST be overreacting because YOU would or have done something similar and YOU are a good person.

    Even good people sometimes do bad things, it’s called growing, learn from your mistakes, get over your knee-jerk defensiveness and try listening.

  21. Johanna has a good point about the myth of: if it’s ‘legal’ it’s ‘okay’. I guess it is important to reflect on how laws function and in whose interest they serve. The root of critical race theory comes from critical legal studies where the scholars criticized that the legal system is in place for the political and economic interests of the white class privileged status quo and does not remedy the problem of racism at all.

    I guess an example is that It is ‘legal’ for nations like the Bahamas and Jamaica to become indebted as tourist economies to pay back what they owe to the European banks that “helped” them. Structural adjustment policies (that are “legal” ) have created an economy in the Bahamas that relies on satisfying the American and European (largely white middle class ) tourist’s need for “adventure” and being serviced by “the natives.” These economies create and maintain homophobia, racism, classism, (see Alexander 2005) that is so ingenuously hidden from the “common Western tourist”, that it almost becomes INSANE to even mention that these “isms” are occurring.

    I can see why these dialogue are so heated and there is a lot of anger because these concepts of “exotic” and “touristing” have, in many aspects, caused a lot of pain and suffering on so many levels (and I know in other aspects they have not. This dialogue is addressing a lot of the pain and suffering it HAS caused that is not really ever address in the mainstream USA). Maybe for some folk, if you don’t viscerally experience this, perhaps it’s just really hard to understand why there are folk on here who appear “unjustly” angry? I am just putting the question out there. It’s quite difficult for a lot of us to “be formal and cordial” when words and phrases are triggering. I am not saying it’s right or wrong to be angry, but I’m saying it’s telling a STORY. Just like one’s LACK of anger about engaging in “exotic” things tells a STORY to. This dialogue has me asking, “What is the genealogy of my desire? What does it say about me if I desire to engage in something that I find pleasurable while another person finds enraging?” Like I have mentioned before, these are supposed to be tough and emotionally hard dialogues.

    If you’re interested more about the Bahamas (in what I was talking about), you can read “Pedagogies of Crossing” by Dr. M Jacqui Alexander (Duke Press, 2005). It’s an amazing scholarly work on transnational feminisims and decolonial theories. Maybe it can help folk on here understand (but I guess you don’t have to agree with the ‘tone’ of some of the VOCers) why anger permeates such dialogues.

    That is what I perceive VOCs to be: a space to have dialogues and talk about the really hard issues that potentially piss off those who have not experienced the DIRECT PAIN (emotionally or physical) of structural, institutional, covert, overt, and systemic racisms and neo-colonialism. I know we all don’t agree with each other, but I’m wondering why VOCs can’t be a space where anger and rage manifest, as well as a space for what one perceives as “formal” and “cordial” (which yea, I know, are heavily loaded and often silencing terms) dialoguing?

    Okay, I am taking my PhD exams right now and should probably get back to those!

  22. Oh, here is another helpful title to consider reading for those:

    Sun, Fun & Slavery: How the South Became the North’s Playground by Nelson Ross Laguna

    Quoted from AK Press: http://www.akpress.org/2009/items/sunfunandslavery

    “Most of us never stop to think about the footprints we leave after we have left the areas we claim to explore. Our attempts at helping the global south with tourist dollars is another attempt to have white man’s privilege save the poor from becoming poorer, all the while reinforcing racist stereotypes and the histories of slavery on a continuing path of imperialism. In our attempts to invent our own little paradise in someone else’s backyard, we have created a system that bears a striking resemblance to the one we were determined to destroy.

    Sun, Fun & Slavery is a short exploration of this phenomenon, with a focus on the intersection between modern-day tourism and terrorism.”

  23. x Says:

    They write “and eventually the British” like the British have as much right as the Hindus or Muslims that came before them to “rule” (and as if what the British did that they’re calling “ruling” is at all similar to Hindu or Muslim “rule”)

    I think at one point in my life I would have been totally into this so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that anyone could read this and not be horrified.

    The bit about charity makes me sick…people really don’t know or don’t care about how much damage they do. To think that “donating school supplies and books” (as an obnoxious privileged benefactor) might be enough to make up for the commodification, disrespect, and power that this trip represents…

  24. anon-y-mouse Says:

    I think that a lot of comments and questions by white people on this post are off base. I think that whites need to be thinking about, why are VOC bringing this up? People of Color don’t just come up with fictional problems that affect them & their communities. People of Color have experienced the effects of white people exotifying them…treating them like museum exhibits or shows of cultures that are “interesting”, “cool”, “exciting” or “weird” to white people. I would guess that a VOC would bring up the issue of exotification because they or POC they know have experiences with being treated as “exotic” by white people, and understand how intimately how and why it is painful.

    Rather than asking POC if what you’re doing is acceptable or messed-up, or spilling out your arguments as to why this is not an issue/and issue that you persynally have to deal with, I suggest starting with the idea that People of Color have a valid reason for bringing this issue up and because of that it makes sense for you as a white persyn to think about this issue and how it applies to your life.

    Being exotified isn’t something that happens to white people, because our cultures are viewed as “normal” and “regular”. How is it possible that a white who has read this blog entry then will have the understand of someone who has experienced this problem persynally? I think this means that we should be approaching this with more humility, and assuming that we don’t know what’s up/have the answers…

    As far as questions go, I think asking questions about these things can be productive and useful, if you’re think about what you’re asking for, and why you’re asking. My experience with white people (including myself) asking questions that come down to “am I in the clear?”, are looking to a POC for either a yes (which is then taken as the ultimate OK that said white persyn can now stop thinking about this issue), or a “no” followed by a long, hashed-out explanation & an argument persynally crafted to convince us that we should be thinking and addressing the issue raised.

    I also think that it’s way past deadline for white people to roll up our sleeves and take initiative to learn about issues related to racism and national oppression ourselves. For this issue, VOC have already posted a number of resources about this topic…

    • Jesse Says:

      They think that the problems of POCs are imagined because they have absolutely zero frame of reference for them. There are simply no analogies that can map this part of a POC’s experience to a regular white American’s experience.

  25. blondiefk Says:

    I have a question- someone brought up going to see the Amish as part of a theoretical tour. Even though the Amish are white-wouldn’t that be a form of exocticism? Isn’t it othering them to go and look at them and gawk at their way of life?

    • dersk Says:

      I dunno; growing up we just called it going to the farmer’s market. (:

    • johanna Says:

      Yes, as I said in reply to the original comment: “The inappropriateness of gawking at the Amish can coexist with the inappropriateness of gawking at POCs.”

  26. Liriel Says:

    P.S. It was unfair of you to demand that Joanna explain why “exotic” was a loaded term to her or to insist that it was a ‘neutral’ term to you. Even though I choose to write this explanation, it frustrates me because I feel that I have to justify my anger at a supposedly ‘neutral’ term when if I were to describe someone as using the presumably ‘neutral’ term “fat” (it’s just the opposite of thin isn’t it?) most Westerners would immediately understand why that was unkind. Having to justify WHY something is hurtful to POC is like having to justify why you stabbing me hurts me but not you. I can go into a long speech about proprioceptors and nociceptors, but I shouldn’t have to, and that isn’t my primary concern anyways. My primary concern is that I want you to stop stabbing me.

  27. [...] who don’t have white privilege, thin privilege, class privilege, educational privilege, Western privilege, cis privilege, Anglophone/English privilege, blonde privilege, and able privilege. At a previous [...]


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