Vegans of Color

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

… & the rest of you can wait March 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:24 pm
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In response to being called out for claiming that leafleting to college students & faculty couldn’t have any whiff of classism about it, Elaine Vigneault offers up her reasoning for why she chooses to focus on animal rights activism as her priority. There are some things that could be picked apart in the post, but what stuck out most for me was this:

I advocate veganism predominantly to the privileged precisely because they are privileged. They have the most power to affect significant change in our society on behalf of animals, the environment, and public health.

So instead of denying, as in the comments on Prof Susurro’s post, that leafleting solely to college students & faculty might possibly have a class element to it, Elaine now turns around & says that this is a deliberate tactic, that those who are privileged must be prioritized for their power.

In other words, let’s bank on their privilege instead of, I don’t know, working to help other people become empowered.

What are the rest of the people supposed to do in the meantime? And what about people from non-privileged groups who are doing advocacy work within their communities? Are they then wasting their time? Is grassroots work pointless unless it targets the government (as a body Elaine cites as having power to change attitudes about nonhuman animals) or other powerful groups? Should we hinge all our efforts on legal change? What would animal activism that (further) ignores marginalized groups look like? Where will it get us? How do we gain by setting our eyes on those with the most power?

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48 Responses to “… & the rest of you can wait”

  1. Yippee! Infighting!
    We let a nonvegan rile us up and now we’re attacking each other.

    Boy, we sure are helping animals and oppressed people by accusing each other of either being elitist (your accusation of me) or ineffective (my accusation of you), aren’t we?
    Well done!!!

  2. Ed Says:

    1. Elaine never says that any sort of activism is “wasting time”. You put those words completely into her mouth.

    2. In fact, Elaine ALWAYS says quite the opposite, that you should be an activist for animals in whatever ways that are right for you whether some vegan-in-charge type says they “work” or “don’t work”.

    3. I think it’s an unnecessary burden on the activist to claim that they must not only fight all forms of oppression and not focus on one or two… but that they must always do so simultaneously, for instance fighting both animal oppression and classism with every single act.

    4. Leafletting is CLEARLY more effective, per leaflet distributed, in places like college campuses than in randomly chosen locations. If you dispute that, I don’t really know what to say. IMO if you want to demand leafletters not choose these more effective locations, you’re saying to the activist, “You need to use your individual time and money inefficiently because we live in a classist society.” You’re right, we do live in a classist society, and there are a million worthwhile things we can do to remedy that situation. But, again, IMO you or anyone else doesn’t have the right to say to any individual activist, “Unless you fight classism with every single act, you’re part of the problem.”

    • Angel H. Says:

      I think it’s an unnecessary burden on the activist to claim that they must not only fight all forms of oppression and not focus on one or two… but that they must always do so simultaneously, for instance fighting both animal oppression and classism with every single act.

      Recognize that the reason she CAN focus solely on veganism is because of her privilege. Not all of us are so fortunate., which (as Alice has stated below) is why intersectionality is so important.

      • Ed Says:

        You’re moving the goalposts. I would never disagree that intersectionality is important. My problem is with this idea:

        “In other words, let’s bank on their privilege instead of, I don’t know, working to help other people become empowered.”

        The word I detest is “instead.” The privileged white vegan should STOP leafletting on college campuses and do something else (i.e., working to help other people become empowered) INSTEAD. Bleh. It’s hard enough to motivate people to be active for animals, you’re going to start telling people that they’re doing it wrong and should do something else INSTEAD?

        The fact is that leafletting on college campuses is a GOOD THING because it works (in a provably effective way I might add) against the oppression of non-human animals. Why should the privileged white vegan stop doing it? Maybe the privileged white vegan should do something IN ADDITION to leafletting on college campuses. Perhaps the privileged white vegan should do this additional thing INSTEAD of spending an hour at Whole Foods shopping for $20/pound vegan chocolates.

        To be frank (and not to my credit), leafletting for veganism is probably the most positive thing I do regularly… at least with respect to helping to eliminate the oppressions of our society. Please don’t tell me that I’m doing a bad thing because it’s not sufficiently intersectional. Instead, please tell me about other positive ways I can get active.

      • Are you forgetting that I’m female? Have you heard of sexism? Misogyny?

    • Coyote Says:

      In regards to point 3.

      I don’t believe that anyone’s realistically expecting every activist to actively fight against every oppression in the world; yes, it is (unfortunately) quite unfeasible.
      HOWEVER, I think it’s completely fair to argue that activists SHOULD spend time considering what the implications of their actions are, and to act in a way that is not (or is the least) oppressive. You need to realize that actions can’t just fight /against/ oppression, they can also work to /uphold/ certain oppressions.
      When Elaine says that she is flyering specifically to privileged people because “they have the most power to affect significant change in our society”, Elaine is not simply fighting to end the oppression of animals and not fighting to end classism. She is actually *reinforcing* the oppression of the working class and of others who are underprivileged. She is saying that only *privileged* people can be empowered to “change society” (which is just completely bogus–Hello?! Has this woman not heard of the Civil Rights movement?) , and therefore she is making veganism *less accessible* to those who are not privileged. She is also contributing to the image of veganism as a lifestyle that only the privileged can really maintain. Now, while she may argue that she is helping to end the oppression of animals by getting a few “privileged” people to go vegan, what she doesn’t realize is that she is simultaneously helping to *reinforce* the oppression of all of the people she deems “underprivileged”. She is not simply neglecting to fight this oppression because she ‘doesn’t have time’, she is actively reinforcing it.
      And in regards to not having that much time in the day to help fight class oppression and the oppression of POC–I find this argument a little silly.. Elaine said on Prof Sussuro’s post that she hands flyers out to ‘students and faculty’ on college campus ..how much more time in the day is it going to take her to hand out flyers to those members of the working class who work on campus? How hard is it to go flyer in a different neighborhood for a few days?

      • Ed Says:

        Are you arguing that Elaine’s rhetoric in these threads entrenches classism? Or are you arguing that the act of handing out leaflets with pictures of turkeys on them to people on college campuses entrenches classism? Because IMO if you’re arguing the second thing then you’ve absolutely lost me.

        You might as well argue that universities themselves entrench classism, since a lot of educational materials get passed around in such places to the exclusion of those not present. I mean, maybe you would argue that universities are fundamentally classist… and there’s certainly something to it. But IMO a critique of passing out literature on college campuses implies a critique of college campuses, period.

        FWIW, I leaflet with Elaine sometimes. Leafletting on college campuses is generally a positive experience where some people read the leaflets and are open to learning about veganism. Some leaflets obviously also end up in the trash can. I’ve leafletted off campuses with Elaine in certain locations specifically chosen because they’re likely to have people open to learning about veganism and had a similar positive experience.

        When you leaflet in locations chosen more or less randomly, you get a very different response. You get much more negativity, more rancor, and many more leaflets in the trash can.

        IMO no one has the right to say to Elaine (or any other activist), “You really should go to hostile locations to distribute literature that will likely be thrown away because your practice of selecting locations where your message will be received better is classist.”

        I mean, for Pete’s sake, Elaine is taking time out of her life to convince people she doesn’t know to stop consuming animals. How is that BAD?

      • If I sit around at home and do nothing, you won’t criticize me. But if I run a grassroots vegan organization, go leafleting at my local college, put up billboards in my community, give out free vegan food, get articles in newspapers about veganism, run a large vegan website, do vegan videos and in essence help thousands of people go vegan… then I get SHIT ON.

        When will I ever be able to live up to your impossibly high standards? When will I ever be good enough for you?

      • prof susurro Says:

        Ed no one said to stop advocating on campuses. The critique in the comments was abt how campus activism did not relate back to the examples in the vegans of color post (homeless women) or my post (homeless women, women in purposefully underdeveloped nations, and working class women in the U.S.) and how this illustrate the point about avoidance and classism:

        “By nature of being in college, students and faculty are more privileged than the people being discussed in either this post or the post at Vegans of Color blog.”

        and the specific activism was never judged or disregarded:

        “No one is faulting you personally for the activism you do or questioning the need for it. And no one is saying that organizing around animal rights is wrong. Nor, as you imply, does this post argue that ALL vegans are engaged in elitism or classism.”

        I would encourage everyone starting at the end (ie Elaine’s 2 part, turned 3 part, now promised 4 part series) to read through the entire discussion, which started here with a post by a woc academic who does campus greening activism, moved to my blog (written by a woc academic who does social justice work in the community & teaches social movement history on campus), & then make up your own minds. Otherwise, your may be getting misinformation and responding accordingly.

        As I said on my blog, I won’t participate in a flame war, but I do think you should at least have some of the key info available since both my partner and I are now the targets of Elaine’s promised 2 part, turned 3 part, and now promised 4 part series that seems increasingly removed from the actual text with each part.

      • prof susurro Says:

        You should also note that as of now, Elaine has refused to approve a comment on her post arguing that I am a non-vegan sitting in judgment of vegans in which I asked simply that she refrain from calling me non-vegan because we disagree. (and yes, she has approved other comments since mine came in)

        And now I really am being sucked into the drama, so I am going to withdraw.

      • Coyote Says:

        Elaine- Personally, I don’t mean to “shit on” you, or to flame you, and, while I can’t speak for everyone else, it doesn’t seem like other commenters mean to be ‘shitting on’ you either.
        I think the aim is to provide you with some constructive criticism on how to make your activist tactics more productive and to lessen any negative consequences that may result from your actions. Sometimes people do things with the best intentions, yet there are some negative consequences to which they are unaware–is it so wrong for others to come and point out those negative consequences, and get a dialogue going so that we can come up with better tactics to help reach our similar goals? Criticism is a vital part of activism–hell, it’s a vital part of life–so I don’t really see a need to assume it’s being done with cruel intentions (i.e. to “shit on” someone) and to get super defensive about it.

  3. alice Says:

    unless “whatever ways that are right for you” involve intersectionality.

    If you understand that animal’s rights matter, why is it so much harder to see that people who are different from you also need to be included in your activism?

    (and what does having a black foster child have to do with classism amongst vegans? that was the part that stuck out for me the most in her post.)

  4. Alice,
    You asked, “what does having a black foster child have to do with classism amongst vegans”

    It has to do with the fact that I recognize racism (as well as other isms like classism) within the animal movement on a personal level because a number of vegans, vegetarians, raw vegans, and other animal people (as well as all the anti-animal people, too!) can’t tell the difference between my current black foster baby and my last black foster baby.

    It relates to the fact that I understand that many people in our movement don’t know the first thing about privilege, racism, classism, sexism, etc. AND that I have to deal with that whether I want to or not.

    It relates because I’m hoping to adopt him and I’ll raise him vegan. I want the best for him – and for animals, the planet, and other people – so I am deeply and passionately committed to creating a world in which vegans of color are accepted and empowered.

    That starts with building a critical mass of vegans – something I believe is most effectively done by each of us encouraging veganism in our own ways that suit our unique skills, lifestyle, and beliefs. For me, that means I do the things I do: vegan websites, vegan leafleting, vegan billboards, vegan potlucks, etc. AND I encourage others to get active, too.

    • Angel H. Says:

      Let’s get one thing clear: The racism that your foster child and that other POC Vegan POCs experience is something that you will NEVER experience. Saying that you understand what it’s like, is not only false, but frankly, it’s insulting.

      You may be able to concentrate solely on the Vegan movement, but for myself, the authors of this blog, and for your Black foster child, our color doesn’t wash off.

      • You’re right, I’m not going to experience racism the way POC of will. But that doesn’t discount my point that I can clearly see racism in our movement and that what helps me see it if my connection to my child.

    • Coyote Says:

      If you want vegans of color to be “empowered”, why don’t you work actively to educate people of color who are not vegans themselves about the benefits of veganism, and allow those people to make their *own* decision to become vegan? That sounds more empowering to me than if you were to raise a child of color and impose veganism on hir and expect zhe to carry out your own activist goals. That sounds more like you are using hir as a *tool* for *your* goals, which is not empowering for hir at all, and instead very problematic.

      • Anonymous Says:

        I’m not adopting in order to create a black vegan! My god, that’s ridiculous!
        I’m adopting because I want to adopt.

      • Ed Says:

        It’s problematic to raise a child with your values? For reals?

      • Coyote, you’re getting classism and racism mixed up.

        You wrote: “If you want vegans of color to be ‘empowered’, why don’t you work actively to educate people of color who are not vegans themselves about the benefits of veganism”

        I leaflet on college campuses to all races. In fact, the population of people of color at the college is GREATER than the population of people of color in the general population of the city.

    • cbitow Says:

      i dont agree with white people adopting kids of color, whites raise them without any way of uelping them garner the tools to critically see and respond to racialized oppression.

      and then paradung tbis fact as some sort of badge of antiracism.

      sorry if i’m being to blunt and not taking the time out to educate you,, dont got the time

      • It’s kind of a broad statement to make that all white people who adopt non-white racialized kids are unable to properly respond to racialized oppression.

      • supernovadiva Says:

        i have white/gay friends who have adopted black children. they are doing well and are very sensitive to their needs culturally and as individuals, just as i am with my child. i’m for loving families adopting children who, in some situations, are doomed to live their whole lives in the system just to be spit out once they turn 18. i have no problem with cross cultural adoption as long as the parents are fully aware and active in nurturing the child’s identity- as all parents should be. so i wouldn’t go for that blanketed statement.

  5. prof susurro Says:

    when did I lose the right to self-define?

  6. supernovadiva Says:

    …Leafletting is CLEARLY more effective, per leaflet distributed, in places like college campuses than in randomly chosen locations-
    GTFOH! random? you’re only reaching a small number of people at the colleges than if you chose to frequent areas where there’s tons of pedestrians, cooking demos at churches, volunteering at a food pantry, food drives, door to door meals for the ill, exercise/ nutrition classes @ the Y, freecycle drive, starting community gardens etc. that’s how you combat multiple issues at once. but that’ll require you to step out of your bubble.
    a lot of people who turn vegan aren’t in college and some never enrolled in one.

    • I’ve leafleted at many locations – on the Las Vegas Strip, downtown, at pet events, community college, the four-year university, at potlucks, bake sales, protests… and my experience as well as the data says that some places are better than others.

      Statistically, middleclass white women who have some college education are the most likely to go vegan. That’s the data right now. There are a lot of reasons why, but focusing on effective animal advocacy does not mean I’m “in a bubble” or that I’m supporting oppression. It means I’m saving animals’ lives.

      Here’s an analogy:
      Statistically, married white couples, single women, and black people are most likely to become foster parents. They have fewer misconceptions and they’re more willing to care for foster children. If I wanted to help more kids get out of group homes and into loving foster homes, should I target Latino or Asian people to become foster parents? How about single men?

      Should I deliberately choose an uphill battle when kids’ lives are at stake? If I truly center the children and make their interests my priority, shouldn’t I work within the groups of people most likely to become foster parents?

      Can you see how if my goal is to save animals’ lives I can’t choose the resource-intensive, uphill battles all the time. I should choose the most efficient and effective methods at reducing animal suffering and death.

      • Angel H. Says:

        Statistically, married white couples, single women, and black people are most likely to become foster parents. They have fewer misconceptions and they’re more willing to care for foster children. If I wanted to help more kids get out of group homes and into loving foster homes, should I target Latino or Asian people to become foster parents? How about single men?

        Wouldn’t you be preaching to the choir?

        The thing that’s so offensive to me about this whole thing is that you make it seem as though it would be such a huge burden to go out of your way to reach out to these other people. Personally, my biggest concern regarding veganism is accessibility. Posting leaflets and handing out flyers at the liquor stores/groceries that are so prevalent in lower-income neighborhoods would be so helpful in getting the information to the community. The attitude of “I’ll go over here because it’s easier” is a cop-out.

      • Angel,
        Keeping up with the analogies…

        If by “choir” you mean people who’ve never been to church yet are sitting right outside the church… people who need just a little gentle coaxing to come inside. If that’s what you mean, then yes, I suppose it is “preaching to choir.”

        But what you’re suggesting I should do is go to an atheist club meeting and try to convince them to go to church and join the choir.

      • Ida Says:

        The foster parents analogy is problematic (actually, I’d like to say it’s fucked up beyond belief!). Yet I think the analogy aptly illustrate a strategy that favors privilege and the status quo.

        The foster system in the U.S. is intertwined with institutional racism and classism. The children who end up in foster care are disproportionately taken from poor families and families of color, particularly poor Black families, and placed into the so-called “loving homes” of affluent White families. This is directly related to the inequity that is embedded in our political system and social structure.

        If trauma strikes a poor family and/or a family of color, systemic inequality adversely affects the ability of the family to cope with the trauma. In contrast, affluent White families receive significant protection from their race and class privilege.

        As a society, we deny oppressed families the very social entitlements (access to healthful food, living wage jobs, health care, adequate housing, publicly funded child care and so on) that would allow them to care for their children, and we’re instead subsidizing affluent families to care for those same children. So, rather than addressing the oppressive structure that perpetuates trauma in the families of oppressed groups, we are encouraged to support how our society steals their children and sends them to be fostered by privileged families.

        This is part of a legacy going back to the defeat of Reconstruction when fostering children was instituted as a tool to strip freed slaves of their children and return those children to the control of their parents former masters, as well as the removal of Native American children from there families in order to “kill the Indian within the Indian.” Like fostering at the end of the 19th century, the existing foster system needs to be understood in the context of an institution that transfers wealth from the poor families and families of color to affluent White families.

        It’s claimed that putting children in privileged families is the best way to prioritize the interest of the children who are stolen from their families and put into foster care. Contrary to what is suggested, we can support families instead of stealing their children and giving them over to privileged families. In this way Dr. Carl C. Bell, a professor of Psychiatry and Public Health at the University of Illinois and President and CEO of the Community Mental Health Council, demonstrates how we can eliminate foster care. In 2000, 35,000 Black children in McLean County, Illinois, were snatched out of their homes and put into foster care. In 2002, by implementing a program that empowered families targeted by the foster care system, Dr. Bell and his colleagues were able to reduce the number of Black children going into foster care to 13,580.

        According to Bell’s research, continuing to remove children from their original families and putting them in foster care does not reduce trauma, but rather increases the risk factors that underlie that trauma. So why is it that in the analogy it is never considered that we work to empower the families? I think we know the answer. The strategy doesn’t question existing social inequity, and in fact plays into supporting the privileged status quo. “In other words,” as Johanna notes, “let’s bank on their privilege instead of, I don’t know, working to help other people become empowered.”

      • Ida,
        That is, in fact, something I’m aware of. And it’s a point I made right here on VOC: http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/statement-on-haiti-from-adoptees-of-color/#comment-3712

        The problems of fostercare in the US (and all adoption everywhere) are enormous and require much more than simply “empowering families,” (which by your own admittance was less than 50% effective).

        AND your solution doesn’t help the children in need right now.

      • Ida Says:

        I’m sorry, but “less than 50% effective” reveals a problem with math. Dr. Bell’s work has proven much better than 50% effective, and it made all the difference in the reduction of trauma that might have otherwise effected 21,420 children and their families.

        In spite of a professed awareness of the issues, the flippant dismissal of the significance of empowering families and what that means in terms of reducing the suffering and trauma that these children and their families experience as a result of the fostercare-industrial complex speaks volumes.

        The fostercare-industrial complex is not a solution to family and child trauma any more than an iron lung is a solution to polio, to use Dr. Bell’s analogy. That is, empowering families provides them with protective factors that help them effectively avoid trauma, similar to how a polio vaccine protects the body preventing the disease. The so-called “solution” of the fostercare-industrial complex is only employed after a family has already been devastated by trauma, just as the iron lung as a “solution” is only employed once the body has already been devastated by polio. In other words, these are not actually solutions.

        Everything in my previous comment stands. The foster parents analogy and the class- and race-based profiling (and lets admit that’s what it is, and that that’s why people have a problem with it – they’re not saying we shouldn’t reach out to affluent White students and faculty, but that profiling potential vegans based on their race, class and access to higher education is fucked up!) outreach strategy it is meant to prop up are still based on privilege and maintaining the status quo.

      • supernovadiva Says:

        i find this comparisson very problematic, very worrisom and maybe not well thought out in passion.
        foster children are not put down, sold as food and clothing. all the groups you mentioned can adopt a more vegetable based diet if all things are available. adopting children is a different story all together for all groups you’ve mentioned.
        what if your child came from the people you’re avoiding? would surrounding your child in those cultural enviroments be a waste of time? or would you need data for that too? would your child benefit from seeing people who look like him living a vegan lifestyle or just keep him in your cultural vacuum? would you even look for those groups, not just those online? there’s black vegetarian societies in many major cities. would you join them in their events? you have to think about these things since you’re planning on raising a vegan black child.
        but i would stop using this comparrison of animal rights/ foster children. no matter how you try to explain it it doesn’t seem to work out well.

      • “there’s black vegetarian societies in many major cities. would you join them in their events? ”

        Of course I would bring my son to those events.
        Sadly, nothing like that exists in Las Vegas. Yet.

        I’m deeply offended by the assumptions many of you have made about me, my activism, and my life.

        I can’t participate in this discussion anymore. It’s far too personal. When you essentially called me a bad mother and a baby stealer… I just can’t take this.

        You are all too mean. I can’t visit this blog anymore.

        • I offered the journal articles to add more to the conversation, not to be mean Elaine. Sorry if you took it that way.

          • prof susurro Says:

            I didn’t want to take up too much space with reading suggestions on Vegans of Color blog, but I did recommend Cultural Alterity to my readers in this thread & thought that the rest would be helpful.

  7. Angel H. Says:

    Are you forgetting that I’m female? Have you heard of sexism? Misogyny?

    Are you forgetting that saying “Hey! I’m oppressed, too!” doesn’t cancel one privilege for another.

  8. Angel H. Says:

    But that doesn’t discount my point that I can clearly see racism in our movement and that what helps me see it if my connection to my child.

    Oh rly?

  9. Angel H. Says:

    You’re moving the goalposts. I would never disagree that intersectionality is important. My problem is with this idea:

    “In other words, let’s bank on their privilege instead of, I don’t know, working to help other people become empowered.”

    The word I detest is “instead.” The privileged white vegan should STOP leafletting on college campuses and do something else (i.e., working to help other people become empowered) INSTEAD. Bleh. It’s hard enough to motivate people to be active for animals, you’re going to start telling people that they’re doing it wrong and should do something else INSTEAD?

    I think there may just be a misunderstanding here. Since this blog, the post, and the post it’s referring to are about veganism (among other things), I don’t believe the OP is saying anything like, “Drop what you’re doing! Time to go to the homeless shelter.” It was my understanding (Johanna, please correct me if I’m wrong) that’s the OP calls for vegan activism to target a wider audience by not concentrating solely on leafletting at college campuses, and also going to places in lower-income areas.

    • Angel – Let me explain more clearly. Out of each 100 leaflets passed out on a college campus, about 1 or 2 make a significant difference in someone’s life and they go vegetarian or vegan. In order to have the same effect FOR ANIMALS through leafleting, we’d probably have to pass out ten times as many leaflets.

      Leaflets aren’t free. It costs money for paper, ink, and printing. Plus someone has to donate their time to pass them out. All I’m saying is that I like to use our resources most effectively to deal with the urgent need of animals and the planet. In order to create the critical mass of vegans that I think it will take in order to foster major social change, I think my time and money is best spent advocating for animals in the ways that are most cost-effective.

      It simply doesn’t make sense for me to leaflet in certain areas, particularly if/when I don’t “belong” in/to those areas. When I volunteered at a homeless women’s shelter I never whipped out the leaflets. If someone asked me a question about my thoughts about animals, I answered honestly. There was one point where a woman asked for specific nutritional advice because she was transitioning out of the shelter and into her own apartment. I gave her a book. And I did subscribe to an animal magazine in the name of the shelter so that the women could read it and learn, but that’s not leafleting. In general, homeless shelters are not a good place to encourage people to go vegan. (I kind of thought that’s part of what the entire original conversation about the fur coats was all about.)

      However, I do agree that there is room for vegan education to take place anywhere and everywhere. And that’s why I personal take part in many forms of advocacy. And that’s why I generally refrain from telling anyone to stop whatever advocacy they’ve chosen and to start doing something more effective. I think it takes all kinds and there are all kinds of paths.

      BTW, I stopped volunteering at the shelter. It was too emotional for me. I was literally crying everyday on my drive to the shelter. So sorry that I privileged my sanity and emotional well-being over other people’s access to my generosity. I’m such a terrible person!

    • johanna Says:

      Hi Angel — yeah, you got me correctly! I agree w/your comments (& pretty much all the comments here except for Elaine & Ed’s, go figure). I have an issue w/activism that deliberately focuses on the privileged BECAUSE they’re privileged. Way to re-inscribe the vegan elitism myth!

      I also find the comments about how people would never tell other people how to be an activist disingenuous, & honestly, any movement that isn’t critical about what’s working & what’s not working & what needs to be changed isn’t going to be much of a movement.

      Or it will have a very narrow base. OH WAIT…

  10. Crys T Says:

    “Are you forgetting that I’m female? Have you heard of sexism? Misogyny?”

    Oh my god. Please just stop. As a white woman, I’m telling you, please stop this nonsense NOW. I’m so tired of white fauxgressive pseudo-feminists playing Oppression Olympics in order to silence criticism coming from people with less privilege. I’ve been seeing this sort of tactic used in online forums for over a decade now. It’s oppressive and it needs to STOP.

    And seriously, have you never heard any of those jokes about bigots who are so clueless that they think saying, “But my best friend’s Black/Jewish/a woman/gay,” gives them a free pass on their oppressive behaviour? No? Do you realise that when you brought up your Black foster child, you were becoming the real-life embodiment of that joke?

    “When will I ever be good enough for you?”

    Maybe when you truly understand what “Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue” actually means? Or when you stop running over here (and even to places like the Postpunk Kitchen forums) to try and police everybody’s discussions whenever the issue of elitism and privilege in mainstream (i.e. more publicly visible [ie white and middle-class]) veganism comes up? Maybe when you really learn what privilege is and how it distorts your worldview?

    Anyway, I think the real question is not when you will be good enough for the people who post and comment here, but when will *they* be good enough for *you*? When will YOU start actually listening to what they have to say, rather than coming here only when you want to impose your own narrow, white, middle-class, English-speaking American definition of what “vegan” means? When will YOU start giving their opinions due respect and their criticisms due consideration rather than just giving a kneejerk response along the lines of “all vegans, in order to be Good Vegans, MUST at all times adhere to the same party line”? And when will YOU get it through your head that that party line is only possible for people who belong to a tiny, tiny elite? And when will YOU realise that the only reason that this elite possibility is ONLY considered desirable because it IS exclusive to the elite? When will YOU stop seeing yourself as the centre of the universe and recognise that others have the same value as you?

    • l.d. Says:

      that was said very well. now let’s see if elaine will actually be willing to do any of this … i

      • These two peer reviewed journal articles come to mind as I read through this discussion thread. I am wondering if it’s potentially helpful. If so, email me at breezeharper (at) gmail (dot) com and I can people both pdfs.

        International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
        Vol. 22, No. 6, November–December 2009, 729–744

        You showed your Whiteness: you don’t get a ‘good’ White people’s
        medal

        by Cleveland Hayesa and Brenda G. Juárez

        Abstract: The White liberal is a person who finds themselves defined as White, as an oppressor, in short, and retreats in horror from that designation. The desire to be and to be known as a good White person stems from the recognition that Whiteness is problematic, recognition that many White liberals try to escape by being demonstrably different from other, racist Whites. When good White liberals exhibit certain behaviors the expectation becomes a good White people’s medal; through the use of a counternarrative, our attempt is to problematize the good White person’s identity and subsequent reward that many expect because of some
        deed or some political stance they made.

        Western Journal of Communication Vol. 73, No. 4, October–December 2009, pp. 418–436
        ‘‘I Am Also in the Position to Use My Whiteness to Help Them Out’’: The Communication of Whiteness in Service Learning by Danielle Endres & Mary Gould

        Abstract: In this essay, we examine the relationship between Whiteness theory and service learning, specifically through an examination of an intercultural communication course we taught. In our analysis of student-written assignments, we reveal how service learning provides a context for students to rehearse and affirm White privilege, despite the fact that they have been exposed to critical theories of Whiteness before engaging in service learning projects. Specifically, we identify and examine two rhetorical strategies that perpetuate White privilege in the context of service learning: (1) the conflation of being White with Whiteness, and (2) using White privilege for charity. Our analysis contributes a significant critique of the use of service learning in communication courses.

  11. Noemi M Says:

    Elaine, please stop. Can you just step back? (not saying this as a blogger here @ VOC. )

  12. Angel H. Says:

    Elaine,
    When I saw your response to my comment about accessibility to vegan foods for those in lower-income neighborhoods on your blog, I thought that we had come close to an understanding. You said,

    Saying that poor people can’t go vegan is just like saying poor people can’t eat kosher. When you truly value something, you find a way.

    I had perceived that you felt that introducing veganism to lower-income families was possible. That was until I read this:

    But what you’re suggesting I should do is go to an atheist club meeting and try to convince them to go to church and join the choir.

    Your analogy would be more suited if I had asked to pass out leaflets in front of a steakhouse. You seem to believe that lower-income families would not only be reluctant, but would be completely and utterly averse to the idea.

    As you also said, “Plenty of vegans are poor.” So why would attempting to educate people about vegansim be such a waste of time and resources?

  13. [...] Re-Post: Feminist Reading Tools for Recognizing and Dismantling Intersectional Oppressions I am re-posting this post from 2008 in solidarity with Breeze Harper’s suggestion in the comments that all vegan activists might benefit from doing s…. [...]

  14. Francesca Says:

    I don’t get the having to stop volunteering at the homeless shelter because it made you cry stuff. You say that like people should feel bad for you. I bet many of the people in that shelter cried at night too- but they didn’t have the privilege of leaving. No one is saying you should go to a homeless shelter to advocate veganism. How about a grocery store in a low income neighborhood? I’ve recieved 7th Day Adventist literature offering free cooking classes and a vegan diet in a low income neighborhood. I actually think it’s kind of an insult to poor people that you don’t give them enough credit to become vegan. Maybe the reason more white middle class college educated women become vegan is because that is who the educationl materials are targetting.

    Just a thought.

  15. [...] And Prof Susurro at Like a Whisper re-posts a list of Feminist Reading Tools for Recognizing and Dismantling Intersectional Oppressions in solidarity with Breeze’s offering of resources here. [...]

  16. JRB Says:

    Personally, I think it’s wise to direct activism toward groups with comparable levels of privilege as yourself, and I think Elaine’s argument makes sense: her work goes further because she’s on familiar terrain, working with people who share many of the same concerns and prejudices as herself.

    I would never second-guess what she is doing, which relates to her circumstances, not ours. We can’t decide what is the best course of action for others, only for ourselves. As far as I can tell, Elaine never presumed to instruct anyone else on “what they should be doing,” but merely stated a strategy that she felt worked for her.

    We don’t have to like that strategy; but we also aren’t under any obligation to follow it.


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