Vegans of Color

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

White male vegan paternalism: Or, on how to offend Black Veg*n Reiki Community June 21, 2011

Filed under: vegan — Dr. A. Breeze Harper @ 5:21 pm
Tags: ,

In this video I speak about how white male middle-class paternalism ended up offending and upsetting an African American practitioner of vegetarianism and Reiki. This video is an example of how white middle class paternalistic rhetoric becomes an impediment when communicating with “other” communities that don’t fit into the racial-class-gender status quo’s conception of ‘logical healing systems’ or ‘morality.’ I also didn’t say this in the video, but my friend kept the identity of the person who moderated the listserv, a secret, and sent me the quoted response she got from the moderator, in terms of she wanting to post about Reiki.


In this video I speak about how I am also raising money to finish my PhD/dissertation.

If you like what you hear and believe in the necessity of anti-racist and critical whiteness analysis within veganism (in order to help build coalitions and solidarity), please contribute to my fund. I am seeking $10,000 by September to register for school. Thus far, I have received $3200 in contributions (Thank you!!). My critical race and critical vegan dissertation fellowship was not renewed for 2011-2012 year, so this is why I’m seeking assistance. You can email a paypal donation to breezeharper (at) gmail (dot) com. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can email me and I can provide a postal mailing address. Thanks.

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8 Responses to “White male vegan paternalism: Or, on how to offend Black Veg*n Reiki Community”

  1. Ash Says:

    Thank you so much for this, I am a Queer Vegan White Woman (not trying to label myself, but just so you know my perspective for the sake of this post.) I have just become “aware of my white privilege” for lack of a better way to put it after being called out on it. At first I got defensive because of all the other work I do for queer, women, & animal liberation failing to realize that my rhetoric could make a person of color uncomfortable. This post has made me realize how my privilege could limit conversations in every form of struggle. I would never want to offend anyone and especially if it was out of ignorance. So thanks again for this post & the best of luck with your dissertation!

  2. After watching the video I feel you raise good issues over how the moderator approached the issue of the Reiki article, but ultimately the moderator of the list was correct about the unscientific nature of Reiki. When tested in a blinded manner it shows no actual effects. Its been tested many times by both promoters of and detractors and it fails to provided quality evidence.

    Science itself isn’t Euro-centric or a race issue, its simply an objective method of inquiry that works equally well across the world.

    Perhaps you may understand the moderators point of view better if given this example: There is sadly a significant community in the Bay Area and worldwide that deny any link between HIV and AIDS (which is scientifically well established), they instead promote various debunked theories about the alleged “cause” of AIDS and campaign against anti-retroviral drugs which have extended the lives of many people. This movement not only endangers HIV positive adults but also potential sexual partners who may not be informed about their HIV status and babies born HIV positive because their mothers refused to take anti-retrovirals. If someone had attempted to send an article promoting such dangerous ideas shouldn’t someone at least be concerned and contact the author expressing their concerns (whether it is outright censored is another matter).

    When someone sends out an article about Reiki they may likely be doing it because they want to help people with their health, it is this same concern that drives others to question unscientific healthcare and nutritional advice which they feel may lead to more harm than healing or at the very least a waste of time or money.

    “Scientifically factual” could mean something that passes a rigorous experiment (large sample, double blind, peer reviewed, ect) and can be replicated.
    To just say oh “scientifically factual, whatever that means” is quite dismissive

  3. Maria Says:

    I’m a Hispanic female and I don’t see what Reiki has to do with being of color. I find that quite offensive. I’m logical, and only believe in things I have evidence for. That has nothing to do with my skin color.

  4. Adam R. Says:

    Conflatiing the real (racial paternalism) with the unreal (hucksterism like Reiki) does not move knowledge forward. Science is not the province of any race. “Valid knowledge” is that which can be demonstrated empirically; systems of treatment like Reiki that cannot produce verifiable results in controlled, double-blind tests are not valid knowledge.

  5. AshleyZ Says:

    The separation between medicine that works and that doesn’t isn’t divided along racial lines.

    Plenty of white people believe in “alternatives” like Reiki, acupuncture, ear candling, faith healing, sympathetic magic, and magnet therapy.

    White people invented several entire fields of nonsense, including homeopathy, iridology, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, Dianetics, and Bowen therapy.

    Black people contributed substantially to scientific medicine. One man, Percy Lavon Julian, figured out how to synthesize steroids and as such enabled about half the contents of your medicine cabinet, including contraceptive pills, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, hormone replacements, and statins. Other black scientists were essential in producing pacemakers, ultrasound devices, disposable syringes, laser eye surgery, and more.

    What separates real medicine from nonsense is whether or not it works, not the skin color of the practitioner or the patient. If “alternative medicine” worked, it wouldn’t be an alternative; it would just be medicine.

    Something that is “scientifically factual” is a statement for which there exists empirical evidence; that means, a claim that corresponds with reality. Reality is what exists whether you believe in it or not.

  6. Referring to someone as requiring things to be “scientifically factual, whatever that means” is a ludicrous statement on your part. You deride something that is based on actual, meaningful logic.

    Seriously, your entire video is like a giant cartoon version of Berkeley. I would have thought you parody if I hadn’t seen the other entries.

    Life is hard. You’re going to offend and be offended. Even in Berkeley.


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