Vegans of Color

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

Mystic Vegan Tap-Dance Boogie August 26, 2010

Some funky-fresh dope pro-vegan pro-Earth Afro-positive bars and imagery for y’all. Lyrics over here. Music by Djelimady Tounkara.

“Vandana Shiva is the general…”

 

Veganism and Cultures of Origin June 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:51 am
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This is a topic that never gets old, but I’d like to talk about how veganism can make vegans of color feel dis/connected to their culture(s) of origin. I’d like to talk about this with vegans of color.

As a mixed-race Filipina, I have often felt like I was being implicitly judged by Filipin@s & found wanting: I don’t speak Tagalog (much)? I don’t go to church? I don’t… eat adobo??? To me, veganism is just one other thing to add to the list of things that make me feel awkward at times. It’s not enough to make me forsake the way I eat, of course, but I can sense the pressure, & can imagine how it could be even more intense for people who are more culturally connected than I.

It’s been a long, hard trip on the road to accepting myself, from a racial standpoint, & so I love stuff like “Children of the Sun” by Deep Foundation. Much love to those guys (I even wrote a zine article about how much that song means to me), but… the lyrics mention chicken tocino & the video features cock fighting, two things (of a few, some non-vegan related) that bug me. And I know those two things are seen by a lot of people as quintessentially Filipino.

This is why the Tsinay Vegan blog rules: check out that list of veganized Filipino recipes in the sidebar. There’s also veganized soul food, & of course loads of other cultures’ foods have been veganized by people of those cultures (& other people, of course, some of whom clearly can’t resist the exotic). I’ve also seen people talking about decolonizing diets that were not originally chock full of animal products.

I am interested here in hearing from vegans of color: what has your experience been, regarding veganism & whatever culture you may feel is your home culture/culture of origin (if any)? Have you gotten resistance to your diet? Or are family foods easily veganizable, or perhaps even inherently vegan? Is it even an issue?

(Again: I want to focus this conversation around the experiences of people of color who are vegan. Thank you for respecting the conversational space.)

 

What Does “Veggie Pride” Look Like? May 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:43 pm
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A little while ago I just returned from the Veggie Pride Parade, about which I was a little dubious previously. Comments on that post expressed concern about the concept of “pride” being appropriated from queer culture.

That honestly hadn’t occurred to me (even as a queer person) earlier, but I was reminded of it now partly because of the issue of whether or not vegans themselves are oppressed — discussed recently on this blog here & here, & also from VoC readers on their own blogs here & here. I come down more on the side that vegans are not oppressed, for the reasons delineated in some of those links.

Anyway, given that, my unease with the idea of veggie “pride” grew. I actually think the idea of the parade is really neat, & a fabulous way to get a lot of people thinking about these issues. I saw numerous people actually looking at the literature being handed out, & I witnessed at least one conversation about veg*nism — although the person was defending her use of happy meat. (I did, also, see some guy walking by sort of chanting, “Meat! Meat! Meat!” — so I called him an asshole, because clearly I am a Mean Vegan. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

But “pride”? The concept of GLBT pride grew out of years of cultural & historical violence & repression, not to mention religious & cultural hatred. Like, hey, I’m gay & it’s okay, or even better, something to be proud of! The concept of ethnic pride (& you know I’m not talking about “white pride”) runs along similar lines.

The concept doesn’t work for me for veg*ns, though. Hey, call the parade New York Goes Veg Parade or New York Veggie Day Parade or something. But, yeah, I’m not on the “veggie pride” bandwagon. This doesn’t mean that I’m not, actually, proud of being vegan; I am. But culturally & politically, the idea of pride parades & that history being appropriated for a group such as veg*ns does not sit right with me.

Anyway — the actual parade. I was at the corner of 8th Street & Sixth Avenue, & when the parade (finally) came into view, all I could hear was “Go veg! Go veg! Go veg!” over & over. I’m glad they switched in some other chants later on, because it was a little silly to be chanting that for a minute straight. Another thing I thought of was that, sheesh, in future marches they really need some music. There was one guy shaking maracas but that seemed to be it. I know, from dealing with the NYC Pride Parade bureaucracy, that getting a permit for a car or truck (that could support a sound system) is costly, but with all the corporate sponsors they got, surely a few hundred bucks could’ve been spared? Or recruit folks for a veg*n marching band or something! Every parade needs music!

All this sounds very cranky, I know. But I was actually touched as the parade went by. I think they took about 10 minutes to walk by, which was pretty impressive in my view. I was expecting a lot of the stereotypical tattooed hipster veg*ns (because, hey, NYC & especially Greenwich Village has been known to have a lot of them), & there was a contingent.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see more POCs than I expected (not that the tattooed hipsters weren’t sometimes POCs of course!) — although to be frank, my expectations were, of course, low. But there was one quite large group that was predominantly (East) Asian (I think, based on a conversation I had with one of their members, mostly Chinese). Although it turns out they were from Supreme Master TV. Which seems a bit, er, confusing & odd to me. Their group did have a ton of neat pro-veg signs, though, & I can’t tell you how excited I was to suddenly see a big bunch of Asians in the parade!

Here’s a photo:

Supreme Master TV contingent

There were also a lot of kids in the parade, including these folks:

POC veg*n kids at Veggie Pride Parade

Yay for POC veg*n kids! Even though I still despise the whole “Miso ___!” thing.

I followed the parade to its end in Washington Square Park, made a quick tour of the exhibitors in order to score requisite free stuff, & managed to come home before it really started raining. And thus ends my combo report/critique. I’ll leave you with a shot of the Meat Eater’s Colon, as seen in the parade (love the colostomy bag, don’t you?):

Meat Eater\'s Colon

 

Wacky Brown People Food, Again February 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:50 pm
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Back near the beginning of this blog, I wrote about how Vegetarian Journal exotified Asian foods & seemed, in doing so, to be writing from a viewpoint that centered non-Asian — probably white — American experience & culture.

I was excited to look at the most recent issue & find an article called “Vegan Fare from India” that was an exception to this attitude. While describing common ingredients & modes of preparation in Indian food, nothing was said about how “exotic” anything was. We didn’t get the ooh-ing & ahh-ing (Those funny brown folks! Whatever will they come up with to eat next?) that makes me wanna claw someone.

So I was irked to see, elsewhere in the magazine, a blurb called “Practically Perfect Pakoras.” The frozen pakoras reviewed will appeal to “even the most culinarily timid” & serve to introduce them “to this seemingly exotic cuisine.” In fact, “[e]ven people who normally find Indian food intimidating” will like them.

Again, I ask, exotic to whom? (I noticed that the article on Indian food was written by someone whose bio & name leads me to believe she is Indian, which may explain why it lacked the annoyance factor of the pakora review.)

Look, I get that many people have never eaten Indian (or fill-in-the-blank with whatever cuisine) food. But there’s a difference between acknowledging that, & assuming that your audience has uniformly come from such a background — & that such a background is the norm.

 

Sharing Meals January 28, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — nosnowhere @ 3:41 pm
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In a post about Asian Americans and Palestine, Rage speaks briefly about food, and I think it’s relevant to a lot of stuff we talk about here:

I’ve mentioned before (I think, and if not, it’s a pending post that I will definitely get to soon), that while the narrative of Asian American (and broader) cultural studies sometimes suggests that traditions and sharing around food are one of the ways that different communities build solidarity, there’s often a gap for people who observe dietary restrictions. So where the whole “we all eat with chopsticks” or “rice is central” themes are nice, it makes it hard to break bread with APA compatriots when the bread has lard and there’s pork or meat in every other dish.

Not understanding how a simple issue like poor menu planning can immediately alienate and make folks less open to collaboration when it excludes consideration of vegetarian and halal diets is a fundamental failing of a lot of pan-Asian American efforts. You want to think that the community and political stuff should take precedence, but I’ve heard time and again that when something so simple is completely not considered, people lose faith that there’s any point in trying for the bigger issues. I’ve seen this change gradually in cities on the East Coast, perhaps because South Asians and others are still more active in pan-Asian spaces, but it’s pretty terrible on the West coast and other places. If I’m going to end up at a “community” dinner where I can’t order something, I might as well be part of the NRA.

 

two links November 27, 2007

Via the Veg Blog, here’s an article from Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (ugh, why take a PETA-like name?) on why the Heifer Project is a bad idea. It’s not just about the environmental toll of meat, and the inefficiency of meat-based agriculture in addressing hunger, but also about the fact that many people of color (such as those in countries the Heifer Project focuses on) are lactose-intolerant. So pushing dairy cows on them is a stupid thing to do.

Neva Vegan writes here about the cognitive dissonance among omnivores who are appalled at animal sacrifices in religions like Santeria (& you know a lot of that horror is racially tinged), yet think it’s absolutely fine to kill animals for dinner.

 

Do I look like a dogeater to you? November 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:00 am
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When I first saw the dog on a plate shirt, I thought it was clever. The text says, “Why not? You eat other animals, don’t you?” To me, that’s a fairly reasonable & succinct way to point up how subjective this society’s view on animals is: some of them we think are cute, so we keep them as part of our family. Some of them we don’t think are cute, so we feel okay about eating them. It’s not logical at all.

Other societies revere & revile different animals: cows in India, for example, have a different status than cows here. And, you know, there’s that whole Asians as dogeaters thing.

I’m not denying that some Asians, at some times, have eaten dogs. What gets me is how pernicious the stereotype is — all Asians as savage dogeaters! They’re eating Fido & Fluffy, what barbarians! — & how it ignores the fact that Western society has its own subjective values about what animals are, for some reason, okay to kill. And it plays into the whole idea of Asians as mysterious, dangerous, & very Not Like Us.

The other day I was looking at vegan shirts online & saw this shirt again. I imagined myself wearing it… & wondered what people would think, seeing an Asian woman wearing a shirt with a dog on a plate, with the most visible text reading, “Why not?”

I decided to pass on the shirt.

(Mind you, as a mixed-race person I get identified incorrectly a lot — but that, & the issue of why people feel they have the right to stand around in public & try & guess “what” I am, is another post for another blog…)

 

 
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