Vegans of Color

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

How NOT to Inspire More People to Go Vegan January 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 6:35 am
Tags: ,

Someone on Livejournal just posted a graphic created, apparently, as a vegan advocacy tool. In case that post gets deleted, the image is also here. I’m not posting it here because it makes me too angry.

It’s a graphic where the left half is a black & white photo of several black, presumably African, children who look extremely malnourished; the right half is a color photo of a cow. The text at the bottom says, “Who do you want to feed?” The font, by the way, is the same one used for LOLcats or other popular graphics that are generally seen as sarcastic or ironic (like Privilege Denying Dude).

I get what the person is trying to say; it’s drawing attention to how much grain is used to feed cows that are killed for human consumption versus how many people that could feed instead. I get the intention. Nevertheless, intention itself is not enough. This graphic embodies the worst kind of oppression porn, OMG-THOSE-POOR-BROWN-PEOPLE-OVER-THERE. And to many internet-savvy people, it may well appear to be a joke graphic because of the LOLcat font — like there should be a punchline. (Actually, I think it’s pretty close to an unintentional Privilege Denying Dude graphic myself.)

I’m not laughing.

 

Win a Signed Copy of Sistah Vegan! March 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:01 am
Tags: , , ,

Breeze is giving away one signed copy of the new Sistah Vegan book.

She’s gonna make you work for it: in 250 words or less, write something about the following topic in the comments of her post:


Sistah Vegan project was created to tackle the question of the racialized experience within veganism, with an emphasis on people who identify as black women. Give an example of how issues of race (racialization, anti-racism, ‘whiteness as the norm,’ racial formation or colorism) and veganism intersect(ed) in YOUR own lived experience.

The contest ends 1 April, with the winner being announced on 5 April. I’m sure it will generate a lot of thought-provoking comments!

 

Some words for Western animal rights activists to take to heart August 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

I recently read Abolition Democracy: Prisons, Democracy, and Empire, which is a brief collection of interviews Eduardo Mendieta conducted with Angela Y. Davis. Here’s a snippet. Mendieta has asked, “…what do U.S. and Western feminists have to say to Islamic and Middle Eastern women?”

[Davis:] … What do women in those areas of the world that suffer most under Bush’s policy of global war have to say to western feminists? It seems to me that those of us here in the U.S. who are interested in a transnational feminists project would better serve the cause of freedom by asking questions rather than making proposals. So I would want to know how feminist and working class activists in countries such as Iraq might envision the most productive role for us. In the meantime, we must continue to strengthen the anti-war movement.

[Mendieta:] You’re calling into question the paternalistic assumption in my question, that feminists in the West, and the U.S., have to school Islamic women about how to proceed. They can do that work themselves.

[Davis:] Exactly. We have not yet moved beyond the assumption that the most advanced feminists in the world — whether they are white or people of color — reside in the U.S. or in Europe. This is a form of racism that forecloses the possibility of solidarity.

Something for animal rights activists to keep in mind! Though I suppose the same readers of this blog who find such courses of action — listening to people in other countries and from other cultures instead of just swooping in as the great colonialist savior — unthinkable when bloggers here suggest them will offer up the same tired protests to Davis’ words.

 

Veganism and Cultures of Origin June 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:51 am
Tags: , , , ,

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.)

 

Who’s Monkeying Around for Veganism? December 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:51 am
Tags: , , ,

Recently I picked up a magazine from UK animal welfare group Viva that featured an article titled, “Don’t Monkey Around, Go Veggie!” It discussed a campaign they’re running, which highlights the loss of biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest caused by the raising of cattle for meat and uses a monkey as the main visual (see this leaflet [PDF file]). A photograph shows campaigners on the streets of Bristol; one is in a monkey suit, & two others, who appear — as far as I can tell — white, have monkey masks on their faces. Behind them, on a table, is a stack of monkey masks, presumably to give to interested passers-by along with leaflets.

My first reaction was that I could never dress up as a monkey: as a person of color I’ve been compared to animals & specifically to monkeys, gorillas, or other primates way too many times for that to be something I’d feel comfortable with (for more on this from an Asian American perspective, check out the anthology Screaming Monkeys). I know a lot of people of color who would feel the same way; historically the very humanity of many of us has been questioned, & comparing us to animals used to degrade us & justify mistreatment.

If I were handed a monkey mask on the street & exhorted to wear it on behalf of the animals, I would refuse for this reason. It seems pretty clear that this association of certain types of people with primates — and not in an empowering, “we’re all animals!” way — was not considered in planning this campaign. Color me surprised (pun intentional).

 

The Face(s) of Veganism in Bristol November 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 6:14 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve been absent from the blog for a few weeks due to relocating from New York City to Bristol, England (sorry to have missed out on some good discussion from folks!). There seem to be a lot of vegans here — or at least in my neighborhood — but I haven’t yet met any vegans of color.

I did spot one veg*n of color, or at least someone pretending to be one: Animal welfare group Viva is holding a Christmas Veggie Roadshow in Bristol soon, & I noticed immediately on picking up one of their flyers that the person shown was a woman of color (scroll down on their banner page to see the image). I thought that was kind of neat — though what’s with the Carmen Miranda thing?

My new neighborhood, Easton, sports a radical community center that does a weekly vegan brunch. I’ve only gone once so far, but hope to go more regularly, because I think it’s an awesome thing. But (you knew there was a but, right?) I couldn’t help but notice that everyone I saw at the brunch seemed to be white. In a neighborhood that, to my eye at least, seems to be predominantly of color.

Also nearby is Cafe Maitreya, an award-winning veg*n restaurant. It is indeed very tasty — my partner and I went last year when we were visiting — but rather expensive. I could be wrong, but given the economic statistics I’ve seen for our neighborhood, I am assuming that it’s mostly not locals keeping the restaurant afloat.

There’s obviously a lot of context I don’t have, given how new I am to the area, but I was struck by how in these two instances veg*nism seemed to be a marker, in some ways, of outsider status. This all connects to more thinking I need to do about my own place in the neighborhood, with regards to gentrification & other similar issues. And again, these are all just quick impressions that I’ve gotten over the few weeks that I’ve been here. I look forward to learning more… and also hopefully meeting other vegans of color, of course!

 

Black Dog Syndrome October 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized,vegan — Joselle @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , ,

A recent episode of Animal Voices covered a topic new to me, Black Dog Syndrome (BDS). BDS is defined as “the low adoption and high euthanasia rate of black dogs in shelters.” Two activists working on behalf of black dogs in shelters, Tamara Delaney of Contrary to Ordinary: The Black Pearls of the Dog World and Heather Rosenwald of Start Seeing Black Dogs, were featured on the show.

It’s so crazy to me that black dogs get intentionally or subconsciously ignored and abandoned. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The color black is often vilified and associated with evil or bad luck in the US.
  • In the media, black dogs are often associated with aggression and menace.
  • Facial features of black dogs don’t show up as well on pet adoption websites.
  • Black dogs “get lost” in shelters, too–they don’t stand out as much as lighter colored dogs
  • Black cats also get a bad rap since they are particularly associated with bad luck and superstition.

Of course, all of these theories are inextricably linked with how people of color are so often viewed–menacing, strange, foreign, bad, unattractive. The show’s host, Lauren Corman, did ask both guests to touch on how ideas of race and racism have made black dogs invisible or undesirable. While they did not personally see this playing out in the communities they worked in, they did agree that this was an issue raised by others in the BDS community. 

During the episode, Corman also breifly shared a story about a shelter who was criticized by the NAACP for using the phrase, “Black is Beautiful,” during a campaign that coincided with the holiday, Juneteenth, which celebrates the abolition of black slaves in Texas.  My reaction to the comments on the news article I linked to could be a separate post in and of itself. Most of them tell the NAACP to just chill and stop harassing the innocent animals. I’m inclined to take a similar, though more muted, position. Now that I know what BDS is, I am all about getting the word out on behalf of these animals and when I am ready to care for another dog, I will go out of my way to adopt a black one. The response to and from the NAACP, however, is again a case where activists in the animal welfare/rights movements and in other social justice movements are seen as diametrically opposed. I have not seen the NAACP’s original statement to the shelter so I can only assume that the organization thought that using such a powerful phrase as “Black is Beautiful,” was disrespectful and that even subtly comparing the plight of black dogs with the plight of black Americans trivializes that human struggle. Since black American slaves were legally considered property in much the same way animals are, this bristling is even more understandable. This is a shortsighted view, however, that ignores how the same systems of oppression that create and sustain racism are the same ones that enable animal use and ownership by humans. The comments to the NAACP to “just get over it,” is an example of how issues of race are often so easily dismissed by those who are not on the receiving end of racism.

In an appropriate side note, Philadelphia’s homeless animals (mostly cats and dogs) are facing a crisis. Due to budget constraints, the city is looking for an outside contractor to take over the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Agency (PACCA), which would probably change the focus from trying to get the animals adopted to just killing them. Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia (http://www.phillynokill.com)* is lobbying City Hall to save PACCA. The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) was formed in 2004 as the adoption arm of PAWS. Prior to the formation of PAWS, 9 out of 10 animals were killed by the city. In the first quarter of 2008, their save rate went up to 70%.  If you’re in the Philadelphia area, or are just interested in helping homeless cats and dogs, I encourage you to check out the work of these organizations.

* Typed out the link because when it was embedded, it went to a funky, virus-looking site. Don’t know what happened in the translation but the site is legit so I typed it out.

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 309 other followers