Vegans of Color

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

Exotification & the Vegan Traveler September 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:20 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ll say it up front: I love to travel. I love to see new places; I love trains, planes, buses & big huge backpacks (so much better than cruddy suitcases!). But I’m conflicted about it. I know that when I travel I am also carrying the baggage — & privilege — of being an American, with a certain amount of financial privilege, & the privilege of speaking a language that is considered, for better or for worse, the closest thing to a global tongue right now. What does it mean for me to travel to other parts of the world? I try to be conscious of issues of exotification, but sometimes I wonder if leisure travel, especially to a country or culture not “your own” (which I realize is a complicated issue for many people, self included), inherently makes the places & people you’re visiting subject to exotification.

We’ve talked about how frustrating this stuff is recently. I thought I’d examine some specific examples of the ways in which vegan travel is discussed, in light of that, & throw it open for discussion. (more…)

 

Do PETA’s race-based tactics work, or just alienate? February 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:58 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There’s a discussion going on here, in the Livejournal community debunkingwhite, over whether or not PETA’s latest campaign, comparing the AKC to the KKK, is racist.

The gist of PETA’s ad is that promoting purebred animals is no more morally sound than promoting racial purity among humans.

What disturbs me about the discussion so far is that everyone is basically saying that humans are worth more than dogs, thus PETA is wrong. The author of the post calls the AKC a “relatively benign” organization — I suppose that’s true if you’re not a puppy in a puppy mill, which are supported by, & legitimized by, the AKC. And I suppose, given the intense focus on breeding, you might think the AKC is benign if you’re not a dog euthanized because the shelter is full of dogs already.

I am generally not a fan of PETA. They have done a lot of sexist campaigns, & I don’t think their record on race has been any more productive (not to mention, I hate their stance on pit bulls & homeless animals generally). The thing is, I agree that it is speciesist to place human lives above animals; I think that’s wrong. So I can logically see the comparison between, say, slavery & factory farm animals.

However, as a person of color I am very sensitive to any sort of racial slur that compares people to animals. It’s been used so often, & so viciously, that I think it’s really hard to shake off the fear & anger evoked. I feel I can pretty safely say that most people of color have never been called an animal as a compliment. Thus I don’t really think it’s going to be very productive, comparing them to animals in the way that PETA does — meaning, using shock tactics to get attention, but in such a way that most folks are probably going to be put off. This is why I don’t use Holocaust analogies either. I’m not black, & I’m not Jewish, but I know that there are many people historically, & today, who would consider me, & members of my family, monkeys. And not in a positive, we’re-all-animals-together sort of way, but as in, “You piece of shit, I’m going to kick your ass.”

So that’s where I’m coming from on that one. What about you readers? What do you think of PETA’s tactics regarding race? I’m particularly interested in hearing from the vegans of color out there, but also people of color who may not (yet?) be vegans — do these tactics make you aware of speciesism? Do they make you empathize with animals? Or do they put you off finding more about animal rights issues?

There’s a wonderfully thoughtful post about this stuff on the Sistah Vegan Project blog here.

 

“veganism is just another white privilege” December 1, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noemi M @ 4:23 pm
Tags: ,

Discussion on veganism and white and class privilege on livejournal.

 

News Flash: “Miso” Is Not a Subject/Verb Combo! November 25, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , ,

Am I the only one who detests those “miso” t-shirts? You know — the ones that proclaim, “Miso Happy” or “Miso Vegan”? Weak puns based on the supposed inability of Asians to speak English (& which hearken back to Full Metal Jacket & 2 Live Crew)? Give me a break.

Here are a couple shirts I like a lot better from Blacklava: I Speak English & I Will Not Love You Long Time. Take that.

ETA (5/18/08 ): I am clueless, but it took me a while to realize perhaps some of this post could be misconstrued. I am, by no means, in the English Only camp; what I like about the “I Speak English” shirt is that it addresses the presumption that any Asian –or often other POCs too — is a foreigner & couldn’t possibly speak English or be born here. In hindsight I can see that the shirt without context might well be misread though. And I certainly did not mean to imply I believed English speakers were superior; apologies if anyone thought that!

 

Fair Trade & Eastern Allure in England November 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:40 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week I spent in England — my partner is contemplating grad school there, so we went to visit some campuses. I myself spent some time at university in York, & it was wonderful to be back there after 10 (!) years.

In Sheffield, we ate at the Blue Moon Cafe, where I was delighted to find vegan pasties. I used to grab pasties on the run all the time when I lived in York, & one of the things that made me sad about returning as a vegan was anticipating not being able to indulge. I guess pasties count as English ethnic food, huh? I meant to take a picture of my glorious pasty, but was too busy eating it, alas.

One thing I noticed when we were there was that some veg*n restaurants do the same thing they do over here: pour on the “mystical Eastern” stuff. Like Cafe Maitreya (whose food is amazing, don’t get me wrong; they weren’t twice-named the best veg restaurant in the UK for nothing), whose name is apparently Sanskrit for “universal love” or “loving kindness.” Now, thematically, that makes sense for a veg restaurant (although really, it’s not like vegetarianism is actually cruelty-free either). But what’s w/the fetish for “Eastern”/Asian/”Oriental” naming? Especially when, in many cases, the owners & patrons of veg restaurants are white? But even if they’re not, what does it mean that the mysterious East gets trotted out as something that’s going to pull in the customers (extra-suspicious when the cuisine isn’t even particularly Asian)?

I’ve read a lot of reviews of Hangawi here in New York, for example, that rave about how going there is like being transported into a Korean temple, & it’s all so enticingly exotic. Now Hangawi does serve Korean food, & I’m guessing it’s owned by Koreans (but I don’t know) — & yes, the calm, beautiful atmosphere definitely serves to highlight the wonderful food. It’s still creepy to see folks drooling over how it’s just like taking a trip to Asia, but you’re right in NYC! (subtext: & you can return to your comfortable American lifestyle immediately afterwards, without experiencing any of the hassles of actually traveling to those weirdo countries.)

Returning to a positive note, there was fair trade stuff everywhere in England. Okay, we stayed in two veg B&Bs, & so it’s perhaps not surprising there, although the non-veg B&B also had fair trade coffee & tea in the room. But we kept seeing cafes that had fair trade drinks, saw shops frequently that sold fair trade goods (I was able to get vegan fair trade truffles in a mall in the Bristol city center!), & on the York campus, the student cafeterias appeared to have lots of fair trade stuff as well.

Breeze Harper wrote recently (also here, near the end) about how important fair trade is, & how vegans drooling over vegan chocolate need to step up & demand fair trade goods as well. It is encouraging that this appears to be happening over there. I’ve heard that the UK not only has more vegans per capita than the US, but more vegans, period — which if true, is astounding given the population difference. I’ll have to dig up a cite behind that, but anyway, I’m hoping that this is a sign that perhaps vegans there are starting more broadly to understand multiple -isms. (Not that avowed “anti-racists” can’t be screwed up on race, too, of course…)

 

¡Se me chispotió! November 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noemi M @ 1:34 pm
Tags: , , , ,

more lessons-”can vegans eat mexican food?”


oh oh poor me and those pesky mexican restaurants …

I mean, come on. Taco bell?

ta ta ta ta…

Come on. Dios mio

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

*cross posted on my own blog

**This post brought to you by El Chavo Del Ocho.

*** ta ta ta ta is what one character (Profesor Jirafales) would say when he got angry and left speechless.

 

Dolphin slaughter = Pearl Harbor? November 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:10 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Eric at An Animal-Friendly Life posted recently about Hayden Panettiere’s direct action against the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

His post included a photo of a protest he attended last year, which he wrote up in this post. The photo shows a banner (which, to his credit, Eric says he didn’t like) that says “1941 Pearl Harbor” and “2006 Dolphin SLAUGHTER” with a Japanese flag in the middle.

Pearl Harbor. Dolphin slaughter. I think that’s a really irresponsible comparison, & no, not out of speciesism — not because I think Pearl Harbor is more serious because it involved the deaths of humans (which I’m sure is the objection many people will make). No, I think it’s problematic because it is racially inflammatory. Remember what happened after Pearl Harbor (or maybe you never learned about it in school — I know I never did)? You know, the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans? Because, as they said, a Jap’s a Jap. Japanese people will always be loyal to the emperor & can never be true Americans, no matter if they were born here, had ever been to Japan, spoke Japanese, etc. Seize their property & lock ‘em up! (German Americans & Italian Americans did not receive the same treatment — sauerkraut got renamed “liberty cabbage,” but there were no internment camps.)

Think those sort of sentiments died off after World War II? Think again. I remember when that Pearl Harbor movie came out a few years ago; I took a look on some mainstream movie message boards & saw an astounding number of people spouting the same racial hatred: Japanese (like all us inscrutable Asians, let’s not forget) are perpetually foreign, Other, of dubious loyalty. And they’re sneaky — why else would they have done something like Pearl Harbor? So of course they deserved to get nuked, right?

Back to the banner — sneaky Japs are killing dolphins? Is that the message we’re supposed to get? What purpose is served by fanning the flames of this race hate? I also just don’t think the banner’s logic is effective: it seems to imply that killing dolphins, like Pearl Harbor, is an affront to the United States, & is something that the US would never engage in. Because animal slaughter never happens here, right?

What does rhetoric like the banner do for the dolphins? I’m not sure, but I can tell you this: ever wonder why there aren’t more people of color in the animal rights movement? Tactics like this are part of the reason why.

 

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

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…)

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 266 other followers