Vegans of Color

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

veganism is not for vegans May 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — nosnowhere @ 9:22 pm

earlier today i was speaking with a friend about how, for some vegans, (particularly white, male) veganism becomes their struggle; it is the way they are oppressed. it is the cross they must bare and they may believe that they experience discrimination based on their vegan identity. but veganism is not a liberation movement for vegans: it’s about animal liberation. what causes these vegans to center themselves?


14 Responses to “veganism is not for vegans”

  1. Noah Says:

    In my experience, it’s very hard for white, middle class men who don’t experience any other sort of oppression to fully comprehend how oppression (in general) works.

    Vegans are, of course, not oppressed. Vegans are oppressors struggling to be allies to animals. But vegans do live in a society set up for non-vegans and do face ridicule and social pressure to not be vegan. (It takes effort to be an ally.)

    So if you’re sailing through life, and for perhaps the first time you’re experiencing some systematic opposition to who you are (since many folks adopt veganism as an identity), then it makes sense to me how they could confuse it with being oppressed.

    (But this is really a much broader problem in the mainstream animals rights movements generally–speaking “on behalf of” animals, being a voice for the “voiceless” and so on, so it’s not surprising that some humans confuse themselves with the oppressed animals. There’s just no separation or recognition of themselves as being oppressors.)

    As a white, middle class man, I probably have a different take on these people since they are (for the most part) not oppressing me, and since they are my people. Ignorance is no excuse, but that’s all it is. Gobs and gobs of ignorance. (But I’m trying to reach these folks! I have a lot more to do, but I’m working on it!)

  2. I disagree a bit.
    Animal rights is the cause for animals.
    Veganism is the practice that relates to animal rights, but is primarily about people.

    Here are some examples of why I think vegans are slightly to moderately marginalized:
    1. Can you go out to eat in any city in the US and be certain that the foods you are served, as well as the dining decor, is not made from animal products? When a food server served me shrimp, I had already eaten a portion before I discovered it. Why is it alright to do this to a vegan but not alright to do it to someone with an allergy or religious reason for eating differently than the majority?

    2. Since there is no legal definition of vegan or “animal products” some companies lie and mislead vegans – without repercussion. Ex: Whole Foods puts out a sign that says “Fruits and vegetables are not treated/coated with any animal products. We use bees wax to gloss our fruits and vegetables.” Same goes for muffins labeled “vegan” but contain honey. Why shouldn’t we feel marginalized when the majority refuses to communicate with us clearly? When they misuse our words and mislabel foods, that’s marginalization.

    3. When I was a child, many teachers and other adults responsible for my care flat out refused to accommodate my dietary needs because I’m not allergic or religious. I regularly had to peel pepperoni off of pizzas, for example. And the school cafeteria refused to offer anything I could eat.

    4. As a teen and as an adult I’ve had similar troubles in hospitals, workplaces, etc. I’ve learned that meek vegans suffer, but even loud-mouthed vegans who clearly explain what they need don’t get it if someone in charge doesn’t think they deserve it.

    5. Vegans are often the target of mean-spirited jokes.

    6. Vegans are one of the groups the FBI has decided is a terrorist threat. Vegans are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes that aren’t even considered crimes when certain other groups (like conservative pundits) do them. See for details.

  3. By the way, is this discussion about discrimination at all related to this: ?
    Just curious…

  4. Stentor Says:

    Speaking as another white man, I think Noah has a good analysis. I would add that I think many white (and otherwise privileged) men have a secret desire to be oppressed, because we feel like that would give us one corner of life where we don’t have to feel guilty and can focus on attacking someone else.

    The way I think of it is that “vegan” is in the same category as “feminist” — you may face obstacles in your pursuit of it (as Elaine Vigneault ennumerates), but those obstacles are derivative of the underlying oppression (of animals or of women, respectively).

  5. johanna Says:

    Nadia, I suspect there’s some overlap between the vegans you’re talking about & the “I know what racism feels like b/c I have blue hair!!!!!1” crowd. (& possibly also the ones who feel that Punk American may be a legitimate ethnic group) Sigh.

  6. nosnowhere Says:

    yes sis there is def some overlap! hahahaha omg.

    i mean, as a vegan i’m not going to argue with the examples elaine pointed to because i’ve experienced them all. and i experienced them while i a person of color. i just don’t think it’s about the individual vegan’s struggle to be accomodated, and i’m taking issue with an attitude that positions an individual as a victim when they are actually an ally.

    when being an ally it is not appropriate to center one’s own discomfort.

    that’s all i’m saying.

  7. warwak Says:

    Veganism is for all animals. “All animals” includes humans. I was canned for my “vegan views” so I know well this is a big issue. Yes, we go vegan for the animals; however, things are not always black and white. In this case, veganism is full of gray areas as it is a far-reaching philosophy and makes connections to virtually every part of our world – including work. So yes, we do it for the animals, but we also go vegan for our health, wellbeing, and survival. If anyone is discriminated against for any reason, people should stand up for what is right. That does not mean we should not stand up for our vegan selves in fear of someone saying our intentions are not true. How about we prioritize our time and energy by bashing factory farming instead of bashing our own kind for speaking out against injustice? I am all for pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and part of that is speaking out. Many silent vegans struggle with oppression – we all feel it, but to ponder about “why white guys feel discriminated against” does the animals a great disservice in these extremely urgent times when we could be focusing our energies on real good.

  8. johanna Says:

    Warwak, your comment is TEXTBOOK. Absolutely classic. I’m going to write a post about the issues I have w/what you said. I’m sure everyone is waiting w/bated breath.

  9. […] class, colonialism, critique, gender, race, tactics, white privilege, wtf In the last post, Nadia questioned why some white male vegans harp on their suffering, as vegans, when actually, veganism & animal […]

  10. noemi Says:

    Veganism is for all animals. “All animals” includes humans.
    well holy fucking shit-thanks for schooling this brown girl.

    however, things are not always black and white.
    no seriously, thanks.

    Many silent vegans struggle with oppression – we all feel it, but to ponder about “why white guys feel discriminated against”

    so let’s just throw racism out the fucking door right?

    If anyone is discriminated against for any reason
    you contradict yourself.

    so can I or can’t I speak up against racism or when some privileged dude spits it on a vegans of color blog?

  11. […] I’ve been painting and hauling and packing and cleaning, I’ve been thinking about this post and this follow-up from Vegans of Color. Joanna and Nadia pick apart the bizarre phenomenon of […]

  12. […] 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 […]

  13. aw Says:

    Anti- veganism?….Seems like another attempt by the “majority”[term used in the most classic sense] to convince the world of how hard it is to be them, how deep their issues are, and to remain relevant. There’s also a constant attempt to make some non- issue THE priority, THE tragedy, THE cause. I’m sorry young, healthy, privileged white men– so sorry that you are being “discriminated” against and so sorry that people are so adamantly disagreeing with POV and priority on veganism. Sorry life is so hard for you.

  14. aw Says:

    Additionally, if we are talking about and reluctantly supposing that these members of the “majority” [again, used in the most classical sense] are in fact, being “oppressed” because of their dietary/lifestyle choices, I hope they can see how with every other case of “oppression” in their very own backyards, much of which was encouraged and nurtured by them, that times of acceptance and reform take time– as will be the case for vegan “oppression.”

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