Vegans of Color

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

Explaining Racism to White Veg*ns & Speciesism to Non-Veg*n POCs July 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’m seeking links to useful resources of two types, basically the two main intersections from which this blog was born: firstly, resources on racism geared towards getting white people to recognize their own privilege, which could be used by white vegans; & secondly, resources on speciesism/veg*nism that speak to people of color, meaning that they come at speciesism from a racialized perspective. It’d be great to have a compilation of resources available on this blog.

For the former, I’ve found useful Peggy McIntosh’s essay “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. In my experience & the experience of many, many others, sometimes white people just won’t listen to what people of color (POCs) have to say about racism — because we’re biased or have an agenda or something, har har — & in those cases, sometimes I’ve had good results with McIntosh. My other favorite recommendation is “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, a woman of color. It is an amazing book, & highly recommended.

Of course there are dozens of blogs & websites that folks could look at (the myriad posts for International Blog Against Racism Week, for starters, not to mention the blogroll of this site), but occasionally it is helpful to be able to recommend one article or book as a place to begin.

For the veganism/AR thing, I must say that I’ve never read anything about why I should be a vegan or why I should be in favor of AR that spoke to me as a POC. Quite the opposite, in fact; a lot of writing on veganism I’ve found alienating when it comes to issues of race (some of these instances are written up on this blog). The closest I’ve come is a conversation with a Chicana friend several years ago, where she noted that in some countries, the indigenous, pre-colonial culture was much, much more plant-based, & it was only when the white colonialists came in that this began to change. I know that some POCs have been moved by the comparisons to the enslavement of African Americans; I also know that many POCs have been alienated from vegan issues by such comparisons.

So. Thoughts? I am particularly interested in hearing from POCs on what has worked for them on both counts, although hearing from white folks on specific pieces that woke them up to racism would be useful. But I especially don’t want this to turn into a bunch of comments from white vegans on what “should” persuade POCs to become vegan. On the other hand, well, that would be a timely demonstration of white privilege, wouldn’t it?


43 Responses to “Explaining Racism to White Veg*ns & Speciesism to Non-Veg*n POCs”

  1. Deb Says:

    I can’t find the specific article right now, but Breeze Harper’s Sistah Vegan Project site had an article a couple years ago that woke me up to racism in the animal rights movement and prompted me to email her. She was nice enough to respond to what must have been an odd email out of the blue! lol. She gave me some reading recommendations too. I don’t think it woke me up to racism in general so much as white privilege. Which is maybe the same thing, but I feel like it is important to specify “white privilege” because most white people I know will adamantly say “I’m not racist…I have [insert non-white race] friends.” I don’t think I understood racism until I started to understand and see white privilege.

    And along those lines, I’ve found changeseeker’s blog ( to be really helpful. She’s white, and has worked on being an ally for … I don’t know, decades. A lot of her posts (and specifically the post I linked in, which is really the start to a series of posts) speak specifically to being white and confronting the systemic racism of white privilege. I feel like I learn a ton from her, and she’s pretty blunt in a lot of ways, ways that I find helpful to shine a spotlight on what I otherwise sometimes (maybe most times) have a hard time seeing.

    It is an ongoing learning process, as far as I am concerned. The invisible knapsack article was one of the first I read after reading that article on the sistah vegan project website, and I would definitely agree that it is a big help in explaining to us white folks what exactly white privilege is.

    One of the books that Breeze recommended to me was “black looks” by bell hooks. I got pretty bogged down in her analysis of films (none of which I’d seen, I watch almost no movies and zero tv, so that was bound to pass right by me!) but other than that, it was a a definite eye opener.

    I’m going to get my hands on a copy of the book you recommended. It sounds great.

  2. Noah Says:

    Here is a list of recommended resources for white folks that I’ve used.

    Why Are All the Black Kids… is indeed at the very top of my list for a starting point, and a great follow up is The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide by Meizhu Lui et al.

  3. indo Says:

    On the tricky issue of discussing animals etc. with other POCs not previously involved with these issues, there are some places to turn.

    Key theorists of race, slavery and colonialism, from WEB DuBois to Franz Fanon to bell hooks, have discussed how racial power works through a logic of animalization. This highlights how species and race co-constitute identity (of course along with gender, sexuality, ability, and other categories). The “human” that we might understand as a universal species identity is fractured by race, and conversely, race emerges with reference to “lower” or “higher” species. (Fanon’s passage on “zoological terms” in the opening pages of The Wretched of the Earth is especially eloquent on this point.)

    The animalization argument is different from comparisons of animals and slaves, which along with abandoning the contexts of institutions of violence, often simplistically views all animals as universally oppressed by an undifferentiated humanity. Terms like “speciesism” can risk this same mistake because they tend to gloss over the huge disparities between humans. (There are some other theoretical arguments that might speak to POCs that I’m working out for an article I’m writing–hopefully more on this later.)

    In terms of the organizing/politics side of things, I think the approach of pattrice jones and others who were involved in the Global Hunger Alliance is eye-opening: if you approach animals and their/our ecosystems by analyzing institutions instead of making abstract moral prohibitions (which we can never honestly uphold anyway) there are possibilities for alliances that can address human inequalities and the “interests” of nonhuman beings. From what I’ve read, GHA was involved with transnationally connecting animal activists, small farmers organizations, environmentalists, and anti-hunger activists in opposition to global agricultural policies that promote corporate factory farming. I don’t know how well the alliance ultimately worked, but it seems like a pressing issue with today’s global food crisis, and i think the kind of organizing that might speak to POCs who would otherwise see animal activists as crazy or elitist.

  4. Your own blogroll is a great place to start. I found Sistah Vegan to be exceptionally helpful for me in explaining some issues.

    indo, what do you mean by “abstract moral prohibitions”?

  5. Defi Says:

    Try tim wise he talks about white prividge

    Various clips on youtube

    On the Vegan ting many sources exist

    including work by people like Jewel Pookrum, Llaila Africa, Aris La tham, Dick Gregory, Queen Afua, Muata Ashby,

  6. Ande Says:

    i gotta tell y’all that i am so grateful for this entire blog! it’s really thought-provoking. for me, peggy mcintosh was a starting point a few years ago. really digestible material for the privilege acknowledgement-weary. and allan johnson’s book, power privilege and difference was HUGE for me in dealing with general privilege issues – obviously applicable to white privilege. there’s also a fanTASTIC white privilege conference put on every year,

    as a white person working toward allyship every day through study and practice and conversation, i’m always up for criticism for any of my philosophies. however, i have found few places to go when it comes to responding to the following criticism: veganism for all is NOT relativist like most of my rhetoric, so why make an exception in desiring a cultural universal?

    vegan advocacy and anti-racist, privilege-aware, feminist discussions are fairly consistently engaged for me. but i gotta say i have a hard time responding with citable resources to intrigued or irritated folk bringing to the table concepts of heritage denial. sistah vegan has been great for multiple perspectives (i so look forward to a printed anthology!!!), but i am SO bothered by racist-by-neglect, or just overtly white privileged, theorizing that goes on within vegan advocate writers.

  7. Nate Says:

    As a white male I had a wake up call to racism while in college, as a student in the admission department, where I began to get involved on campus in attempt to make it a more welcoming place, somewhere people could be acknowledged, respected and find a safe place to learn and grow.

    I was responsible, in a way, for bringing people from diverse ethnic backgrounds to a mostly white, euro-american, campus in the countryside. By taking an opportunity to work with staff on better understanding diversity, ethnicity, and how racism does show its head, even on campus, I began my never-ending journey and thirst for understanding racism and later on white privilege.

    Not until several years ago, through my work at the YWCA, did I get acquainted with white privilege. I knew that I had unearned privileges, but often times struggled to define it as such. As Defi and Ande said already, I agree that Tim Wise and the white privilege conference web sites are good to check out.

    As for books, the most recent one I read was Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption. This book details accounts, stories, facts and figures, and research done by transracial adoptees, who were more often than not, and still are to this day, adopted into homes of white people, and how adoption ultimately impacts their lives in numerous ways.

    Thank you to everyone for posting the helpful links and book suggestions!

  8. johanna Says:

    Hey everyone — thank you so much for all these comments & suggestions! To those of you who gave names w/o specific articles or books, are there specific pieces by those folks that you find especially useful (extra awesome if you could provide a link to the article online)? I think sometimes people find it intimidating to be given a list of names of people (who probably have written a lot of stuff) to research, & would like to have as many individual articles to link to as possible. I’d like perhaps to have these articles linked in the sidebar (but I would also link to this post, so people could see more names & stuff too). So… any more specific suggestions? Thanks!!

  9. indo Says:

    Johanna: my 2 unID’d texts are:
    –“The Training of Black Men” by WEB Du Bois in Souls of Black folk (the copyright has expired so it’s free on google books and elsewhere)
    –bell hooks’ “Eating the Other” in Black Looks

    Elaine: I meant that making universal claims for animals (like saying no human should ever be complicit in their deaths–an impossible task) might be less effective than working in specific ways to oppose animal-exploiting industries, especially since these industries are responsible for deepening class, racial, national, and other inequalities and since there are activists all over the world already working on this stuff.

  10. I’m not sure this one would fit your criteria, but what about Marjorie Spiegel’s “The Dreaded Comparison”?

    Googling her just now I came up with her 1999 dissertation on animals as trope in the works of African-American writers Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison…

    Click to access Dissertation.pdf

  11. Lamont Says:

    Hey guys, I’m a recent convert and haven’t eaten meat now in over a month. I didn’t think it was possible @first, strangely enough I don’t miss it. However, I have noticed an increase in the amount of sweets I consume. Maybe, it has always been this much. Anyway, regarding the topic I have a video link on my website that might help to enlighten some of our white brothers on the issue…how timely:


  12. dylan Says:

    Hey there,

    I just read two articles about intersectionality. It touches on speciesism, sexism, and race.

    I dig this one the most:

    This one has some great points:

  13. Niki Esko Says:

    Thank you for posing these questions!

  14. Lloyd K. Says:

    I am a human who produces very little skin pigment. I also have a penis. Do I deserve privilege based on these physical attributes? No. Do I receive treatment other than those individuals comprised of different characteristics? Yes, all the time. I get treated like a criminal in retail stores because I wear baggy jeans and a cocked-sideways hat. It is easier for me to find housing, even without a job or references. I was forced to physically defend myself (get beat up) almost every day for being the only pigment-deficient human in my neighborhood in Oakland, until I moved. I will get hired and make more money than an equally skilled vagina owner. I have been called every derogatory term used to insult pigment-deficient humans, by my neighbors. We all suffer form of discrimination no matter individual characteristics.

    I am well aware of my societal-privilege, and have done my best to avoid it, but it is simply not always possible. In school, I got in a fight (violently physical) with a human who produced vast quantities of skin pigment, and who also owned a penis. I was moving to Oregon a few days later, so the principal decided not to suspend me, but to suspend my cooperator. This enraged me, and even though the decision might have been alternatively motivated, i.e., no use suspending me on my last days of school, I saw it as discrimination. We were both equally guilty of a crime, and therefor should be equally punished. I moved for either suspension of both of us, or suspension of neither. This was one day that I didn’t get beat up on my way home. But, I had to go to school the next day.

    Every instance after this, I try to recognize privilege when it happens, confront it when I think it does, and try to avoid utilizing the privilege, but it is nearly impossible. The question is not “what can I do to avoid using this privilege?”, the question is “what can I do to avoid having this privilege?”

    Regardless of which area one chooses to pursue, the recognition that exploitation and discrimination are morally wrong is the key. One who recognizes that these ideas are wrong only need be informed that other forms of the same ideas are present, and will likely see them as equally valid. Many people who produce small amounts of pigment do not see that discrimination is present on his or her behalf, but that does not mean that these individuals are not fighting against oppression as they see it. Just as I might not have known about the Coltan conflict in the Congo, doesn’t mean that I do not care about the Congolese people. I care about all people. I want to fight against all forms of discrimination, those I can identify, and those I have not identified yet. Not everyone is obligated to pursue the issues surrounding “race” (I don’t agree with this term, and new science tends not to either, when describing various social groups), species, sex, hetero-sex, class, etc., equally when choosing to be active against these concepts. To be active against discrimination and exploitation as a whole is to consider all of the individual concepts or facets of those concepts as one ideology. To be clear, to focus on species, one excludes “gender” (I don’t agree with this term as gender is self-defined, not biologically or anatomically defined) and “race”, etc. To focus on “race”, one excludes species and “gender”, etc. To focus on discrimination and exploitation without excluding any individual facet, one must focus on hierarchy. However, to broadly focus on such a pervasive and socially accepted form of dominance, in which discrimination and exploitation lie, would be quite an achievement as far as scope of content and ability to encompass all forms of discrimination and exploitation within a viable, easily transferrable ideological construct. Proponents of anarchy have tried, but have ultimately been ineffective. For example, it is hard enough to encompass all of the aspects of meat consumption in a conversation about animal exploitation, let alone vivisection, fur, leather, dairy, eggs, etc. However, focusing on one issue, such as vivisection, lends support to the idea that eating meat is acceptable, because vivisection is what is focused on, not the general use of animals. So focusing on two, or three, or however many, does nothing to address the root of the problem which is not who or how we discriminate or exploit, but that we discriminate and exploit. The hard part is: How do you start?

    What single campaign can we have that encompasses all forms of discrimination, exploitation, oppression, etc.? We would have to include every form of oppression, and not choose those only known to us, but unknown. Here are some I know:

    (in no particular order)

    Capitalism/most other forms of government

    These forms of oppression all manifest, and can lead to, different characteristics of behavior (white supremacy>slavery), or action, (heterosexism>violence against LGBTs) and contain individual facets (animals>leather, fur, flesh, etc.), but I think these are the main ones.

    How do we stop all these forms of oppression, without focusing on single, double, or triple isms, or excluding any one facet?

    By breaking down the hierarchy responsible for all of these things.

    This is an incredibly hard concept to even start to explain to most people. Proponents of social-anarchy will attest to this. Similar to “white social privilege”, humans do not even see their own human privilege. The notion that all beings and things on Earth are the property of humans in general.

    So to try and start to break down this social hierarchical given, I suggest baby steps. Start with one issue. Add another one. Add another one. The twelve issue people have just as much right to harp on the two issue people as the the two issue people have to harp on the one issue people. None. The hierarchy is being maintained by excluding from one’s group an “other” and maintaining the ladder system he or she purports to oppose. The number of issues one adheres to is not one’s “moral barometer” as Steve Harvey puts it. If we all did as much as we could, we would no nothing else. Just doing something is better than doing nothing, and because someone is doing more than someone else, doesn’t invalidate the latter’s something. “Vegans of Color” is another way to support the idea of an “other”. Way to go against the grain, y’all (sarcasm). If we are truly to be free from hierarchy of people, values, species, race, sex, gender, etc., we must form a community which does not recognize these as making one an “other” from the collective group, but maintaining individual status within a community group. The fact that I am called a white male limits me. I might lack the pigment concentration of some, but I am not just white. I might have a penis, and might be classified anatomically and biologically as a male, but I am not just a man. I might be classified as a human, but this I am not, just, either. I might campaign for animal rights, but I am not just an ARA. I might produce music, but I am not just a musician. Allow me to be me, Lloyd, not Lloyd the white male, or Lloyd the vegan, or Lloyd the DJ, allow me, and all others, to be us, just like you. I don’t focus on veganism as a single issue, but if I did, I would be justified in doing so. I am not required to campaign for anything, but not doing so doesn’t mean I support it, or trivialize it. When conversing with a person, regardless of reproductive organs or pigment or sexual orientation, I speak of the oppression I think is relative to them, or the discussion. Publicly, if one were to address racism to a group of people, many people will identify and many will not. But if one were to address all forms of exploitation or discrimination, all would identify because even the “richest, whitest, males” feel “othered” and discriminated against by poor people. I know, not much sympathy there, but the point is this: No single issue or double issue can encompass all facets, so lets take small bites and address each one individually, but with the clear intent of ending all forms of oppression. This is similar to advocating eating one vegan meal a day. One is not advocating eating two meat meals, but advocating one vegan meal with the clear intent of veganism as the end. In order to campaign against slavery, one must identify slavery as oppression and move to end it, as one step further towards ending all forms of oppression. If one is motivated to stop all forms of oppression and has a clear message that this is his or her goal, it does not matter which individual campaign he or she chooses, but that the end goal is the elimination of discrimination, exploitation, and all other forms of oppression.

    Be the change you wish to see in the world. Gandhi was on to something. I don’t want to see oppression, so I will try to defend against ALL forms, just not ALL on Tuesday.

    Thanks for thinking.

    • quis Says:

      I think you’ve contradited your self – you seem to find VoC othering because it focuses so much on colour? and yet you think it is a good thing to focus on a few causes while being aware of the intereconnectedness of related issues because you can’t have energy for everything all the time. Working towards the goal of eliminating oppression, explotation and discrimination can be worked at in many different ways and channeling energy into all those ways at any given moment is futile, true. That is why working for the causes that you have energy for and being aware of the interconnectedness of issues is also important. In the case of VoC I think that it focuses energy on a cause, and also collates resources for POC about that cause (there by helping to redress one of the many imbalances of inequality that still abound) while being aware of the interconnectedness of issues and causes that is so important. I also think this is a valuable resource for both POC and, secondly for white people who are looking to understand their privilage.

  15. dopethrone Says:

    Llyod’s post summarizes how i feel about this blog. I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago, and fell in love with the issues being talked about, and the people talking about them. but the more i read, the more i realized the focus on COLOR. i have color too, in my skin, and i wish i could have put how i feel about this into as beautiful of words as llyod did.

  16. petrichoric Says:

    I understand the need for labels and categories because people can mobilize politically around them, but I’ve got to say that I do agree with Lloyd K when he says ““Vegans of Color” is another way to support the idea of an “other”. Way to go against the grain, y’all (sarcasm).”

    Yes, I’m a white woman but, since moving to the US from Scotland, I’ve realized that there are many different kinds of “white”, and I certainly don’t relate to all, or sometimes any, of them. Indeed, I’ve felt a lot more comfortable around “people of colour” in the US than the vast majority of white Americans who are often far too entitled and over-privilged for my tastes. Acccording to your blog that shouldn’t be possible because we’re all lumped into the same category.

    I’m not denying that I don’t have white privilege (of course, I do!), but it would just be nice if your blog would reflect a more nuanced understanding of race…yes, even whiteness!

  17. Royce Says:

    I don’t know where this burst of antagonizing white folks is coming from, but I wonder if they read the post they commented on. This post-race dream talk is a little weird.

    I wish white folks would stop telling me/us how to organize ourselves. Vegans of Color isn’t reifying the other, it is organizing around an Othering that has already produced psychic, social, and material effects.

    Also I believe out of the entire blogosphere the folks with the most nuanced understanding of race are those who face racism, not their critics.

  18. petrichoric Says:

    Royce, what about my comment suggested that I believe we’re living in a “post-race” society? I don’t think we are at all, and I found all the talk of that after Obama won to be quite disgusting.

    You’re free to organize yourselves as you wish (it is your blog, after all), but aren’t you all about getting “white folks” to see a new perspective? What then is wrong with my asking *you* to develop a new perspective, and pointing out that it’s unfair to lump all “white folks” together in one huge, monolithic category? As I said, I found far more to identify with and admire in “people of colour” in the US than the white Americans I’m supposed to relate to.

    I’m not saying I’m better than other white people, or that I don’t have racial prejudices and misconceptions but all I’m saying is that it doesn’t make sense to have this one big category of “whiteness”.

    Yes, people who have faced racism *do* understand that better than I do, but, white though I may be, I do still have a race, don’t I? My skin way be paler than yours, but my race, just like yours, isn’t a neutral thing, so why can’t I say that my “white” isn’t the same as somebody else’s “white”?

    Also, I guess I just don’t understand the aim of this blog. You seem very keen to educate “white folks” (and, yeah, most of “us” probably do need educating about racism and veganism), so it doesn’t make sense for you to be so surprised when some “white folks” respond.

    I feel conflicted about your response which seems more antagonistic than my original comment, or Lloyd K’s. On the one hand, yeah, I see why you’d be pissed off – as a feminist, I’d be annoyed if some guy came along and left a comment on my blog asking for understanding; but, on the other hand, what good would it do I told that guy off and dismissed what he had to say? He probably wouldn’t come back and want to learn more so he wouldn’t be so annoying in future.

    If the aim of your blog is to be a resource for “vegans of colour”, then I suppose I should just fuck off or just accept that I’m going to be excluded; however, if one of your blog’s aims is to educate “white folks”, then please don’t be surprised if people come along and tell you that their experience of “whiteness” isn’t how you imagine it to be. Can you really expect “us” not to be a little defensive when one of the first things “we” see on this site was a resource list for “clueless white people”. I don’t know about other “white folks” (although presumably I can speak for all of us because we apparently have all the same beliefs, cultures, religions and socio-economic and educational backgrounds) but that phrase closes down meaningful dialogue about race, rather than opening it up.

    And meaningful dialogue about race is something I have yet to experience in this country.

    • Royce Says:

      My comment was directed at the last three comments, not just yours and Lloyd K, though yours are included. I didn’t say you had post-race dreams, but Lloyd certainly does.

      I may be presumptuous of other bloggers at VoC, but I don’t write to educate white folks. Even the title of this post seems to be directed towards vegan people of color— “Explaining Racism to White Veg*ns…” does not seem to be directed towards white veg*ns but instead is a resource for vegans of color. I really don’t think this blog’s main purpose is to educate white folks, white folks can educate themselves by reading if they so choose, but I’m not about explaining racism to folks.

      Who lumped white folks into one big monolith? I certainly didn’t. The only thing all white folks have in common is not facing racially based discrimination, and benefitting in varying degrees from that lack of discrimination. If I lumped all white people into a monolith I’d have to do the same for all people of color which is absurd.

      I’m not surprised when white folks respond. I’m surprised when they respond with an include-me-too mentality that ignores the very purpose of this blog.

      And you aren’t the only one who has yet to experience meaningful dialogue about race in this country.

  19. petrichoric Says:

    Hello again, Royce. You said: “The only thing all white folks have in common is not facing racially based discrimination, and benefitting in varying degrees from that lack of discrimination”.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your second point. I think most white people (and, yes, I do include myself in this) are not really conscious of the privilege they have because, well, most of them have always had it, and take it for granted. I live in a formerly working-class African-American neighbourhood (there are still many African-Americans there, but it’s rapidly gentrifying although there are still plenty of economic and educational disparities), and one time I ran out in the street, bare foot, in the dead of night chasing after my crazy dog who’d escaped the yard. There I was standing in the middle of the street, looking around me like a mad woman when a cop car pulled up. The cop was *sooooo* nice to me, and wanted to help, and I thought “Wow, there is *no* way you’d ever have been so helpful if I had been a barefoot African-American woman.” He would probably have thought I was high on crack or something because of the way I was acting, or was otherwise up to no good.

    The first point you made I don’t quite understand, though. Are you saying that white people don’t care about racial discrimination? Some don’t give a fuck, yes, some may be blind to it because they’re clueless (I’m sure there have been instances when I haven’t recognized something as being racist myself) but to say that *all* of us don’t care is a bit harsh, no?

    • dopethrone Says:

      “The only thing all white folks have in common is not facing racially based discrimination, and benefitting in varying degrees from that lack of discrimination”

      This is simply not true. I used to get the shit beat out of me in high school by hispanic and african american girls because i was a “stupid white bitch”. if that’s not racially based discrimination, i don’t know what is.

      I really think this blog is great, but you can’t be surprised when “white folks” try to get a better understanding of what’s really being said. I don’t think petrichoric’s responses were all aimed towards you (royce).

  20. johanna Says:

    Accusations of reverse racism! The tone argument! C’mon, people, these arguments are nothing new, & in fact, if you bothered to read some of the links above, you would see them debunked. Yawn.

    Further comments along these lines from anyone (including other tired comments like “Blacks can be racist too!”) are subject to deletion.

  21. Noemi M Says:

    like see the difference in citing one example or set of occurrences compared to institutional racism. I mean, see racism 101 please.

  22. Kelly G. Says:

    Speaking as a white woman, I really enjoyed ‘Killing the Black Body’ by Dorothy Roberts. The entire book is excellent, but chapters 2 and 3 (‘The Dark Side of Birth Control’ and ‘From Norplant to the Contraceptive Vaccine’) might be particularly useful in demonstrating white privilege to white feminists and feminist-minded men. It was for me, anyhow.

    As one half of a childfree, cis het couple – who has, consequently, spent a lot of time thinking about, researching and seeking out sterilization – I thought I had a pretty firm grasp on the issue, but Roberts completely transformed my perspective. Whereas I wouldn’t have supported any restrictions on (supposedly/voluntary) sterilization previously – viewing them as an infringement on women’s reproductive liberty – I now understand that reasonable regulations are necessary to protect the rights of *all* women.

    It makes me want to know what else I’m missing/misunderstanding as a member of multiple privileged groups.

  23. sylke Says:

    Thank you so much for this blog. Finally.

    C’mon white people. It doesn’t always have to be about you. Stop talking and just listen for a while.

  24. oc.kuewa Says:

    Learning from the Outsider-Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins, (

  25. Cobalt Says:

    I hadn’t given much thought to the intersection of veganism and race beyond a general sort of “you have to have some privilege to control what you consume to that degree” uneasiness, and just the fact that you posted this entry has me thinking about things I hadn’t before. Thank you for that, and for the people who’ve posted links which also discuss it. I’m gonna check those out.

    Also, I was dismayed to see the amount of (inevitable) white people race-fail that began collapsing all over itself in these comments. Guys, PoC are allowed to talk to and about each other as people with shared experiences /and about people who aren’t PoC and don’t share those experiences/ without being accused of excluding white people. We aren’t the center of discussion here, and it’s not that terrible a thing (for us). White people get to be the center of discussion everywhere else; can’t we just chill the hell out and let other people be the center for a second?

    Thanks again to the commenters who provided links, and for the entry itself. I’m gonna go chew on this stuff now.

  26. Steve Says:,57094,.shtml

    Here’s a link to a Tim Wise article titled “Animal Whites”. As usual, Tim clearly explains the difficulties white folks have when dealing with issues of race. Especially when it comes to understanding the impact our privilege, and our lack of understanding of said privilege, have on People of Color. This article speaks about the Animal Rights movement, and more specifically the pitfalls white veg*ns face when comparing animal exploitation to human exploitation as PETA often does.

  27. Permavegan Says:

    As a privileged white male with a graduate degree in social work, I just want to say that I am very impressed by the quality of writing and thinking on this blog. I look forward to listening and learning. More power to you.

  28. […] to the blog’s feed, stat. Just be sure to lurk before you speak, and do check out the resources section for additional […]

  29. […] may be excluding or alienating vegans of color.  Johanna Eeva, founder of Vegans of Color, writes, “I must say that I’ve never read anything about why I should be a vegan or why I should be i… Author A. Breeze Harper (Sistah Vegan), asserts that people need to be aware of how “white […]

  30. gina sengupta Says:

    Food and white privilege is rampant throughout history. Corn was the Mexican staple prior to Spanish colonization. “In New Spain or Spanish colonial Mexico (c. 1521–1821), those who believed maize to be an inferior food fit only for the feeding of swine often substituted wheat for maize in the production of tortillas. From that point forward, wheat or flour tortillas took on a status as the flat bread food of choice for Spanish colonials in Mexico, whereas tortillas prepared from maize continued to be perceived as the primary foodstuff of Mexican Indians and the poor.”
    This quote is from and explains the importance of corn in the Latin American and African diets. Here’s another interesting article about the Native Americans and forced diet change…

  31. Dude Says:

    One book that really woke me up was “It’s the Little Things”. The subtitle is something about the tiny everyday interactions that get on each others nerves. Things that some folks (definately me as white person) might not think about. (ie white women flipping their hair everywhere, and the larger hair issues in culture). Or how white people let our kids run more wild generally than POC are allowed to.

    Reading that book was fairly instrumental in helping me shut my mouth and listen more.

  32. Flat Ontologist Says:

    how about this question: people who stop being vegan when working with POC’s (extensive volunteer work, or ‘social work’ programs etc.) – because being vegan is a “diet of privilege”? had acquaintances do it in the past and one quite recently. i know how i feel about, im just throwing it out there.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t believe the vegan diet is one of privilege. If anything it is one of self-sacrifice. The way it is approached by some may seem that of privilege in the attitudes they present. I know vegans who turn up their nose at non-vegans as though they are better and say “I can’t eat that,” and proceed to give a lecture. For me you catch more flies with honey. I bring my own food to non-vegan events/family parties, etc. and eat it without a word. That in itself attracts curiosity and I get more questions about it, also because I am open to discussion without being condescending. To me I see them as potential vegans who are where I was a few years ago and might become vegan with the right info and an amazing variety of food choices.

    A vegan diet does not have to be one of privilege. All of the fancy meat-substitutes aren’t for everyone and they can be expensive when money is tight. I don’t have a problem living on basic vegan staples to get my plant-based protein. In fact, meat eaters have the most coveted and privileged diets according to non-vegans who don’t have access to meat. Non-vegans of low income or those in other countries who are struggling to feed their families dream of being able to afford some meat for their family. Even in early America, chicken was a special treat, a once a week thing, usually on Sundays. Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign boasted “a chicken in every pot” suggesting a prosperous economy under his administration. Now Americans eat chicken daily and we are looked on as one of the most privileged nations of the world. In many countries with plant-based food staples they look forward to a meal with chicken, while us vegans who live in a privileged meat-centered society are realizing the harms that are involved for both the animals and our own bodies. Its a progression to first desire the meat when you have little, to reach the maximum privilege of attaining meat, and then to decide personally that it’s not for you.

    • Sarah Says:

      Thanks for your reply to the vegan-diet-as-privilege thing. It was something I struggled with pre-vegan days about how I had access to and knowledge about nutrition and diet that me able to be a healthy vegan, where-as other people would not always. It’s a choice, and the more forms of info out there, the more people that can access it.

      And thanks for this thread and this blog in general. I am from NZ, which has a different set of racial privileges, and a different racial history, but I still find these sorts of references valuable. I know that I have a lot of privilege in various forms, and know I don’t always acknowledge it and I sometimes want to say ‘what about my racial experiences’, it is always a journey and it is my responsibility to find a place to discuss my experience of race, rather than anyone else.

  34. Corvus Says:

    Our group WWHAT’S UP?! has a lot of resources on our blog about racism, and does trainings and workshops specific to teaching white people (and everyone) how to talk to other white people (and everyone) about racism and unlearning white supremacy and racism. Our 7 session group readings might be useful to other white folks who want to start groups where they put the focus on delving into their own stuff without expecting POC to do it for them.
    Also, I want to note that the intention of white folks talking to each other is to put the focus on white folks to confront white supremacy with each other and work on their shit together, not to be a substitute for forming relationships with people of color in other areas of their life.

  35. Reader Says:

    There’s some more on the intersectionality at – intersecting with caste in India this time.

    from the blog post by – Malarvizhi Jayanth aka. The Water Buffalo aka. எருமை மாடு :

    “…One of those girls later made a presentation on utilitarianism and vegetarianism – apparently vegetarianism made sense because it was a utilitarian thing to do. Right. During the discussion, I wanted to know why she had not discussed caste at all, when the concepts of normal and vegetarian food were so closely tied to caste in India…”

    from a comment by m at 31 October 2011 at 7am:

    “…The one comment I have is that the trouble with focusing on certain cultural markers of Brahmin life — dialect, Sanskrit, vegetarianism, Carnatic music etc — is that markers change while Brahminism continues. In Vedic times, Brahmins ate beef, today Bengali Brahmins and ghati Brahmins eat fish, a Tamil Brahmin who doesn’t speak Sanskrit and barely speaks Tamil uses fluent English as a status-marker, atheist Brahmin Communists and Subaltern School Brahmins are just as oblivious of the ways in which they discriminate etc.

    “And on the other hand, Dalits become vegetarian when they become Buddhist, Carnatic music in Margazhi also includes performances by non-Brahmins (KJY, Yogeeswaran etc), the works of non-Brahmin composers (the Christian Vedhanayakam Pillai, Dhandapani Desikar), a sabha organized by non-Brahmins (Tamil Isai Sangam), etc.”

    from a comment by Malarvizhi Jayanth at 21 April 2012 at 9pm:

    “…I am entirely un-pained by people who don’t want to eat beef. Upper-caste and right-wing Hindus who use their caste habits to stigmatise the food habits of those of lower castes and other religions are, on the other hand, quite painful to endure. For your reference: …”

  36. Emily Says:

    I read this post, then read it again, and I still don’t get how a white person choosing to not eat meat is racist. I still have no idea what “speciesism” is. Also, why is vegan censored?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s