Vegans of Color

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

Consuming Whiteness August 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 12:49 pm

Professor What if… wrote a fabulous piece about consuming whiteness through milk.

An excerpt:

In the Got Milk ads, the representation of ‘perfect’ white bodies was linked to the consumption of America’s ‘perfect food’ – milk. Inaugurated in 1993, the campaign included the famous milk moustache print ads as well as humorous television advertisements in which people found they were out of milk at the most inconvenient times. While these ads may have seemed innocuous, this campaign (and its similar descendants) help to sustain limiting notions of what it means to be a ‘good body,’ and, most pervasively, perpetuated the notion that ‘good bodies’ are white (and consume/wear/desire whiteness).

This valorization of milk as a perfect food that these ads put forth is part of a long history in which white, middle class bodies are deemed better than the bodies of various ‘Others.’ As nutritionist Marion Nestle notes, the idea that dairy is “essential” was brought about via the joint forces of dairy lobbies, nutritionists, and governmental agencies since the early twentieth century.

read the rest here and here.



wtf seriously August 12, 2008

Filed under: vegan — Noemi M @ 2:31 pm
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PETA wants to advertise vegan message on border fence

While many view the contentious border fence as a government fiasco, an animal rights group sees a rare opportunity.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans today to announce an unusual marketing pitch to the U.S. government: Rent us space on the fence for billboards warning illegal border crossers there is more to fear than the Border Patrol.

The billboards, in English and Spanish, would offer the caution: “If the Border Patrol Doesn’t Get You, the Chicken and Burgers Will — Go Vegan.”

“We think that Mexicans and other immigrants should be warned if they cross into the U.S. they are putting their health at risk by leaving behind a healthier, staple diet of corn tortillas, beans, rice, fruits and vegetables,” said Lindsay Rajt, assistant manager of PETA’s vegan campaigns.

The Department of Homeland Security is working to meet a deadline to complete 670 miles of fencing and other barriers on the Southwest border by Dec. 31. The fencing operation has run into stiff opposition by landowners fighting government efforts to obtain their land through condemnation.

PETA says its billboards would picture “fit and trim” Mexicans in their own country, where their diet is more in line with the group’s mission. Another image on the sign would portray obese American children and adults “gorging on meaty, fat- and cholesterol-packed American food.”

PETA’S offer to the feds is expected to arrive in a letter to Border Patrol officials today.

But a government spokesman in Washington said the request will be rejected because it would limit visibility through the fence. And Border Patrol does not allow advertising on its property or installations, the officials added.

“The fencing being put in place is, in many cases, mesh fencing to allow our officers to see what’s happening on the other side and to better secure the border,” said Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

One property owner on the Texas-Mexico border laughed at PETA’s proposal.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Noel Benavides, who is contesting the construction of a fence dividing his family’s 145-acre ranch in Roma on the Rio Grande. “I can’t see the point of something like that.”

But Rajt said the rent money they’d pay would help offset the huge costs of the fencing — and the advertising message “might even be frightening enough to deter people from crossing into the U.S.”

PETA has often been criticized for its aggressive animal rights crusades. It’s used billboards to push many of its controversial positions such as “Buck Cruelty: Say NO to horse-drawn carriage rides” or “Feeding Kids Meat Is Child Abuse.”

I have no coherent thoughts on this right now.


Food Porn and Reconstructing Our Meals

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 2:08 pm
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I used to look at vegan food porn and think that it was a waste of time. I didn’t understand how it could really accomplish anything except make me hungry.

But now I’m thinking about the ways that foods, and the meal, are socially constructed. We live in a very carnicentric world. And the construction of food, has been limited to a handful of grains, greens, fruits, and of course, animal flesh and excretions. And for some of us– the diets of our families and/or communities were very carnicentric. And of course many omnivore’s, at least in my family and communities, wonder what one eats if one doesn’t eat flesh or excretions.What does a vegan eat at a barbecue, or a picnic, or even a home cooked meal. If you’re used to your meal looking like this:

Carnicentric dish

Carnicentric dish

Then its pretty hard to imagine a meal without flesh.

Meanwhile food porn gives us a multitude of images that are (nicer to look at and) that reconstruct the meal to make flesh unnecessary.

So perhaps food porn has a purpose, besides making me hungry. Because at this point, I’ve reconstructed the meal for myself to the point where putting flesh into it seems silly. So perhaps I need to share food porn with more people in my family, so that they can get turned on to a new diet.


Moderated comments, activate! August 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:33 pm
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Due to recent asshattery & unchecked privilege, we’re going to all-moderated comments, at least for now.

In the meantime, some of you all might want to unpack that knapsack (& take a look at this too, as well as checking out the Privilege 101, Race Relations 101, & Privilege Checklists links on Shrub’s sidebar).


Must Accessibility Mean Partaking in Other -Isms? August 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:04 pm
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It seems lately there is a lot of excitement around presenting vegan ideas in ways labeled as fun, hip, light, or humorous. We can reach out to new demographics! We can bust stereotypes of vegans being dowdy humorless bores! Etc. etc. ad nauseum. After reading the umpteenth blog post extolling the virtues of this new kind of outreach, I started to wonder just what it means that vegans are so obsessed with making our issues “fun”& “sexy.” And let me clarify that I’m not referring to the emphasis on good & tasty food here, which is obviously important, but on the packaging of our ideas. (more…)


Rights or Liberation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 3:53 am
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I have always loved words. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t amazed by the power of words, both written and spoken. I’m big on word meanings and the idea of animal rights hasn’t sat well with me for a while, at least not since I gained an interest in both anarchism and black liberation.

As I read more and more about anarchism I realized that the State isn’t the be-all and end-all for change. But it was my own readings into both the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power/Liberation movement(s) that my eyes really opened. I had learned every February for 13 years about the Civil Rights movement, about how it won all these rights for African-Americans. But I read about and saw with my own eyes that it didn’t solve all the problems facing Black folks. Thats when anarchism and the Black Panthers entered my life.  Black Panthers weren’t depending on the State to create change in their communities, but they weren’t going to silently take care of their communities– the State heard their complaints loud and clear (by the way I know this piece focuses heavily on Black folks, and I don’t mean to marginalize other people of color, because my readings of Yellow, Red, and Brown Power movements also helped me develop my thoughts). And though a ton of shit still needs to be done for liberation of all folks of color, and the Black Panthers were far from perfect, the Black Panthers presented ideas that were revolutionary in scope and that could lead to real radical change.

So what does this have to do with animal rights? And why do I have a problem with it? Animal rights don’t sit well with me for several reasons.

Animal rights are dependent on the State. Only the State can give rights, and as we’ve learned, from history, law alone doesn’t change things. By relying on the State we give up some of our autonomy for creating change. The other problem is the laws on the books don’t protect a lot of animals, despite the sort of discourses Animal Precinct may create. The law doesn’t change people, at most it puts people in cages, and puts animals in different ones.

Animal rights also get co-opted by consumerism. If we think boycotting this company or that company to force cruelty-free products (dubious phrasing for the most part) is all we need to do then again we are falling short on creating real change.

Animal rights also compartmentalizes suffering. If we can get specific laws passed then the animals will be slightly better off. When we get a law passed the image becomes that now things are ok. When a corporation bends on one point, its a victory to be celebrated. An example for this is the KFC  Canada/PETA thing. PETA has basically advertised for KFC by telling folks to go buy the new vegan option, and though it is wonderful that KFC now has a vegan option, and more “humane” conditions for the chickens it kills, i still kills chickens in the same numbers as before. The only ones who benefited were vegans with a new option at KFC.

Animal rights, being dependent on a rights-base discourse, also has a habit of ignoring other issues. Intersectionality doesn’t even enter the discourse, because when you are fighting for a new law or rule, one has to be specific. This specificity in discourse means you can care a helluva lot about animals, but be sexist or racist (or engage in supporting any sort of system of oppression) and yet again PETA pops to mind.

I prefer animal liberation (despite the fact that I hate Singer’s book). As I learned, from the Black Panthers, liberation encompasses the tactics used in rights-based discourses but isn’t limited to them. One can write to a politician or corporation and whether or not something is done a that level, change will be sought anyway. I also feel that liberation struggles are linked in a way rights are not. When fighting for liberation one is actively engaged with dismantling the system(s) of oppression, and if oppressions are linked (which a lot of us seem to think they are), then one can fight several battles with the same action. I think that liberation is more full, where as animal rights creates legal change that forces people to treat animals differently, animal liberation is a fight for a paradigm shift, for political, legal, social, psychic, an material changes in how we all interact with animals.


Are Oreos Vegan and Other Questions About Fried Chik’n August 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 9:31 am
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Growing up I was an anomaly in my family: I was an extremely picky eater. By age 8 I refused to eat pork, and I never did like the vegetables that my mother cooked for family functions (might have been the smell of animal stock in them– they sure didn’t smell like normal vegetables), and when fried chicken was put in front of me I would pick at the skin (grease tastes good). My very anti-soul food diet blossomed when I became a vegetarian in the 7th grade. That was the point when I think my family decided I was sorta whitewashed.

I began to understand pretty early on that food is pretty important shit. Food isn’t just caloric and nutritional input, its a social construct loaded with meanings. And for a lot of my folks, my being veg*n was a white thing; it was a bougie thing. Those that tried to understand assumed it was for health reasons, or that I was trying to lose weight (I was a pretty big kid). Though I have never been veg*n for health reasons, I knew they were there. And health reasons were what I used to try and convince my family (but really, who listens to a 12 year old for health advice).

My school life wasn’t too different– being one of a handful of veg*ns in Middle and High School was difficult. With my family I learned that my veg*nisms made it more difficult to have those familial bonds one builds while eating and sharing culturally-loaded foods. At school was when I learned that White folks viewed Black veg*ns as trying to assimilate (or some such crap). When I told White folks that I was vegan or vegetarian soon after came some question about soul food, fried chicken, or chitlins (chitterlings to some). And soon after this question the person would reassess me– look at my Propagandhi cd, my tight jeans, my copy of Manifesta under my arm, and decide that either a) I was an uppity little negro, b) an oreo to be made fun of (in fact only White folks have ever called me an oreo), or c) one of the good ones (not really Black in their eyes is what they would say). These reactions came from both White veg*ns (usually option c) and White non-veg*ns (options a, b, and c).

And even now I get these reactions, just with grown folks. I realized that everyone thinks they know what a White vegan looks like– but no one seems to have a clue about what a Black (or Latin@, or Asian, or Native American, or any other racial/ethnic group that isn’t white) vegan looks like. The only times I had even seen vegans of color mentioned outside of blogs, was PETA’s celebrity list.

But I’ve gotten used to being either invisible or a neon sign towards White folks. What bothers me is being invisible to other folks of color. Sunday I watched several several hours of BET. See they have their Black Buster movies (their cleverness continues to astound me) and I watched The Salon, Baby Boy, and Medea’s Family Reunion all in one sitting. The one thing I noticed, besides all of these movies sucking a lot, was that food was important. Especially fried chicken– there were so many freaking references (as if it was some in joke between the Black movie and its presumed Black audience). My only question is why are there no veg*n folks of color in movies, even as an in-joke like all the other non-normative Black folks became in movies like The Salon.

And this brings me to the fried chik’n in the title. See KFC Canada has started offering a vegan chik’n option (why PETA thinks this is some added bonus for animals is beyond me ). And though I don’t know if this option will be available here in the US, I don’t actually really care (I figure it will help animals as much as the BK Veggie Burger, which is to say very little).

The only thing I know is little Royce, back in 7th grade, would have been overjoyed at vegan options at restaurants where his family ate at (which would have been far more than KFC). I imagine that those veg*n options at meaty restaurants are good for something. They would have made it easier for this vegan Oreo to bond with my family over a meal.


The Love List… August 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kanika Ameerah @ 11:32 pm

In the February issue of Oprah Magazine, there’s this article titled “The Love List” which tells the story of a woman, who after one failed relationship too many, decides to write a list of qualities she desired in a soul mate (100 of them in all).  She kept the list hidden in a safe place and thought nothing more of it until her future husband came along 5 years later.  Ironically, he met all but 2 of her requirements on the list.

After reading the article, I wrote a love list of my own. It’s not quite at 100 yet, but there is one requirement that is high on the list- that my “one” must be a herbivore.  Recently, I was told by a beloved confidant that by making this requirement, I was closing off my options.

Despite the fact that I disagree with this statement, it had me thinking it over.  Finding a veg*n mate wasn’t always an issue for me, especially when I just started becoming veg. But as time went by, I realised how important it was for me to be with someone who understands and shares my desire to lead a cruelty-free life to the best of one’s ability. Now if I chose to be with someone whose values and lifestyle didn’t correlate with mine, not only I’d be settling, but I believe I’d be limiting myself in much greater ways.

How important a part does veg*nism play in finding the right mate for you? Obviously I am thinking out loud on this subject, but it’d be interesting to get various opinions on the matter…


Blogging against Racism with an Anti-Speciesist Twist

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:30 pm
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Tomorrow starts the third International Blog Against Racism Week. This year’s optional theme is intersectionality, which is right up our alley here at VoC…

Should anyone here want to write & submit a post, there should be more information on how to submit your link to the official collection of IBARW posts up soon at the IBARW Livejournal community (though I assume it’ll be similar to last year, where you could submit items to daily link-collecting posts on the LJ community, or add your link directly to IBARW’s

(& of course non-VoC bloggers should consider writing IBARW posts too!)


Veganism’s Feeling a Little Small

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 1:15 pm
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**This post is about me wanting a new more encompassing name for my diet**

All my posts, and the wonderful comments that follow, get me thinking harder about my veganism than I ever truly had before. But now I’m wondering about leaving my veganism behind, and I don’t mean going back to being an omnivore.

I really like words, and names, and labels, and identities. Not that I enjoy creating a heirarchy of terms, I just like having a name for what I do. I remember being overjoyed when I found out what I was doing back in 8th grade was called veganism. And though I haven’t constantly been doing veganism for the 7 years since then (I have slipped into omnivorism, freeganism, meaganism, and lacto-ovo vegetarianism at various times) vegan has been a huge part of my identity.

But now veganism feels a little too small; like an old sweater that shrank in the wash. See my problem is that veganism is too small for me. My veganism needs to be anti-racist, decolonial, feminist(womanist), anti-capitalist,horizontal, queer, and green, along with anti-speciesist. And it seems some might think that I’m stretching veganism too much, making it too big, too hard. But my mind and my stomach recognize the the interconnetedness.

And thats why I really wish I could think of a new label (see I prefer womanism to feminism, and horizontalism to anarchism). I’ll keep using vegan for now, at least till someone comes up with a better name for a more encompassing diet. a diet I imagine being more dynamic, constantly changing, and always asking questions.