Vegans of Color

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

Lactose Intolerance Is Not A Disease January 11, 2009

Filed under: vegan — Alicia @ 11:20 pm

Typically when someone tells you they are lactose intolerant they do it with a mournful look on their face. The face of someone who is missing out on some of the best parts of life because something is terribly wrong with their bodies. Usually the mournful look is met with sympathy from the person they are talking to. What a poor poor soul, not able to digest lactose. Even now as a vegan I have fallen into this all too typical scenario of feeling sorry for the lactose intolerant. Of course I use it as an opportunity to talk about veganism but I unconsciously give them that “sympathy look” nonetheless. The problem is that we have been conditioned to think of lactose intolerance as if it were a disease when in fact it is a normal process of life.


Mammals only need to produce the enzyme lactase (the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose) until they are weaned. For humans this is somewhere between 2-4 years old. After that we are officially weaned from our mother’s milk and ready to get our complete nutrients from solid foods. According to Drs. Marie Boyle and Sara Long in their book Personal Nutrition 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. With a greater incidence among people of African descent, Mediterranean decent, Native Americans and Asians. Here’s a quick breakdown of the incidence of lactose intolerance amongst people of color:

·         Blacks/African Americans – 80%

·         Native Americans – 80-100%

·         Asians – 90-100%


It is clear that the “lactose intolerant” are not so much the odd man out, who is afflicted with a horrible disease, but instead someone with a normally functioning digestive system. I believe it’s time to turn the tide and change the way we think and talk about lactose intolerance. When someone mentions the fact they or someone they know is lactose intolerant our response should be “Great! So is over 70% of the world’s population” and then explain why. For me, after all the extremely compelling reasons to go vegan were presented to me the one thing that stood out to me the most (and what is ultimately the reason I went vegan) was what an unnatural process it is for an adult mammal to drink the milk of another species. What makes it even more appalling is the cruelty associated with the production of cow’s milk to feed a population that is literally being made sick by it. Changing the perception of lactose intolerance is just one small way to change the way that people think of the milk and milk products that they hold so dear. And you never know, someone like me might hear this information and not only go vegan but stay vegan.



National Institute of Health (National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse)


Boyle, M. A., & Long, S. (2007). Personal Nutrition(6th Edition ed.). Belmont, CA, USA: Thomson Wadsworth.


Vegan Soul Kitchen Cookbook Out in March January 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:53 pm

Somehow I failed to hear about this cookbook until fairly recently: Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen is due out in March. Chef and food justice activist Terry, who also co-authored Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen with Anna Lappé , will be offering up a bonanza of deliciousness — check out this sample list of recipes:

Double Mustard Greens & Roasted Yam Soup; Cajun-Creole-Spiced Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits; Citrus and Spice Pickled Watermelon Rind; Caramelized Grapefruit, Avocado, and Watercress Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette; Sweet Cornmeal-Coconut Butter Drop Biscuits; and Molasses-Vanilla Ice Cream with Candied Walnuts

HELLO. The book is due out March 2… as it turns out, in time for a birthday present for me! Can’t wait.

VOC blogger Breeze Harper recently attended a brunch & brainstorming session around the book & how to get it into the hands of people other than the usual (white, middle class) suspects.

Also, check out what Terry would serve if he were White House chef. Items on the menu include Universal Health Care Collards and Gay and Trans Rights-Roasted Grapes with Red Wine, yeah! (Though there’s also a salmon dish… yuck. I’m going to read that as fake vegan salmon in my head.)


Exoticism & Chinese American Food January 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 5:03 pm
Tags: ,

Not specifically vegan, but check out this great Racialicious post debunking myths many people in the US have about Chinese food (& thus, about Chinese people).

I thought it made a good counterpart to the continuing discussion on VoC about the word “exotic” & why it is offensive.


Japanese Environmentalism; Good News about Coconut Oil

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:33 pm

Elaine Vigneault recently commented giving a link to this Galllup poll showing that the Japanese attempt to live a green lifestyle about as much as those in the US. As Elaine points out, sometimes anti-Japan commentary is a feature of AR/environmental activism, but the poll indicates that views on the environment are not, perhaps, that much different than in the States (so it’s not that the Japanese are evildoers who don’t care about the earth).

In other good news, vegan truffleteer (Is that a word? It is now… anyway she’s a chef! And makes truffles!) Lagusta Yearwood, who suggested coconut oil as a substitute for troubling palm oil products like Earth Balance has some good news:

So I contacted my source at Omega Nutrition, and to their credit it took them only six months and two emails to respond. As their response was the president and co-founder of the company, Robert Gaffney, calling me up and us having a great chat, I can’t complain.

As I suspected, coconut oil is a vastly more sustainable product than icky old palm oil, primarily because palm oil production entails razing entire fields and forests of trees—sadly, it is akin to slash-and-burn deforesting tactics used to clear-cut land to graze animals, which is one reason many of us became vegetarian in the first place. This process obviously destroys entire ecosystems, but it seems to have a particularly devastating effect on endangered orangutans.

Coconut oil production, on the other hand, entails harvesting the fruits of the tree and letting the tree live so it can continue to produce more coconuts.

Robert told me that he gets his coconuts from the Philippines, where he works with a guy who employs about 2,000 employees who sustainably harvest his organic coconuts. Apparently the coconut palms are wild and the guy who runs the business in the Philippines started it in order to fund an organic banana chip business on the same land, so I believe there is some sort of symbiotic ecosystem thing going on there.

Lagusta says she forgot to ask him specifically about labor conditions — my perhaps naive view would lead me to believe that any organic business is likely to treat its workers fairly decently, but I don’t know (now you all are going to leave me links with horror stories about organic sweatshops, eek!).


“Special” dairy education kit targeting African Americans January 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Amie "Breeze" Harper @ 8:22 pm

Wow, this is quite upsetting to me. Vegan or not, if my body were to constantly become “sick” because I’m eating cow dairy products, this is an indication that it should NOT be in my body, period. However, look at this wording in this “special” campaign targeted towards African Americans:

Minorities who have experienced gastrointestinal problems consuming milk are learning new strategies to enjoy milk and other dairy foods. This means that minorities (and non-minorities) with lactose intolerance may no longer need to miss out on essential nutrients provided by dairy foods. The health consequences of avoiding dairy foods, the major source of dietary calcium, potassium, and vitamin D as well as providing other essential nutrients, may be especially serious for African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native American Indians. Many minorities are at high risk of hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer – diseases in which a low intake of dairy and dairy nutrients (e.g., calcium, vitamin D, potassium) can be a contributing factor.

I am severely lactose intolerance. Ever sense I removed cow dairy from my body, 4.5 years ago, my intestinal health, skin health, sinus allergies, eczema, fibroid tumors, etc have virtually disappeared. This is my own personal experience with abandoning cow dairy products as an African American female who is severely lactose intolerant. I find this new ad very dangerous and irresponsible, as I can’t imagine how my health would have progressed (or not progressed), had I attempted to keep these products in my system and listened to the National Dairy Council. But to suggest that a severely lactose intolerant person will be at risk for hypertension, colon cancer, etc for not having these products in their system is very misleading and creates unnecessary fear.

Just imagine if those who are gluten-sensitive were told to be “scared” of getting certain diseases from not eating wheat. Instead, it’s accepted and they are given alternatives, like rice flour, buckwheat, lentil flour, teff flour, etc., and eating multiple grains like these are “just as healthy” as gluten products.
The complete information can be found at:
and the quote I cited is from:



Gay Animal Rights Activist Attacked in Ohio

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:25 am
Tags: ,

Nathan Runkle, founder & executive director of Mercy for Animals, was brutally attacked recently at a gay nightclub in Dayton.

The press release states Nathan’s wish that sexual orientation be included in Ohio’s hate crimes legislation.

pattrice jones offers two posts about what people can do to help & how we — queer people, vegans, & allies (I note of course that these categories are not mutually exclusive) — can move forward from here:

So, if you’re somebody who cares about or works on LGBTQ issues but has not (yet) integrated the animals into your analysis of oppression, let this attack on a gay man who has dedicated himself to animal rights motivate you to educate yourself about the connections. And, if you’re a straight animal liberationist or veg*n advocate who hasn’t thought deeply about your heterosexual privilege and what obligations you might have to divest yourself of that, let this near-deadly attack on a gay animal advocate remind you (if Proposition 8 and Obama’s selection of a homophobic preacher to speak at his inauguration did not) that homophobia is still alive and dangerous.

In both instances: Educate yourself about the intersections and then figure out how you might integrate what you learn into your activism and your daily life. Those of us who are already hip to that particular intersection ought to realize that there’s always more for us to learn too. Finally, all of us can be inspired by Nathan’s relentless activism and take up the charge to do just a little bit more while he’s recovering from this terrible trauma.

As the press release notes, Mercy for Animals brings an intersectional analysis to its work:

MFA has long worked to bridge the gap between the common prejudices which lead to oppression and abuses faced by both animals and minorities. In recent years MFA has joined gay advocates in gay pride marches by forming human rainbows preceded by banners declaring, “No one is free when others are oppressed.” The organization has also been a lead opponent of gay rodeo events, citing the community’s obligation to protect animals from needless violence.

I’m sure I speak for all the VoC bloggers in expressing sorrow & outrage at this attack, & in wishing Nathan the best.


Vegans of Color on Animal Voices January 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:32 am

Joselle & I were interviewed recently for the excellent Animal Voices podcast. I know both of us had a lot of fun doing the interview & were really honored to be asked to be part of such a great show. You can listen to the interview here. Big thanks to Lauren & Karol for having us!


Hi from Seoul, land of 10,000 meat restaurants January 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — minneapoliseoul @ 9:51 pm

I’ve been terrible at writing here, and in all honesty I am sometimes intimidated to write to such a large audience. My style of blogging tends to be more of my random thoughts and observations, so I appreciate those who are blogging about news bits and generating discussion around them.

I just thought I’d write about my last 4 months of living in Seoul, Korea. I was born in Korea, but sent to the USA soon after to be adopted. I am now 30 years old and for the first time seeing what it’s like to live day-in and day-out in the country of my birth, the one place on Earth where everyday I am surrounded by massive amounts of people who share my ethnicity. A feeling completely unfamiliar growing up in mostly white Minnesota…

Anyway, I have met a few vegetarians along the way, and even fewer vegans, but most do not live here. They come and go, after a short vacation. In general, I am finding myself still on the outside of a social circle. Growing up, and even in college, it was sometimes due to my race, but here I am finding it is because of my chosen attempt at being a vegan. The common experience here is to go out with a fairly decent sized group and socialize over meat cooking in front of you on the table, while lubricating the conversation with soju, an alcoholic Korean specialty. Not eating animals or being much of a drinker, it can leave me feeling weary about going out with big groups, especially since a lot of the restaurants are not fond of individual eating habits. I guess being in Seoul makes it a little bit easier, for I have had many of the staff at restaurants try to accomodate, but in general it has been difficult to dine out.

I have a certain dissonance living here, in a place where I fit in more than I have in various places in Minnesota, and yet I also continue to feel like the “odd ball.” I so want to ease into this foreign culture that was my once my birthright, and yet the love for meat and seafood makes it difficult when it comes to the social aspect – especially since eating and socializing go hand-in-hand here.

I am a total foody and so into good health that I hope I can find somewhere in North America where there are a lot of open-minded, friendly vegans of color, and awesome vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants where I can feel more at ease. Wherever that is, let me know so I can move there! I went to a vegan “event” in the Twin Cities a few years back and felt totally out of it there, where nearly all the vegans were white and quite frankly, a bit uptight and not seemingly aware of some of the issues that touch my life as a person of color. Maybe that scene has changed, but I’m not sure since I’m not currentlyliving there.

Anyway, just writing to say hi and to ask if others have ever experienced a similar feeling to what I have – which is a longing to fit in in a new environment, perhaps one that is of your native roots, and yet being vegan seems to prohibit that?


Eating Cat Is the Same as Eating Cow

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:17 pm

Thanks to Kanika for the heads-up on this one: Pet lovers protest cats on the menu in China. I’ve said it before, & I’ve said it again: it gets under my skin when Westerners criticize Asian nations for eating cat & dog. Meat eaters have no excuse; why should this be any more or less horrifying than eating cow or pig? Oh yeah, because they happen to judge that one animal is cute & one is not (I even met someone once who said she was a “cute-itarian” & wouldn’t eat pigs because she thought they were cute, but all other meat was fine to chow down on). As Angry Asian Man says:

In the face of articles like this, you can’t deny it: they eat cats in Guangdong. And they cook ’em up good. And I’ll admit, that grosses me out a little. Then again, I also have to ask, so what? How is this more or less humane or disgusting than the practice of eating any other animal?

I was glad to see that sentiment expressed on a major blog (one of my favorites!) that isn’t about animal rights; maybe it will make some folks think.

Oh yeah, & what about when veg*ns criticize dog- and cat-eating? It’s so often steeped in colonial racist attitudes. To quote Angry Asian Man again: “The insinuation is that [Chinese] restaurants [that serve cat] — and by extension, Chinese people — are inherently dirty, strange and exotic.”

The article points out that some Chinese have been protesting this practice (I’d be curious about the ratio of flesh-eaters to vegans among them), though of course it mentions that PETA has been condemning it as well.


Is your vegan product truly “cruelty” free? VegNews JanFeb 2009 January 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Amie "Breeze" Harper @ 1:52 pm

The Jan+Feb 2009 VegNews issue has a section about how “cruelty” free “our” vegan products are, when human enslaved labor is being used. They look at Rice, Bananas, and chocolate.

I know I have brought this topic up for about a year or two now. Interesting that it has finally entered the pages of VegNews. The article is called, “Food, Inc.” It’s on page 40.

For those not familiar with how to buy “fair trade” grains, check out a company I’ve ben using called Alter Eco.