Vegans of Color

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

How NOT to Inspire More People to Go Vegan January 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 6:35 am
Tags: ,

Someone on Livejournal just posted a graphic created, apparently, as a vegan advocacy tool. In case that post gets deleted, the image is also here. I’m not posting it here because it makes me too angry.

It’s a graphic where the left half is a black & white photo of several black, presumably African, children who look extremely malnourished; the right half is a color photo of a cow. The text at the bottom says, “Who do you want to feed?” The font, by the way, is the same one used for LOLcats or other popular graphics that are generally seen as sarcastic or ironic (like Privilege Denying Dude).

I get what the person is trying to say; it’s drawing attention to how much grain is used to feed cows that are killed for human consumption versus how many people that could feed instead. I get the intention. Nevertheless, intention itself is not enough. This graphic embodies the worst kind of oppression porn, OMG-THOSE-POOR-BROWN-PEOPLE-OVER-THERE. And to many internet-savvy people, it may well appear to be a joke graphic because of the LOLcat font — like there should be a punchline. (Actually, I think it’s pretty close to an unintentional Privilege Denying Dude graphic myself.)

I’m not laughing.


Poverty Contests August 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Precision Afrikan @ 1:07 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This essay concerns food security, economic counting systems and third world solidarity more than veganism per se.

An article published in today’s New York Times reports on efforts in India to enshrine access to food as a constitutionally protected right, a law its proponents expect could enable the food-insecure to make their own market choices to purchase food with food coupons or cash, instead of waiting for monthly 77 pound bags of grain, sugar and kerosene under the current regime. The article also goes on to highlight statistics about how India’s poverty is more widespread and intense than Africa’s, despite the “Tiger” rebranding and annual economic growth rate. A report compiled in India Current Affairs in July also highlights these poverty rankings, comparing the one Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in the country’s center with the entire Democratic Republic of Congo, both of similar population (though the Congo’s size is more comparable to India in its entirety), and finding the same levels of deprivation, even with DRC’s wars (though Madhya Pradesh is not without Naxalites and other struggles for land and resources between communities and multi-national mining and other interests, not unlike DRC).

On the one hand, the expectation around the world seems to be of Africa as the world’s eternal poverty yardstick. This in spite of similar levels of conventionally measured economic growth in a number of Sub-Saharan countries that approach such activity as seen in India in recent years. By comparing favorably to Africa, a government should have license to claim progress in the war on poverty – that’s the ridiculous, racist assumption, an assumption of development stasis.

On the other more important hand, these rankings and contests, especially as presented in the links mentioned above, are patently absurd in themselves, ignoring the basic fact that most of the annual GDP growth measures the rise in income of mostly exclusive urban, male, elite high-end sectors which determine and direct mining, cash-crop, real estate (land displacement), and [cheapest] labor configurations which exclude vast rural populations, whether in India, Congo, or Colombia. Human beings are impoverishing other human beings – not continental geographies. And the story is similar in most geographies including those concerned in this essay – Adivasis in rural Chhattisgarh struggle to hold on to their land in the face of “Memoranda of Understanding” signed by illegitimate politicians to mining interests to violently displace the people from their land, similarly to how Niger Delta militants attack oil infrastructure and kidnap oil workers in response to land displacement and ecosystem destruction by a half century of oil exploitation by foreign corporations in happy concert with local state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Once you understand neo-colonialism and neoliberal market economics, these patterns can be easily understood as to how they determine poverty and struggle around the third world. Malnutrition and poverty propagate fastest and most consistently wherever governments fail to prioritize enabling peripheral population groups to exact their own capacity to cultivate, live and eat of the land. Changes in the environment, and dietary demands which may place undue stress on the ecosystem and reduce its carrying capacity, may further impede nutrition and food security, as predominates in Sahelian countries that currently suffer serious drought. But policy-makers in much of the third world more often than not do not care, since they do not share the same fate as those far beyond the capitals, the urban and privileged spaces where they bury their heads, forgetting what rural populations go through, forgetting they exist.

I think that in itself, that food security should become a constitutional and human right anywhere is excellent. But a shifting in societal priorities would be a more lasting solution, towards actually considering the plights of women, of agriculturalists, and enabling their self-determination while the wealth of the nation focuses first on human and ecological needs rather than profit for exploitative corporations and salaries for ministers and bureaucracies.

Why focus on these poverty contests, with Africa at level zero? These statistics only measure those who, already in positions of control over powerful economic interests, are getting richer as they exploit more underpaid, vulnerable workers, and the land those workers may have been displaced or evicted from. These statistics don’t measure women’s reproductive work, don’t measure broader levels of quality of life that get inflated by those at the very top, even while the masses at the bottom suffer more dispossession and malnutrition year after year.

Human solidarity is to be encouraged instead. The same problems in Nigeria or Congo are found in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Peru, the same exact identical types of fierce corruption, the same exact types of high-official sellouts, the same exact identical types of Western aspirationalism and mimicry, the same exact types of ideological and religious extremisms and hysterias which cripple the masses from thinking critically and boldly enough to challenge the regimes that cause their suffering, the same exact multinationals praying on their resources, human and natural, to be exploited to the lowest common denominator. The same exact types of ignorance forced upon the masses with the absence of schools and the tolerance of illiteracy, despite official claims to the contrary. The exact same types of oppression of labor activists and human-rights campaigners and journalists. The exact same types of classisms and casteisms that compel generations to accept their designated desperation. The same exact types of false democracies in which the people do not have choice or voice in the structural economic questions of society, only at best over the latest personality who says the prettiest things or just looks pretty, but in power does little to nothing of the good he or she promised.

Thus I reject poverty contests. Instead, I move towards human collaboration and solidarity in the third world in pursuit of revolution! Towards the African revolution, the South Asian revolution, the Latin American revolution, the world revolution! Towards human-based economics! Towards the end of rapacious capitalism, the end of the rush to privatize water, seeds and land! Towards human and community-level self-governance and self-determination! Towards the humanization of labor such that people are not reduced to pack mules to produce Wal-Mart products at competitively lower and lower wages in ever more dangerous workplaces!

Towards human development work which is interested in human development, not numbers nudging and statistics masturbating.


More on Veg*nism & Economic Privilege, & Non-Exotifying Veg Writing April 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 6:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

In the comments of Noemi’s post here about veganism & white privilege, reader Hortencia mentioned her experiences in Mexico, where folks told her that they were vegan because they couldn’t afford meat.

Today, via The Animals Voice*, I came across this article about veg*nism in Russia, which says the following:

With the largest part of the population living in the countryside until 1917, the Russian cuisine is based on the cooking of peasants. Syrnikov notes that meat was a rare ingredient in rural meals. “Peasants would eat meat only on holidays. It was hard to get, hard to store, and also there was a lot of fasting to do. They would cook it to store and eat very little of it.”

I realize generally Russians tend to the whiteness. But obviously race/ethnicity, nationality, class, immigrant status, etc. all intersect with each other. I just wanted to point out another instance where someone is talking about veg*nism not as a sign of privilege, but as a result of lack of privilege.

I admit I clicked on the link because the article is called “Mastering Russian Veggies,” & I thought it might be some gross exoticization/fetish-y/stereotype-y thing.

On a related note, I just got the most recent issue of Vegetarian Journal (which, despite the name, is vegan as far as I can tell). There’s an article on African cuisines, & while I was guarded reading it, I thought it did a fair job of not exotifying. No mystical African spices or anything.

* Shouldn’t it be “Animals’ Voice” with an apostrophe? Yes, yes, I know: I’m a smitty (for those of you who remember that term from the heyday of Sassy).


Animal Rights in Africa April 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:04 pm

A post on the Animal Person blog drew my attention to the launching of Animal Rights Africa. No time for an in-depth perusal right now, but I would like to know more about the separate groups that merged to form ARA — who started them, who was in them, etc. The “About Us” pages on the site don’t seem particularly informative in that regard.

Also, Dr. Steve Best was the keynote speaker for the ARA launch event. Completely aside from how I may feel about him as an animal rights activist, my first reaction was to wonder why they needed to fly in some American dude. Surely there are African animal rights activists that would be interesting & relevant speakers?