Going Beyond the Post-Racial Vegan Mainstream: Race Conscious versus Race-Neutral Approach

 

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Below is the audio of my March 4, 2011 talk at University of California, Davis for their “Fierce, Fearless, and Feminist” conference. My talk is called “Going Beyond the Post-Racial Vegan Mainstream: Race Conscious versus Race-Neutral Approach”. I compare Skinny Bitch, Kind Diet, and Quantum Wellness to Sacred Woman, Sistah Vegan, City of Wellness. Through a critical race feminist lens, I explain how one comes from the ‘post-racial’ (can class neutral) camp, while the latter books are an example of what a ‘race-conscious’ veganism can look like. It is a very very short version of my dissertation chapter called ‘The Skinny on Veganism: Critical Race Feminist Analysis of Popular Vegan Books”


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0 thoughts on “Going Beyond the Post-Racial Vegan Mainstream: Race Conscious versus Race-Neutral Approach

  1. Greetings Ms. Harper:

    I can’t wait until I get your book!

    May I ask what is the response or feedback you receive from white middle class/upper class audiences when you give your lectures?

    I listened to this lecture and a few things stood out to me:

    White middle class/upper class people use a “post-racial” or “race neutral” approach to MUCH of what they do in order to evade both individual and collective accountability and to ***feel good*** while dumping/projecting onto ALL non-whites. Many multi-racial venues that purport diversity are in fact built off the false paradigm of “race neutral” consciousness. It amazes me that the psychopathology of racism from whites, particularly those with the most privilege and power creates a situation of domination out of something that is supposed to be a force for good, health, and wellness. I say without any apologies that the “post-racial” consciousness is the new racism because it enables whites to remain attached to their advantages without accountability.

    Based off the lectures I’m hearing from you, and some moderate research, it appears to me that this “movement” (my apologies in advance) is doing the same thing that was done to blacks and Latino’s in the field of medicine. In fact, the PETA incident you mentioned in this lecture reminds me of stories from the book Medical Apartheid. I’m wondering how long it’s going to take the masses of African Americans to make the connection.

    Finally, I believe one solution is to keep supporting black owned businesses, practices, and organizations that are striving to elevate the health, well being, and consciousness of humanity. I especially believe in supporting black women owned businesses. This is why I try to support Queen Afua’s organization even if LOL I’m bit behind of the implementation of her programs! (Getting there!) My experience has taught me that the majority of whites are disinterested in doing the work required internally and externally when it comes to race relations. It is crystal clear that many are unwilling to give up privilege and power. I accept that reality and try my best to support African American women and other women of color as well as the tiny minority of whites who have done the work.

    Thank you,
    Mary Ann

    1. You wrote: “It amazes me that the psychopathology of racism from whites, particularly those with the most privilege and power creates a situation of domination out of something that is supposed to be a force for good, health, and wellness. I say without any apologies that the “post-racial” consciousness is the new racism because it enables whites to remain attached to their advantages without accountability.”

      That is the new form of racism and whiteness that most ‘post-racial’ whites in this country are completely illiterate in. They seem to think that racism and white supremacy manifest the way it did during antebellum USA and Jim Crow. They are literate in the OLD racisms and white supremacy.

      But, they don’t understand that the new forms of racism and whiteness are ‘structural’ in the USA, more than overt. They can be not “individual’ racists or white supremacists, yet simultaneously still benefit from being white.

      1. Speaking as a white, middle-class vegan, I think you are spot on. Growing up, my learning about racism dealt primarily (perhaps even exclusively) with overt racism and white supremacy– as long as you didn’t use racial slurs or obviously discriminate, you weren’t racist. Even though I went to schools where most students were people of color (making me the minority), the issue of structural racism was never made clear to me– I grew up believing that racial disparity today was purely a class issue, not race-based.

        It has actually been through my transition to veganism and my subsequent introduction to Sistah Vegan, the Vegans of Color blog, and related works that has finally brought the issues of structural racism to light. It has been a very difficult realization to make; as a vegan and a Quaker, I hope to lead a life that promotes peace and equality for others– so to realize and finally understand that the entire foundation for my place in society is based on oppression was horrifying. But once that door was opened, there was no way I could close it again. I am ultimately grateful to you and others for beginning to repeal my ignorance.

        I agree with you that the vegan movement has deep divides between its members that must be bridged. Even though I fit into the “mainstream” vegan demographic, I face backlash for choosing veganism for environmental reasons over animal rights reasons; I can only imagine the backlash you receive from the mainstream community. But if veganism was truly confined to middle class, white, animal-rights activists, I would not be a part of the movement. Thank you.

        1. You should see that comment that several women (who happen to be white vegans) left when I posted my initial analysis of Skinny Bitch on Vegans of Color. They had no idea that I was talking about structural racism and system whiteness versus ‘individual white people as overtly racist.’ Check it out. I don’t respond to them because there is no point in giving someone a 20 book reading list on critical race , critical whiteness, and post colonial theory when they won’t read it at all. http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/skinny-bitch-pregnancy-and-white-heteronormativity/ . I am really amazed by the fact that the last commentator said, “Get over your black self and just be human for a day.” Would she say that to me in my face? One thing online forums do is let people say things to you that they would probably NEVER say in your face. I wonder if I would have gotten the same type of anger if I had done a gender or class analysis of Skinny Bitch. Seems like I get a lot more rage and anger directed towards me when I choose to look at veganism through the lens of ‘race’ and ‘whiteness.’ I keep on hitting a nerve! LOL

  2. Mary,

    I am not sure what people truly feel versus what they express to me, once they have heard me give a talk. When I give talks in actual physical spaces, I have never received an audience member coming up to me and telling me to my face that they don’t like what I am pursuing. I usually receive an email instead. Cowardly in my opinion…

    However, I get blog comments and emails from white identified vegans who are clearly pissed at me for my critical race and critical whiteness inquiries into veganism. After reading my critical race feminism analysis of Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven, a woman on Vegans of Color wrote me, “Why don’t you get over your black self and just be human for a day”. Funny response, but not surprising. Many people of her demographic don’t understand that I am simply doing my research work through a particular lens of analysis. I chose critical race studies as my framework. But of course she takes it personally and ‘freaks out’ on me. And invalidates my work by telling me to get over my black self and just be human for a day. I am looking at structural racism and whiteness but it’s so often interpreted by folk like her that I’m attacking individual white people or calling individual white people ‘racists.’

    I also had a woman in Pittsburgh in 2007, after I gave a talk about using veganism for anti-racism and as a way to prevent adjudicated youths from entering the PIC, tell me that I should have mentioned animal rights and she was upset that I was focusing on how young black and brown boys were using veganism and how this tied into ways to resist systems of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (in the words of bell hooks). She was a white woman from a class privileged suburb. She also told me I should dress more professionally if I wanted to be take seriously. I clearly got on her nerves. And she didn’t have enough gumption to approach me in person, so I received it as an email but learned through easy google search who she was.

    Carol J Adams, in Neither Man Nor Beast, has a chapter in which she talks about how many whites would rather give up human privilege for non-human animals , than give up their ‘white class privilege’ over other humans if that makes sense. A good chapter. Chapter 4 I think. Written nearly 20 years ago yet still applies today.

    Bottom line, the popular mainstream vegan movement expects EVERYONE to only engage in veganism from THEIR privileged perspective (class-neutral; post-racial; ‘we all have access to the same opportunities to become a whole foods vegan’). They just want it to be about the animals ONLY, and really don’t understand or want to understand what race, class, modernity/coloniality. globalized capitalism, normative whiteness could possibly to with being a vegan consumer in a capitalist-consumer society. But, oh well. I am doing my work in ‘scholarly’ manner, and it seems most people who respond to me negatively never even picked up literature about critical race studies, critical whiteness studies, decolonial theory, etc. they’re reactions are ‘reactive’ and just angry. I never respond to them or give them my energy or time. They are clearly there to rant and rave, not there to engage and open their mind to subaltern voices and theories.

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