The Sistah Vegan Project

Black Vegan Mammy-ism: Sacrificing My Emotional Health for the Vegan Status Quo

In this video I talk about how I struggle with not being a “mammy” when it comes to accommodating the emotional needs of particular white vegans who do not extend mindfulness to me when they talk to me about ‘their’ post-racial view of veganism. THERE ARE TWO VERSIONS OF THIS VIDEO AVAILABLE. HIGH DEFINITION FOR FAST INTERNET SPEED AND STANDARD FOR SLOWER INTERNET SPEEDS.

HIGH DEFINITION:

STANDARD DEFINITION:

Here is a useful article to read to understand more about what I mean by “mammyism” . I don’t agree with a lot in this article, but it does give a basic premise of mammyism:

Abdullah, Afi Samelia. “Mammy-Ism: A Diagnosis of Psychological Misorientation for Women of African Descent.” JOURNAL OF BLACK PSYCHOLOGY 24, no. 2 (1998): 196-210.

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9 thoughts on “Black Vegan Mammy-ism: Sacrificing My Emotional Health for the Vegan Status Quo

  1. Breeze! Wow, I wasn’t sure where you were going when I saw the title of this. After watching the video, I can totally identify with what you’re saying. As a black, female vegan I deal with this often. I also happen to be in a serious relationship with a white male. The issue of “being careful” is one that I encounter almost daily. Where I live, most vegans I encounter are what would be labeled as hipsters. Sadly, this group is dominated by people who revel in this idea of quirky, ironic whiteness. There is always the feeling that I have to censor who I am to make them feel more comfortable with me. Interestingly enough, an issue similar to this came up on a progressive podcast that I listen to. I’m definitely at the point of discontinuing the feed because of the racial insensitivity of the hosts. Thanks for this and all of your other insightful talks.

  2. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

    Being upset is a natural reaction to the situation you have described. I am just sorry that someone triggered your sense of unease in the first place.

    My motto is to always take the high ground in public as much as I possibly can. I can always curse folks out in the privacy of my own mind or talk about my hurt & angry feelings to a trusted friend who’ll listen and care. There is no reason why you can’t be eloquently trenchant in your responses to folks who just don’t get it. You don’t have to stoop to foul language to get your point across or to prove that you’re not a “mammy.” And, of course, I hope it is some kind of consolation to you that there are folks out here who will never ever get it! As the young folks like to say these days, “Haters gonna hate, so don’t try to win over people whose role in life is to be hateful, stupid, contrary, self-righteous, or sanctimonious. After all, you are not the jerk whisperer!” (That last zinger I got off the ever-amazing internet.)
    Don’t let petty hecklers frustrate your dreams, ambitions, and goals. I’ll end by quoting another pithy line from popular culture: “Get that dirt off your shoulder.”

    Keep doing good work. Get your PhD, and leave the jerk whispering to karma!

    All serene things,
    S

  3. MY SISTA,
    I know exactly where u are coming from. This is an subject that I have dealt with, in mind for years.
    This is an situation that has been embedded within our people and for u to speak out about the feeling that are witihin u containing this subject is and big step.
    Truthfully there is nothing that can be done because it is (as I mentioned) embedded!
    We are in an country that is not ours, but in time things will change as the Most High YAH has told us within Scripture.
    KEEP MOVING ON! THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES

  4. i appreciate your honesty. i think your work is necessary and thriving. i support you. astrologically speaking the month of july is about assimilation. what you will allow into yourself and what you will not. your energy is most definitely empathic :)

    although this may not be helpful for you it helps me, there are just some people who are invested in white supremacy at such a subconscious level a message like yours may never reach them in our immediate lifetime. but i KNOW you are planting seeds. seeds that may or may not grow for us to see.

    i support your work…so proud of a human doing such solid activism, critical thinking and loving. be well. brittany marie

  5. Kasha_Luv on said:

    Hello,
    I watched your video , Ive been having this argument ever since I entered college. (Mammy-ism) Im a student at Brandeis University. Here let me introduce you to two of my favorite songs that help me express myself.

    Rebel – Lauryn hill
    I get out – Lauryn hill

    We have a project going you may be interested in. http://www.brandeis.edu/projects/fse/ I go to all the lectures about black men and women being given by white men and women. I raise my hand an I step on toes. PERIOD. I break comfort zones…. Im never comfortable ! Any who Im not vegan but I hear you and I hope these songs help you in expressing some of you feelings too!

  6. Corvus on said:

    Hiya, Breeze. I always love your blog as usual. Maybe I am typing this response more for other white people to see than for you. But I feel the need to type it. First off- everything’s connected. I think people do every cause a disservice when they stomp on one to advance another, therefore not really advancing it. I know my care for animal lib is connected to my need for liberation as a queer gender deviant working class female and all of that. And I see all of those traits in me as issues connected to many other issues including race. A huge deal with how people view race is people see it as a straight, mens issue half the time. Not a womans issue, a queer issue, a class issue, an issue connected to diet and health and the treatment of humans and nonhuman animals worldwide.

    Secondly, as white people, and white people who care about nonhuman animals, we need to be doing our best to listen and be allied to your struggle as a woman of color, not criticizing something as if our whiteness trumps your knowledge. I have been so grateful for your blog and project because, while it is not people of color’s job to educate me, I also know that it is going to be difficult for me to combat my own privilege in a white dominated world. I think about race a lot and am often left wondering “what do I need to do to do better?” So, I love that things like your blog and project are available for reading and educating people. You provide an awesome resource for people of color but also an awesome resource for white folks like me who want/need to check our privilege.

    Third, what the hell can someone criticize about your “approach”? You analyze privilege, you talk about animals rights, you talk about veganism and all the things white people want to hear about while also beautifully interweaving it with issues of race, class, ability and so on. If some dude wants to give you lip and mansplain to you that his way would be better, I would honestly ignore him. He’ll come around when he’s ready to open his mind to something new. I say this from experience being a passionate animal lover who became vegan first and foremost because of animals. I actually have learned more about other struggles with animals as a catalyst.

    So, I don’t want to write too much (I know I already have), and I’m not trying to give you my white approval or something. I just wanted to say that, along with all of the oppression that comes with being forced into mammyism, I think your empathy and not wanting to hurt people comes from a place of compassion as well. Please keep doing what you are doing and I hope this is merely a bump in the road for you. Thank you again for your wonderful and informative work.

  7. Ceylon on said:

    Breeze,
    Hello. I like the information you offer. I am not 100% VEGAN, but wotking on the path. Basically, i hope things are going well far as the pregancy and funding for school.
    Take Care,
    Ceylon

  8. Thank you for posting this video!

  9. peace sistar, i really enjoyed what you had to say in your video. i am curious in the coming months what your experience as a black vegan mother will add to the issues you are working to unveil. i was introduced to your posts via a comrade after expressing on facebook that i feel members of the black vegan community practice a similar elitism to what you speak about. I am no longer vegan because my body has changed so much since i had my daughter in July 2009. I need meat energy now and a live protein source (all which i attribute to a vastly different moon cycle and body build post birth) but have many sistas lecture me or exclude me from their “conscious” circles because i’m not “on a healthy path”. i find myself having to defend my eating habits as working for my system now and that despite having read all the same books and doing all the same fasts, my body needs different things now. I hadn’t eaten beef since i was about 5yrs old and wanted nothing else throughout my pregnancy and after. I crave beef about every 90 days and i eat a little bit and feel it in my system right away.
    we ended upon my fb post talking about why there isn’t language around health that is exclusively catered to the food dangers which effect us all- gmo’s, pesticides, farming, food availability etc and leaving the judgments behind to allow people to make better choices for themselves-whatever diet they choose, whatever racial or economic background they represent. after listening to your video, we began to ponder whether in the black community there is a sense of assimilation into affluence due to the white-hippie status assigned to veganism that you discussed.

    i wonder as a mother, how your writing will enhance and your research expand when you start talking to pediatricians who will tell you your milk is insufficient if you don’t consume meat, that your baby needs the nutrients from the cow that humans don’t produce, if you choose to remain vaccination free etc. white women are the new-age-hipster moms. i haven’t been able to get a dr to even consider my child a person and actually LOOK at her. its an automatic “failure to thrive” stamp anytime she has an issue (and i mean things typical to infants). i’ve been accused of just not having enough food and claiming i’m vegan to cover it up lol. i’ve had social services sent to my home to try and force me take my daughter to a nutritionist who of course wanted to force me to give her dairy and meat products.

    ironically, my 2yr old has CHOSEN not to eat meat and at CHOSE not to drink regular milk. as though something in her knew better than to start of consuming these products. She eats a little bit of chicken every now and then, but she knows what works for her. :)
    thank you for your words and work!

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