Dear Post-Racial White Vegans: 'All Lives Matter' is a Racial Microagression Contributing to Our Daily Struggle With Racial Battle Fatigue

A protestors sign from the January 3 2015 event.

Dear Post-Racial White Vegans:

This is not the first time I have had to sit down and write a letter to the collectivity of you who continue to be post-racial/post-human, yet benefit from systemic racism and white supremacy while simultaneously making claims like “stop playing the race card” or “I don’t see race.” Most recently, with the Black Lives Matter movement, I have gotten a significant number of white vegans responding to the theme of my conference with, “Everyone Matters” or “All Lives Matter”.  The theme of the 2015 conference is The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter: Challenging Neoliberal Whiteness While Building Anti-Racist Solidarity Among Vegans of Color and Allies (Before, After, and Beyond Ferguson). And for some reason, this upset some of you. Maybe you do not know it, but saying things like “All Lives Matter” or “Everyone Matters” are actually called racial micro-agressions and really don’t help with our collective struggle with racial battle fatigue.  Please revisit this concept of Ahimsa and extend it to all human animals as well and not get so defensive when a Black feminist vegan scholar with a doctorate in critical studies of food and race, organizes a vegan conference with Black Lives Matter in the title. By the way, in 2005 when I did a Call for Papers for the groundbreaking book Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010), I got similar racial microaggressions from white vegans committed to ending cruelty against non-human animals. As a matter of fact, in 2007, I wrote an award winning Harvard Masters Thesis about the verbal violence spewed when I did this call for papers on a vegan forum. Essentially, Sistah Vegan call for papers said “black womyns lives matter within vegan praxis” and it didn’t sit well with many of the white vegans on that forum.

When you say “All Lives Matter”, what you most likely mean is the following:

Well, what about me? My whiteness is reality and has always been center [but I have been dysconsciously aware of its racist implications until now]. Since Black Lives Matter has infiltrated my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and tumblr worlds, my unacknowledged privilege, my unacknowledged white socio-spatial epistemological narrative of the world, and my addiction to neoliberalism (i.e. proclaiming we live in a ‘post-racial world’) have all been called out. Revealed is  that I literally am in collusion with maintaining economies of whiteness (i.e. systemic racism, neoliberalism, and anti-blackness)… Ok, I’ll try not to panic (trying to breath and not appear too nervous). I’ll just keep on saying ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Everyone Matters’ [so I can shift the lens back onto me, pretending] to show I am in solidarity with all suffering beings and that I’m ‘beyond race’ since I know we all suffer; even us white people. (Trying to breath and not appear too nervous). [Internal monologue: Wow, who knew that giving up my speciesist privilege would be far easier than actively dismantling systemic racism/white supremacy? Giving up my organic eggs for tofu scramble, leather car seats for pleather car seats, and cow milk for soy milk are wayyyyy  easier than dealing with the implications of Black Lives Matter on my comfortable white embodied experience.] 

So, I offer you this: instead of responding with “All Lives Matter” or “Everyone Matters”, I invite you to participate in the online Sistah Vegan Conference, April 24-25, 2015. This will be a mindful space in which all can learn about how Black Lives Matter enhances vegan praxis and does not ‘play the race card’ or ‘distract from non-human animal suffering.’

For those of you in solidarity with the Sistah Vegan Project, please consider donating to make this conference a success, as well as make it possible for other critical Sistah Vegan projects and services to happen. I am currently working on a book called G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix). Click below on the image to find out more.


21 thoughts on “Dear Post-Racial White Vegans: 'All Lives Matter' is a Racial Microagression Contributing to Our Daily Struggle With Racial Battle Fatigue

  1. Using terms like “all lives mater” or “everyone matters” is actually a way of saying “Why black lives? They are not facing any particular issues! everything is fine and running smoothly”. When in fact, systemic racism is pandemic, in the US or in other countries with other ethnicities. Prentending structural racism is not an issue does not make it go away. it is evident and clear that ethnicities from around the world, in different contexts, are disadvantaged because of their culture, language, color of skin, etc. The US is most certainly not exempt from this. In fact, the US and other mostly white countries (as well as other players in the global economy such as China and India) play key roles in keeping structural racism such as it is through neo-liberal economic strategies. To deny this, or not be able to understand white-privilege is VERY short sighted.

    1. And to have any milk, cheese, eggs or meat in your kitchen or on your dinner plate is a direct support of slavery, murder and global warming.

      I am for the Black Live Matter movement, but it is a form of species-ism. There needs to be an awakening and a movement that speaks for the silent animals. We are not above nature.

  2. [When you say “All Lives Matter”, what you most likely mean is the following:
    Well, what about me? My whiteness is reality and has always been center ]

    It’s not just about black and white lives, but all lives of any color. What about Native Americans killed by police, whose stories are ignored? Do Native American lives not matter?

    1. Please explain this reply to the post I wrote which is directed toward a neoliberal whiteness logic around using ALL LIVES MATTER and ignoring the significance of racist motivated violence that white people COLLECTIVELY don’t have to deal with. This post is about post-raciality , so please explain to me why you are hinting that I am only taking about Black vs. White lives, despite me focusing on the meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement? Thanks.

  3. When I read the subject, I must admit not understanding the negative context related to the use of “All Lives Matter” being offensive to the BLM Movement. Previously, I read the words “Black Lives Matter” exactly as stated – and not really understanding the real emphasis – that indeed black lives have not mattered in the american society. Cannot express how much writing those words “not mattered” is damaging to my well being.

    I do focus on animal rights issues – and as such contextually those words ALM – means something completely different. I never connected the same phrase to just humans, but I do understand it is being used as a wrong interpretation of unity between races.

    Glad I spent the time to understand fully…

  4. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been guilty of re-appropriating the term without really understanding what it meant, and still means, in its original context. And now I’ve read this I see people using it all the time – also, I presume, without malicious intent – and will hopefully share it with them when I see that happen.

  5. When Ive presented the idea of animal rights and vegetarianism to my friends who are African-American, funny that I got similar response of ‘what about black struggle?’ as if animal rights is in competition with struggle against racism. There was definitely a ‘what about me?’ Thing going on….sounds like a pattern of those entities in higher position over lower positioned entities.

  6. I think about this quote a lot and wonder if the difference in understanding the phrase across black and non-black lines is the lack of one word at the end…’TOO’….imho, the movement should be rephrased ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER TOO’..

  7. As a white dude I do understand BLM. It’s a very important issue that needs examination and action. I have said “All Lives Matter”, but not to discredit BLM or focus on me, but to also say that “brown lives matter, red lives matter, women’s lives matter, animal lives matter” Because we are at a point as a species that requires us to work together with respect for all to survive and for the advancement of our planet.

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