The Sistah Vegan Project

Archive for the tag “peta”

Revisioning Food Sovereignty: “Trayvon Martin, PETA, and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness” [Scripps College, Sept 25 2013]

On September 25, 2013 I gave a lecture at Scripps College in Ontario, California: “Trayvon Martin, PETA&The Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness”. Below is the video recording for those who could not attend. It’s part of their Humanities Institute Fall 2013 symposium on Food.

Part I

Part II

I want to thanks Scripps College for inviting me to speak. I had an amazing time and they were very mindful of my needs and making sure I got what I needed (i.e. transportation from the airport and food, food, food, as at this point being 34 weeks pregnant, I’m an ravenous! LOL) .

If you would like to invite me to come speak at your organization, institution, or similar, please contact me at sistahvegan(at) gmail(dot) com. Also, if you enjoyed the content of what I spoke about during this Scripps College talk, feel free to check out the Sistah Vegan Web Conference that took place on September 14, 2013. The entire 8 hours was recorded. You can click here to see what speaker line-up and the talks that were given.

ScrippsFlyer Breeze Harper

Here is the poster of the advertised talk above and also a blog piece you can read that I wrote. Toward the end of the blog posting, I share my mother’s ‘fears’ of me talking about whiteness and jeopardizing my safety; this occurred after I shared the news that I was going to give my talk at Scripps and told her the title and content of it.

“Living in post apartheid South Africa inflicts such great wounds on a person of color, especially one coming from a country where the settlers have all but left”

PhotoBreeze

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

(This post was originally titled: “Not everyone has the ‘privilege’ or desire to practice veganism through the lens of ‘post-racial’ whiteness”. However, I decided to change and update it.)

Sistah Vegan Project is the alternative space for those of us Black women and allies who have grown tired of PETA-type post-racial vegan politics that so dominate not just the USA, but many white-settler nations.

A few days a ago, I received a letter from S—- (i am protecting her identity and she gave me permission to publish her letter), a Black Kenyan woman living in South Africa. I read her email and it made me cry for many reasons. I wanted to share it with you because her experience and her open-heart truth-song are the reasons why I must keep the Sistah Vegan Project going, and turn it into a fully functional non-profit organization. Black women, not just those of use who practice veganism, really need to be surrounded by people who don’t force us to ‘accept’ a post-racial utopia myth the neoliberalism has so ‘brilliantly’ done to the consciousness of so many of us living in white-settler nations.

Dear Dr Breeze Harper,

My name is S— from Kenya, but I am currently living in Cape Town South Africa. I recently embarked on a juice fast primarily for weight-loss but a month in, after watching copious youtube videos, I began to see my journey as one that was broader than just the idea of losing weight for aesthetic reasons. I started thinking about my health and how I just wanted better for myself. I have been overweight for almost seven years now and the birth of my son four years ago exacerbated my condition.  I found a blackhealthvillage video on youtube about Queen Afua and through this medium i discovered you. I am writing just to say thank you so much, you have no idea how much what you have to say has moved me and changed my life.

I started flirting with the idea of going vegan, which especially in a very white post colonial Cape Town, is such a white “hippie”, yoga life concept and is not really considered normal for a person of color. I struggled with the looks of disbelief I got from a lot of people when i spoke about my journey into the raw vegan life style. One of the things that struck out to me the most, was how my boss particularly (who has recently gone vegetarian), only wanted to discuss veganism/vegetarianism in terms of cruelty to animals. I always had a sense that we were communicating past each other. I do hate the extent to which the animal products and meat industry is destroying our planet and also the extremity of the cruelty to which many animals are subjected just so humans can eat abundantly. I find obscene the amount of waste (food) generated by the meat and fish industry.   The conversation around these issues however,always seemed shallow and very basic to me, it just seemed to lack conviction. 

I have been watching your videos and I feel like I am home. Looking at veganism as a way to decolonize my body has provided the conviction I need to proceed on with my journey.

Living in post apartheid South Africa inflicts such great wounds on a person of color, especially one coming from a country where the settlers have all but left. I first really noticed the color of my skin when i moved here 13 years ago. I stopped being “S— the girl in my English class” and became “that black chic, man, the one who sits two rows down in English”. I noticed the segregation, people naturally just hang around with their own kind. I was at a progressive university, where the History department (I majored in History for my BA) was renowned for its work in studying neocolonialism and post apartheid whiteness, but i was still having to defend my lived experiences of racial attacks to white middle class suburban students. These were spoiled and entitled people: They would not acknowledge sprawling townships that existed not too far beyond their high electric fences, where people of color still lived in tin shacks and used buckets as toilets…it was altogether inconceivable that they would ever acknowledge that i experienced racism on a daily basis. I had heard stories where orientation week for black South African student included guidelines to using toilets that flushed; I could not fathom anything more demeaning.

As result of years of this battery I just started letting  a lot slide, i ignored racial comment, acting as though i was unaffected. I worked hard and gave off an air of disdain to all the white folk that dared challenge my prowess and abilities based on my skin color. I had the advantage of being well traveled (as my parents had worked for the UN) and being very “well spoken” in an accent that was acceptable to my white counterparts. I was therefore accepted, i somehow was excluded from the stereo types attributed to black people. My son is a biracial child and thus fact that i married into a white family made me more appealing to the white neo- liberal society. Nothing is more patronizing than being the token and acceptable black person, i am the girl that allows white people to say “I am not racist, I have black friend”. 

I cannot decide what is worse, the patronizing or the out right hateful racism i get form the Afrikaaners (the coiners of the term Kafir). There have also been moments where i feel isolated form the black community because of my choice in mate and my child is hurt (although not intentionally) when discussions about bi-racial children arise – these usually evoke such fierce sentiments from white and black alike.

What I really want to say is that your work has awoken something in me and I feel empowered and politicized again. I know that it is okay to talk about how hurtful racism is, and to let people know that the denial of its existence is such  an insult to a person who lives it everyday. I have pandered to the feelings of white “friends, colleagues and neighbors'” by not discussing my feelings around racism for fear of being deemed militant or too heavy, whilst the very same people have not considered my feelings when they discuss people of color, our cultures and our politics from a place of non compassion and understanding. 

I have been empowered by you to find a safe space to release my anguish, to find like minded sisters and brothers who will help me heal A place where it is safe to discuss my views. My family lives in Kenya and the US so i am surrounded by a white family where my opinions are quietly discouraged. I recall once being asked to step off my soap box as it was dinner time and thus very inappropriate to discuss politics. At the time i was talking about the plight of the immigrant Zimbabweans crossing the South African boarder everyday, looking for a better life; i failed to understand why this was deemed inappropriate politic whereas deeming the new black regime wasn’t.

In a nutshell I am truly grateful for your work and thank you for opening my eyes to so much.

Kindest regards
S—-

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”
 ― Maya Angelou

This letter helped to ground me and recenter me. If you have been following my blog for the past few months, you have read or heard how I struggle with what is the “worth” in doing this work; particularly in this harsh job economy in which a person with my particular ‘skillset’ (that critiques ‘the system’) cannot secure full time employment… But thank you S— for reminding me why I must somehow make the Sistah Vegan Project my livelihood.

I have been doing this work for years, and as much as I enjoy it, I can no longer do it for free. If you enjoy the work I have done, if it has helped you, your organization, your students, your family, etc, and you want to see it go to the next level of a non-profit social justice organization, please contribute what you can by clicking on the GOFUNDME Link below. If you do not want to use this method, but prefer paypal, click on the link on the right upper corner of this blog page to donate via PAYPAL.

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On PETA, Trayvon Martin, and Being a Black Critical Race Researcher in White Spaces

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The full title of this talk is actually “‘Never Be Silent’ and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness: On Trayvon Martin, PETA, and Being a Black Critical Race Researcher in White Spaces”. I just could’t fit the entire title in the WordPress title setup box.

I gave this talk on June 4, 2013 at University of California, Davis for the GGG Speaker Series. I critique the ‘cruelty-free’ products that PETA promotes in their Vegan Shopping Guide which is accessible online. I use critical race materialism and decolonial world-systems analysis to question how any commodity sold to us vegans as ‘cruelty-free’, can truly be ethical if it relies on human exploitation. For example, I speak about racialized-sexualized exploitation of indigenous Mexican females to harvest ‘cheap’ tomatoes for the Global North. I also question how PETA can support a plethora of cocoa products that are ‘free’ from animal-products, yet the cocoa from companies such as Nestle and Hershey source their cocoa using African Child slavery.

I examine PETA’s superficial use of Trayvon Martin’s murder as a way to ‘boost’ their animal liberation campaign, and argue that PETA falsely constructs Trayvon Martin’s tragedy as ‘true racism’ they are against. The problem is that PETA never engages a dialogue about the structural racism and coloniality that make the ‘cruelty-free’ vegan commodities they advocate, possible. It is contradictory to their ‘intersectional’ animal liberation campaign that asks people to “Never Be Silent” about injustices in the world.

At the end of this talk, I explain why I am ‘nervous’ and ‘out of breath”: because it is emotionally difficult for me, many times, to show up in a predominantly white space, as a black critical race feminist in a supposed ‘post-racial’ era, and talk about ‘whiteness’ and ‘white supremacy’ to a predominantly white audience.

I have to admit that the most notable memory from this experience was the first question I received during the Q&A. This question was from a white male who said he was completely unfamiliar with the Trayvon Martin incident. He asked that I provide him information about it. I do not expect everyone to know everything that is going on in the USA, but there is something to be said about the question about Trayvon Martin being asked. As a ‘survival’ rule, I personally need to be cognizant of racial profiling of us brown and black folk, here in the USA, so I stay up to date on these tragedies.

If you enjoy the work I have done, if it has helped you, your organization, your students, your family, etc, and you want to see it go to the next level of a non-profit social justice organization, please contribute what you can by clicking on the GOFUNDME Link below. If you do not want to use this method, but prefer paypal, click on the link on the right upper corner of this blog page to donate via PAYPAL.

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Breeze Harper at UC Davis TODAY: “Trayvon Martin, PETA, and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness”

Dr.Breeze Harper

 

If you enjoy the work I have done, if it has helped you, your organization, your students, your family, etc, and you want to see it go to the next level of a non-profit social justice organization, please contribute what you can by clicking on the GOFUNDME Link below. If you do not want to use this method, but prefer paypal, click on the link on the right upper corner of this blog page to donate via PAYPAL.

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“Never Be Silent”: On Trayvon Martin, PETA, and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness

 

Snarky Fanon: Cruelty-Free Vegan-Consumerism

What is cruelty-free? What is sustainable? In whose interest?

So, this is the comic version of chapter three of my dissertation. I wish I could substitute 40 pages of one chapter with one Snarky Fanon (my new comic series and Sistah Vegan venture) comic. Maybe the dissertation committee would be okay with that? Goddess, I wish it were that easy!

Here is a little snippet from the chapter in progress to give you a little more context. Remember, this is just a snippet, and this is from a 200 page document:

One of the most important ideas that the reader is left with is the notion that just because a company claims ‘sustainability,’ doesn’t mean they will actually create sincere actions around it. Readers who have clicked on the link to the Der Spiegel article, from the Food Empowerment Project (FEP)page, read an unsettling idea about corporate concepts of sustainability:

Despite claims of sustainability, many companies continue to deforest the area. A concession costs about $30,000 in bribes or campaign contributions, reports a former WWF employee who worked in Indonesia for a long time. ‘Sustainble palm oil, as the WWF promises with its RSPO certificates, is really nonexistent,’ he says. (Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 2)

Yes, Earth Balance’s own webpage about sustainability claims that they source their palm oil from Malayasia and Brazil, not Indonesia. However, in reading the above paragraph excerpt from Der Spiegel, the reader is left with the potential initiative to start questioning how sincere Earth Balance’s sustainability initiatives are, and to what degree profit is the defining factor for sustainability, particularly if RSPO is working with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Readers learn that WWF was initially established and financially support by incredibly wealthy people with big interests in preserving certain wildlife areas for their own amusement, such as ‘big game’ hunting. Largest financial capital investments that WWF received have come from Shell and BP oil companies, Monsanto and Cargill as well as backing from nuclear, tobacco, and arms industry. One of the most striking realities implied in the Der Spiegel article is never-ending roles that European colonial configurations of the globe, economy, and people play into palm oil industry’s construction of ‘sustainable.’ Overall, those who have clicked on this article link from FEP are left with the knowledge that RSPO, WWF, and the palm oil industry are simply legalized forms of colonialism and cultural imperialism that benefit the same groups of wealthy white Europeans from a lineage that started over four hundred years ago during the racial colonial project.

Rich Europeans or Americans are allowed to behave as if the colonial period had never ended. They are allowed to shoot elephants, buffalo, leopards, lions, giraffes and zebras, and they can even smear the blood of the dead animals onto their faces, in accordance with an old custom. A WWF spokesman defends this practice, saying that quotas have been established, and that the proceeds from this “regulated hunting” can contribute to conservation.(Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 3)

 Only one of 55 article hyperlinks on FEP’s page, the FEP’s campaign against the use of palm oil functions as pedagogical tool to decode the language that Earth Balance and Smart Balance present to the USA consumer as ‘sanitary’ and ‘feel-good.’ Most importantly, FEP re-narrates the landscape of which the palm oil is coming from, explaining to USA consumers that the story of ‘wellness’ they are being marketed, is a myth. Through careful analysis, consumers learn that corporate capitalist’s sense of ‘sustainable’, ‘wellness,’ and ‘healthier world’ are not universal, but are rather defined by the logics of neoliberal whiteness; vegan products by  Smart Balance and Earth Balance are no different. It is another type of ‘white talk’ or ‘white logic’ that has set the rules for what is ‘ethical.’ Such ‘white logic’ means European and US American consumer’s material privileges are protected, while fooling them into thinking that their consumerism is ‘helping’ primitive non-white people go through “development” (Cárdenas 2012).

Works Cited

Cárdenas, Roosbelinda. “Green Multiculturalism: Articulations of Ethnic and Environmental Politics in a Colombian ‘Black Community’.” Journal of Peasant Studies 39, no. 2 (2012): 309-33.

Glüsing, Jens, and Nils Klawitter. “Green Veneer: Wwf Helps Industry More Than Environment.” Der Spiegel May 26, 2012, no. 22 (2012): http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wwf-helps-industry-more-than-environment-a-835712-2.html.

UC San Diego Talk: “On Being and Not Being the Wretched of the Earth” on November 30 2011

This is the talk I gave at UC San Diego on November 30, 2011. Talking about veganism, whiteness, etc. This is a chapter in progress from my dissertation in critical food geographies and critical geographies of race, which is tentatively titled, “Situating Racialization, Racisms, and Anti-Racisms: Critical Race Feminist and Socio-spatial Epistemological Analysis of Vegan Philosophy in the USA.”

This is similar to the talk I gave at Vassar College in 2011 October. However, my memory card only had 50 minutes on it and the camera didn’t record the entire Q&A for this San Diego talk.

“White Talk”, Discursive Violence, and Dysconscious Racism: From Vegan Consciousness to Vegan Commodity

Update: So far you have contributed $6900 to my “PhD finish” fund. Thank you so much! I have $3100 to go. We’re getting close! (My funding was not renewed and I couldn’t register for the past fall quarter. If you enjoy my work, you can contribute via Paypal, using the email address breezeharper (at) gmail (dot) com.)

Also, this is where you contributions are going to. Below is the talk I gave at Vassar College last week (October 27, 2011). It is from chapter three of my dissertation. It’s only 1/2 of what I had written. Had I chosen to use the entire chapter, that would have been a 2 hour talk.

Part I

Part II

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