Engaging with the idea that interrogations of race, gender, and whiteness in veganism is not pointless: Reflections on the Sistah Vegan Conference
(Photo of Dr. A. Breeze Harper)
The Sistah Vegan Web Conference took place on September 14, 2013. It was titled “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies.” (What, you missed the conference!? No worries, the entire conference was recorded and you can purchase the recordings by clicking on ‘CLICK HERE TO REGISTER’ on the conference page. Even though the conference has ended, clicking on this link will send you to the recordings purchase page: Sistah Vegan Conference Recordings)
It was a terrific 8 hours. Here is a small taste of what we learned, talked about, and shared:
- How veganism was healing for Black women’s reproductive health
- Black women, veganism, and the challenges of sizeism
- Patriarchy as problematic in the USA animal liberation movement
- PETA’s racialized-sexualized uses of the female body to promote ‘going vegan’ for animals;
- How the ‘white savior complex’ complicates and causes stress for Black women within certain USA vegan and yoga community spaces
- The politics of industrialized and processed baby food and creating an indigenous vegan womb ecology
- The ways in which the Sistah Vegan Anthology motivated so many of us to chose the path of veganism
I think that this conference is very important for a significant number of people interested in critical studies of food, critical studies of animals, and/or Black studies. However, I really suggest this conference to the significant number of ‘post-racial’ (almost always white identified human beings) people who continue to contact me with clear anger (whether it is direct or passive-aggressive) that they can’t believe that I am bringing up how race, gender, and whiteness influence vegan practice, rationale, and consciousness. And such messages arrive on comments sections of my blog, FB pages, or my personal email box with the confession by most that they have never read anything about critical studies of race, black feminist theory, or critical whiteness studies– but they are CONFIDENT and CERTAIN that issues of race, gender, and whiteness have no place to be interrogated within the realm of veganism. They may not recognize this, but this is called white entitlement when they approach me in this manner. It is an act of discursive violence and it is the perfect example of how whiteness, as a system of communication and rhetoric, operates. This method of communication is simply not harmonious, not healing, and is the antithesis of non-violence (ahimsa) that veganism embodies for so many of us.
I simply offer that if folk with the above communication behavior want to have a sincere and open discussion about the “point” of the web conference, Sistah Vegan anthology, and my other social science based research, that they start with listening to the Sistah Vegan conference; maybe reading the Sistah Vegan Anthology, and also reading my masters and dissertation work which clearly articulate the relevance and importance of engaging with critical race, black feminist, decolonial, and critical whiteness studies within veganism in the USA. I assure you, both Harvard (my Masters work) and University of California (my dissertation work) would not have been passed me if I had not properly used social-science based research and rigorous methods and methodological approaches to my intersectional work on veganism, culture, and systemic oppression. I would not have received the coveted Dean’s award from Harvard for my Masters thesis work (only given to one candidate per department) and nor would have I received a 2 year fellowship to complete my PhD work from University of California, if the deciding committees at both institutions had determined that my academic inquiries into veganism were ‘pointless’ or ‘race-baiting’ (as many of [mis]interpreted). Please email me at sistahvegan (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like to receive citations and/or copies of my published works, thesis, and/or dissertation to get you started. With that said….
Thanks so much to everyone for making this an incredibly awesome event. I look forward to next year’s!