Black girl hair and bullying…and affirmations (Racial Battle Fatigue Part II)

Black girl hair magic ….

Eva Luna, 6.
Eva Luna, 6.
Eva Luna, 6.

This morning Eva Luna told me again that the same two girls at school continue to tell her that her hair is stupid, that straight hair is “easier” and “looks better”. She was upset about doing her hair again this morning because she didn’t want it to look ‘stupid’ and be made fun of. It looks like I am going to have to repeat to her to love her self as well as her hair and try to explain anti blackness that many kids have learned . It is a difficult talk to have with a six year old but at the end, we did her hair “like mama” and she was happy again. She was also tentative about putting the Alaffia curl enhancer leave in conditioner in her hair because she told me that the kids make fun of the smell and that her hair may often look ‘wet’ and some tell her it is ‘gross’. I told her that this is super magical and that there is geranium oil in it and mommy puts tea tree oil in it so she doesn’t get lice like many kids.

…and to think, my mom and dad had to remind me everyday that I am beautiful, as well as smart despite the white kids in my all white school system teasing me about my “nigger do”, or teasing me that my hair looked ‘gross’ for putting traditional butters and creams in it… I was 6 in 1982… And in 2018 I am doing the same with my 6 year old….and it shouldn’t be this way still….

…and then there is my 8 year old son, who has long hair and and bullied and teased for his gender expression of wanting to identify as a boy who wears long hair pulled back in a pony tail. These everyday talks of empowerment for kids are essential and I remember it was the same talks and affirmations that my parents gave to me and my brother to get us through the racial hostility of the Reagan years and to convince us that we were smart and beautiful (inside and out).

Many adults didn’t like my mom because she called oppression out immediately. She didn’t hold back and would tell teachers and parents if they were being racist as well as holding on to ridiculous gender stereotypes. My twin brother played the flute and was a cheerleader. Several man teachers were annoyed that he didn’t play soccer or basketball like “real boys”. Mom and dad supported us and didn’t bow down. I was so blessed to have had that support and foundation.

Whitesplaining Black Girl Hair and Bullying: (Racial Battle Fatigue Series Part I)

On my personal Facebook page…After I posted my concerns about my 6 year old being bullied and teased for having a natural hair style (big puffy curly afro) by non-Black children, my concerns about the racist and white supremacist nature of the bullying was “white-splained” and derailed by a well intended white woman vegan. She insisted that the bullying was a “human” problem and not a white supremacy/anti-Blackness problem and spoke of all types of violence against humans and non-human animals that currently exist. She framed it that “HUMANS HATE AND OPPRESS HUMANS and NONHUMAN ANIMALS” and it’s not white supremacy it is a HUMAN problem. It was how she tried to explain the bullying of my daughter’s afro.

Her explanation was basically “All Lives Matter” rhetoric and it was frustrating but very indicative of neoliberal white misunderstanding of a white supremacist racial caste system (USA) and that yes, there is violence against humans by humans, but we need to locate this specific one , name it as ‘white supremacy’ and anti-Blackness if we’re ever going to tackle this specific problem my daughter is having.

At the end, me and the women of color trying to explain why we center of “Racism” and “anti-Blackness” and not simply the white-centric liberal ideology of “ALL HUMAN OPPRESS, ” we were told that our refusal to prescribe to her “All Lives Matter” rhetoric equated to us being ‘violent’, ‘attacking her’, and confirming her belief that we humans are addicted to bullying and violence.

Apparently, centering and naming ourselves as non-white racialized subjects in a white supremacist USA while raising our non-white children means we are “violent” for not agreeing with the general assessment “Well, all humans oppress and are bullies” as we try to figure out (as mostly femmes and women vegans of color), how to protect our non-white children from systemic racism producing racialized bullying. (sigh)

So, how many of you are still remaining silent on these issues?

And if you recall, I was nominated as the VP candidate for the Humane Party and I made it clear that I’m not taking a post-racial approach to veganism and human rights issues in 2016:

 


Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.

RIP: Intersectionality (or is it too soon to quit?)

Over the last year, there have been debates amongst mostly non-white vegans and non-white animal rights folks about how “intersectionality” has been co-opted by mainstream veganism and has lost its original intention and meaning. Furthermore, there is suggestion that “intersectionality” doesn’t dismantle systems of oppression, it just shows how either social identities and/or struggles are “connected” (i.e., one isn’t “just” Black, but that their Black identity is influenced by sexual orientation, gender, socio-economic class, ability, etc).

Why do I start with “Intersectionality” , despite there being a rising backlash against it by many non-white anti-racism activists (vegan and non-vegan)?

I start with “intersectionality” because most people in the USA do not have a literacy around reality beyond a ‘one-dimensional’ approach. I can’t just jump into Black Marxism or decolonial world systems analysis without using “intersectionality” as a “bridge” and a way to move beyond one-dimensional or binary ways of trying to understand history, politics, economics, the food system, law, etc. Most of my work over the last decade uses “intersectionality” but is not bound to it or limited by it; it’s one of many pedagogies I use  (others are Engaged buddhism, Black Marxism, Decolonial World Systems Analysis). I am employing Intersectionality because I am getting ready to set up the next phase of action—> which is to then “decolonize” and “dismantle” this current inequitable system.

I find that most people I work with or talk to cannot dive into decolonizing and dismantling this oppressive system  that currently has existed for 500+ years (at least here in the USA) until I first begin with “basic” concepts that social-identities are not existing in a vacuum, void from being affected by and affecting a “system.” The goal is not to get “stuck” in swirling around in making a game out of how “everything is connected” (i.e. intersectionality) without taking the plunge to dismantle it; even if it means for many of the white racial status quo to give up their possessive investment in whiteness ( I mention the racial aspect of oppression first because I come from a critical race studies and anti-racism background as it relates to my ethical consumption scholarship and have written about possessive investment of whiteness within the ethical vegan movement).

Interestingly, I keep on seeing more and more non-white activists who are actively taking a stance against oppressive systems (namely white supremacy, racism, neocolonialism, and neoliberal capitalist) claiming that “intersectionality” cannot do true justice or create equitable systems since it does NOT seek to abolish the present inequitable system (i.e., its current co-opted framing doesn’t eradicate white liberal possessive investment in whiteness despite intersectionality gaining popularity among white liberal identified crowd.)

So, how do I approach the “end” goal (dismantling the present exploitative neoliberal capitalist model of equality) without addressing that we don’t live in a one-dimensional vacuum? Like I wrote earlier, I use “intersectionality” as one of the tools but not the only tool.  I start here with these steps:

  1. Step One: We live in an inequitable system and are not post-racial. Our identities are not monolithic or stagnant.
  2. Step Two:  We don’t live in a post-racial society: racism and white supremacy in the USA are systemic, endemic, and normalized. I  address the delusion that we live in a “the post-racial” USA and debunk it. Then, I show that the reality of racism is one piece of many parts of an oppressive system (this is how intersectionality comes into play with my pedagogical style).  I show that racism doesn’t operate in a vacuum (nor is it just an individual act by a self proclaimed Nazi) but that it is actually systemic racism and is one of many moving parts within a neoliberal capitalist moral system. For example, racism needs to exist to benefit capitalism (even “green” capitalism that ethical consumption like veganism is a part of).
    3. Step Three: Now that my students know what intersectionality is (through a talk, writing, or workshop I give), I tell them that one needs to take the next stop to abolish the current system of oppression to make real equitable changes because the taken for granted neoliberal [capitalist] approach to ‘equality’ and ‘social impact’ will never alleviate suffering, exploitation, etc of human and non-human animals. You just can’t learn about intersectionality as some fun exercise to analyze the world or make fun connections like a puzzle game. Now you have learned that it’s all connected to the wheel of neoliberal capitalism/neo-colonialism you need to take next steps need to be something outside of neoliberal capitalist solutions. For example: Decolonization, Black Marxism, for example. 

Why I started with Intersectionality, years ago and continue to use it

I come from the camp of “intersectionality” as used by and mostly for the unique situation that Black women in the USA were in (and currently continue to be) when Crenshaw first coined the concept several decades ago (when it was not hip for white folk to use, period). For me, my engagement with Crenshaw’s intersectionality is in continuation of and part of the Black radical tradition and even Black Marxist roots I come from– as thousands of Black women are aware that sexism, poverty, anti-black racism, white supremacy are a result of a CAPITALIST/NEOCOLONIAL arrangement of power, resources, rights, etc. I’d argue that our collective intersectionality is not the same as the one that is now hip and even lucrative for white mainstream businesses and organizations to employ. It’s more like a cosmetic diversity “add-on” that is a façade and even used many times of cultural capital for those least likely to be negatively affected by systemic racism.

However, do I abandon “intersectionality” now just because it is being ‘co-opted’ more and more by a status quo the uses it in a ‘trendy’ way but still doesn’t truly want to demolish capitalism and covert-systemic forms of white supremacy ?

RIP Intersectionality? Nah, I am not ready to bury it just yet….


Dr. A. Breeze Harper (Photo Credit: Sun Harper-Zahn)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.

Surviving Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease with Plant Based Nutrition

Eva Luna and Sun, healthier and happier in spring 2014.
Eva Luna and Sun, healthier and happier in spring 2014.

In January of 2014, my kids (a newborn, 2 year old, and 4 year old) all got Coxsackie A Virus at the same time. Better known as Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD), this virus is something most kids in the USA get by the time they are ten years old. Though usually benign, HFMD is a miserable experience in which one gets a blistering sore throat, slight fever, and throbbing headaches for 1-2 days. After these symptoms have subsided, the virus produces painful and itchy blisters in and on the mouth, hands, and feet. It is about a week of hell wrought with sleepless nights.

Having not caught HFMD as a child, my body had no immunity against it. However, I didn’t end up getting HFMD past a sore throat. The sore throat only lasted about 3 hours! My secret weapon against this virus was a holistic anti-viral dietary regiment that I put myself on as soon as my sore throat hit me. Allopathic practitioners will tell you that there is no cure for HFMD. That may be true, but just because you get the virus doesn’t mean you have to get the full-blown symptoms. I am living proof that you can avoid the supposedly unavoidable! As a matter of fact, within a few hours of starting this regiment and then taking a 2 hours nap, I started feeling much better. My sore throat vanished, and I felt brand new. I stayed on this dietary regiment for 5 days.

Take the sugar and coffee out of your diet. Replace with mostly high quality plant-based proteins and lots of greens like kale.

Sugar weakens the immune system so take it out. I removed the sweets and replaced most of my meals and snacks with mostly dark leafy greens and protein. Viruses love caffeine, so take it out of your diet. Below is the super green smoothie I drank with my breakfast and lunch. Using a high-quality blender, like a Vita-Mix, is highly recommended to finely grind the kale and ginger root. Ginger is essential to boost the immune system, but it also helps most of us digest raw  or lightly steamed cruciferous vegetables like kale.

  • ¾”-1” cube of fresh ginger root.
  • ½ bunch of raw Dino kale
  • 1 tsp of Organic Hawaiian based Spirulina
  • 30 oz of water
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 apple (optional to make it sweeter)

Apply Neem Oil.

Though it smells strongly like a mixture of sulfur and garlic, don’t let it deter you from using it. I rubbed it all over my face, hands, and feet 2 times a day to prevent getting the blister outbreaks. I recommended applying about 3-4 drops on your face, as well as 3-4 drops for the hands and feet. If you have sensitive skin, mix the Neem oil extra virgin coconut oil. You can do a ratio of Neem oil and coconut oil that is 1:4. Add several drops of Lavender essential oil to the mixture to decrease the pungent smell. I ended up mixing ½ ounce of Neem oil with 2 ounces of virgin coconut oil. I highly suggest using coconut oil because it is anti-viral and anti-bacterial as well.

Elderberry.

 I made Elderberry tea and drank it 3 times a day. Elderberry is a superb anti-viral and immune system-boosting berry. I buy my organic Elderberries in bulk because the syrup they have in the stores are pricey. Be sure to decoct your Elderberries for at least 20 minutes, as sometimes Elderberries can cause illness if they are eaten raw. I always use organic Elderberries. However, if you prefer to use a high quality Elderberry syrup over making your own tea, that is fine too and a little more convenient.

1000 mg of Vitamin C per Day.

I took 1000mg of vitamin C each day in two increments, at 500mg per dose. I took 500mg of ascorbic acid based Vitamin C in the morning and evening, with food. Don’t take 1000mg all at once, as your body can’t really make use of more than 500mg within a few hour period.

Goldenseal.

 

I took a Goldenseal tincture 3 times a day. Like Elderberry, it’s a superb immune system booster and anti-viral herb. My brand of choice is Herb Pharm. I prefer the glycerite, as alcohol-based tinctures tend to make me feel sicker.

Apple Cider Vinegar.

I drank 1tbsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with 8 ounces of water, 3x a day. Apple cider vinegar helps to prevent the virus from replicating any further, once it enters your body. You must use apple cider vinegar and not any other form.

Good luck and happy wellness to you and your family!

 

 

Food Empowerment Project Needs You

Food Empowerment Project Needs Your Help Now
Please consider giving generously to support Food Empowerment Project’s food justice work as we start 2018.

Food Empowerment Project has been at the forefront of grappling with intersectional food justice for the past ten years.

They have worked to end the abuse of animals on farmsenvironmental degradationunfair and dangerous working conditions for agricultural and food production workersfood deserts and scarcity in communities of color and low-income areas and highlighted the importance of choosing not to buy chocolate that is sourced from plantations that exploit children as labor.

As part of an activist push around decolonializing our broader American diets (and in particular for brown and black people) and encouraging, compassionate, healthful food choices, Food Empowerment Project also manages Vegan Mexican Food which features numerous delicious Mexican recipes in English and Spanish.

Food Empowerment Project as a vegan food justice organization recognizes their work as intersectional, holistic, and anti-oppressive; focused on injustices against people, non-human animals, and the environment.

Vallejo Healthy Food Fest
Food to the people. Food Empowerment Project’s annual all-vegan Vallejo Healthy Food Fest.

NOW, Food Empowerment Project needs you. Please give generously to help them continue their work to create a more just and sustainable food system.

Food Empowerment Project’s founder and Executive Director, Lauren Ornelas is a friend of Sistah Vegan, serving as a panelist most recently at the 2015 web conference “The Vegan Praxis of  Black Lives Matter”  and her organization, Food Empowerment Project has featured on Sistah Vegan before.

Here she is speaking about “The Power of Your Food Choices for a More Just Society” and what vegan advocacy looks like from her personal perspective as a Chicana woman of color:

“The stronger we are, the more we unite these issues, the more we bring more like-minded people together we will grow and we will change this injust system.”
– Lauren Ornelas

Confronting a Racial Equity Problem in a Pro-Vegan Work Space: Ella’s Story

*Ella is a fictional character but her experience reflects real testimonies and legal cases of racism in the work place. Dog Synergy is a fictional organization.

After Doug Jones’ Win: We are Activists, Not White America’s Mammy-Savior or Ignoble Savage

My thoughts on the recent “realization” (by the status quo) that Black women [have to] save the USA from white supremacy.  Should we be ‘honored’ of this recognition or not? I have mixed-strong feelings about the recent *news* (since the win of Doug Jones via Black women); how we supposedly have saved white America from themselves for decades and will have to continue to do so…usually without enough to thrive, struggling to make it on many fronts (materially, financially, etc).

Tarana Burke started the grassroots movement behind #metoo and doesn’t even make the cover of Time.

Remember it took Bree Newsome to literally climb up a poll and bring down that confederate flag?

Who founded Black Lives Matter after the murder of Trayvon Martin?: Black women.

I’m thinking of the plethora of Black women consistently fighting against ‘the system’– (not just FOR Black people, knowing full well that ‘the system’ isn’t there to support MOST people, so our work-activism-dedication end up benefiting the majority).

Simultaneously, what we do is [kind of] valued once it becomes trendy because the foundations we have built suddenly become the ‘ hip’ thing to do— especially if it makes certain neoliberal whites not [look] ‘racist’.

And one can’t forget the hundreds of Black women of the Black Panther party who laid the groundwork/blueprint for health and food activism that hundreds of organizations throughout the USA were inspired by (and continue to be).

Despite material realities of struggle, collectively, it has never been an excuse for us to feel powerless or do nothing– because that ‘excuse’ would be a privilege, wouldn’t it? 

And yet, at the end of so many of these Black women’s days, we don’t have the support we need to THRIVE. I could not believe it was acceptable for Rosa Parks to have died destitute, yet her struggle has been co-opted and exploited for years by the status quo while she remained  financially and materially insecure.

Dear white America: You may be into the whole ‘savior complex’ or seek to be ‘saved’ but this is an unfair burden put on the shoulders of Black women (as well as other non-white women, girls, and gender non-conforming non-white people in the USA).

Dear White America: You are dangerously walking on the fine line between [un]consciously expecting us to perform  Black mammy activism to save you from yourselves and expecting us to shut the f*ck up and ‘know our place’ when it doesn’t benefit you or your unacknowledged possessive investment in [neoliberal] whiteness.

Dear White America: Be careful not to narrate us through a new white imagination of ‘ignoble’ savage.

Do the work. Stop pretending you are helpless or don’t have the ‘natural’ courage and strength to do what is right [like Black women somehow ‘naturally’ can do]. Stop idolizing us only when it suits you and start dismantling this white supremacist system 24/7/365. 


Dr. A.Breeze Harper (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.

Confronting White Supremacy in American Buddhism (An Oldie but Goodie Critique)

I recorded this 5 years ago, but it, unfortunately, still applies today.


Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.

The Return of the N*gger Breakers: The [White Racist] Vegan Playbook

(This statement is within the context of living in white settler nations because I know this won’t apply to all): For a significant number of white vegans, giving up speciesist privilege is FAR MORE EASIER than giving up possessive investment in whiteness. Ethical veganism becomes a sort of ‘spiritual bypass’ masking new forms of white supremacist racist ‘logic’ that is then labeled as ‘post-human’ or ‘beyond the human’ condition (meaning humans need to only focus on the suffering of non-human animals and not human ‘identity politics’.). 

After the past few weeks of witnessing certain amazing vegans of color doing their anti-racism and animal rights *thang* and then witnessing them being viciously attacked by white vegans who are clearly using racist words/tactics, I continue to try to give this advice: please my VOCs, ignore them as much as possible and take care of yourselves. What they are doing is a combination of “strategic trolling” and what Ishmael Reed calls the “return of the n*gger-breakers“.  It ranges from DIRECT aggressive attacks to subtle and subversive attacks in order to TEAR YOU DOWN.

Their training grounds have been the white settler nations like the USA that have completely normalized the “n*gger-breaking” play-book since the inception of this racial caste system; or places like “progressive” Switzerland or Germany that don’t think they could ever be like the USA’s ‘low brow’ racial bigots (after all, Europe is the center of ‘civilized’ and ‘moral’ [white] human beings!).

I have been the target of trying to be “broken” since I began the Sistah Vegan Project and dared to delve into social science inquiries of how race and gender shape the vegan consciousness of ethical vegans in the USA. From snarky white male professors who have tried to tear down my scholarship as unviable or ridiculous to social media trolls who have rallied together to ‘prove’ that my engagement with anti-racism equals “white genocide,” I have experienced ’n*gger breaking’ first-hand on way too many accounts.  I have had passive-aggressive comments made by white people who have attended my critical lectures about veganism and race that seek to strip me of my voice and put me back into that place [when America was ‘great’— but oh no, they would never align themselves with Trump publicly, at least].   During these lectures, I simply articulate how being racialized in the USA means that veganism will be practiced in a way that reflects this. I then provide evidence that shows how systemic racism has material and psychic consequences that operates “even in ethical veganism and animal rights spaces”; it’s a reality.

I will never forgot the time when I originally posted the call for essays for the Sistah Vegan book in 2004 and the pages of comments that exploded from it from one particular forum. The forum site was called VeganPorn (nothing to do with porn but everything ‘vegan’). White vegans on that forum were completely angered and disgusted that I *dared* to inquire about how Black racial formation impacts Black women’s vegan practices. The pinnacle of their rage culminated with white vegans targeting my use of the word “sistah”; some stated that anyone who sounds like they were ‘born to a crack addicted mom should never complain about not getting a job.’ They then launched a full-out racist minstrel show of pretending to ‘talk Black’ (infused with poor grammar and lots of swearing).

It didn’t matter that the obvious outcome of the Sistah Vegan book would ultimately get more marginalized groups interested in becoming vegan or consider becoming animal rights activists. The mere fact I mentioned race was enough to try to *break* me and prevent me from crossing the epistemological borders of ‘white vegan [post-racial] logic and methods’ that pathologize Blackness without ever pathologizing or problematizing the inherent injustice, violence, and inequities of normative whiteness.

All of the above occurred in 2005 and I can’t say much has really changed as I enter 2018 and I continue giving talks and lectures, writing books, doing ethnographic research that focuses on black feminist theory, critical consumptions studies, and ethical veganism. [*Note: I turned that 2005 fiasco into an opportunity by using those racist rants about the Sistah Vegan call for papers as empirical data to show how covert whiteness operates. I did not reply to one racist vegan; instead, I discursively analyzed what was occurring on the cyberspace forum. I earned the Dean’s award for my Master’s Thesis work at Harvard University in 2007.]

Giving up possessive investment in whiteness is HARDER than giving up speciesist privilege— particularly since going vegan is primarily enacted through objects of consumption. Going vegan replaces cow milk with soy milk and leather jackets with PVC…But giving up possessive investment in whiteness? Oh, I don’t think there are any cute and yummy replacements for that.

Veganism isn’t just about consumption, but I repeat: it is primarily enacted through objects of consumption which comes by way of access, choice, and consumer privileges (which comes out of a racial and classed organizing of resources and power in which the primary beneficiaries are the collectivity of white people living in white settler nations– check out my dissertation work here that explains this  as well as the co-authored report Dismantling Racism in the Food System which also articulates how the resource of (and ‘easier’ access to) food (including vegan food) is raced and classed in the USA.

What is it about bringing up racial violence within a white supremacist racial caste system that gets so many white vegans so damn angry and enraged— ready to attack and “break” us, beat us with words? [Because now that it’s illegal to beat us with whips and other weapons, they really only have just ‘words’ as whips and chains]. 

White Allies: If you are in fact an ‘ally’, do not remain silent when other white folk (vegan or not) engage in n*gger breaking in its various forms ( Black racialized subjects are not the only ones who are targets…). I have met so many white folk who tell me they witnessed horrendous racist behavior from white vegans yet did nothing because they didn’t want to get involved, hurt feelings, or burn bridges or ruin friendships. Hell no, are you joking? You cannot remain neutral on a white supremacist high-speed train in which the driver has fallen asleep. “Oh, I don’t want to hurt their feelings and ‘wake’ them up because I might embarrass them for falling asleep on the job [of being fully loving human being],” is going to get us ALL KILLED.   If your physical safety or job security isn’t in jeopardy then speak up and act as an ally. I don’t want to hear any more excuses. And though not completely unrelated, please remember the request I made this past summer after the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.


Dr. A.Breeze Harper (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.

Trauma, Triggers, and Stress of Thanksgiving as Vegans [of Color]: A Little Hack

I know that Thanksgiving can also be a ‘triggering’ and ‘traumatic’ time for many people for many reasons. As a vegan, I find the images of dead Turkeys to ‘bring families together’ very saddening and frustrating now that I have shifted my consciousness around pain and suffering since childhood. I never thought about Turkeys as anything past an edible food for my stomach when I was a child and teenager. It never occurred to me that they are not anythings– they aren’t things at all– they are living beings with sentience and the capacity to bond and love; with families and friends they enjoy being with. I now see that those turkeys on plates are a reminder of how neatly packaged and narrated the normalization of violence and suffering is for children (like myself when growing up) who learned about the place of turkeys though innocent films, cartoons, and picture books about Thanksgiving…and once we enter adulthood it simply sticks as ‘common sense’ that the only purpose of turkeys is to ‘bring [human] families together’.

Another reason I find Thanksgiving difficult are the images of indigenous people and Europeans delightfully eating together that I was inundated[ and still am] with through various mainstream media sources…only to find out that over the course of several hundred years (since that first supposed ‘meal together’), thousands of European whites would enact genocide of indigenous Americans and antebellum slavery of Africans through a white supremacist racist-colonialist-capitalist logic.

But I also know that for many of us vegans [of color] in the USA, we are expected to participate in Thanksgiving with family that either don’t appreciate veganism or do not want to consider how and why Thanksgiving is problematic on many levels. The video below talks about immunity and digestive health and I wanted to add that this should be part of self-care and I hope it is a way to deal withe the multiple stresses that Thanksgiving can bring to many of us who are vegans of color. I also acknowledge that access to food– for festivities or not– is a privilege, as well as the choice to select what you do and do not want to eat. If you do have access to fresh ginger and turmeric (see video below) I hope it can be one of many methods to get through Thanksgiving stress of maybe talking about why you don’t believe in eating a Turkey to your uncle again or explaining to  extended family members the problems of European colonialism and its current day consequences (systemic racism, health disparities, etc) on the collective lives of non-white folk in the USA.

I did this video below as tip for my new Black feminist hack of mothering project called Slacker Hacker Mom. 


Dr. A.Breeze Harper (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.