The N-Word and Anti-Blackness in “Friendships”

Source: http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_4161.jpg
Source: http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_4161.jpg

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About 6 years ago, I tried to reconnect with a friend I had gone to Dartmouth College with in the 1990s. We’ll just call him “Thomas”. I saw that “Thomas” was on Facebook. I sent him a message to see how he was doing. Somehow, we started talking about things we remembered from college. I told him how I remembered sharing with him that I had been called the ‘n-word’ my first day of 7th grade. We had been sitting on stairs outside somewhere and he had been shocked that, “People still do that!?” It was 1995. He was white, straight, and from an upper-middle class background. He had grown up in Southern California and had shared with me how he had graduated Valedictorian of his high school class. We were buddies throughout college.

However, our re-connection via Facebook ended up being rather confusing to me. After I had reminded him about all the different things we had talked about during college, in particular, how I talked to him about how deeply affected I was by being called the ‘n-word’ as a child (in an all white school system), we started talking about the U.S. presidential election.  He eventually ended up writing something like (sorry, I don’t remember it verbatim and didn’t save it), “I would never vote for a nigger.” Though he was referring to Obama, I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. I’m assuming he was, but I was really thrown off guard and couldn’t comprehend why he thought that it was okay to say or even joke about using that word. I ended up stopping our communication immediately. I thought that this just didn’t make any sense. How could he not know how triggering “nigger” is for me? And especially after I had shared that childhood trauma with him? Why did he think it was funny to say that to me?

In 1997 or 1998, “Thomas” had told me that his mother would never approve of him marrying a Black girl. “Yea, she’d be okay with me dating, but not marrying.” I remember being really confused by how he seemed so nonchalant about her beliefs. Alternatively, my parents really didn’t care at all about who I dated or married. How could he be so calm about his mother’s racism? During the same year, our two mutual friends had started dating each other. They were a heterosexual couple, black (“Henry”) and white (“Jessica”). They were supposed to go to “Jessica’s” family member’s wedding together. However, “Jessica’s” mother had told her that she was not allowed to attend the wedding with him because he was black. I remember the couple had gotten into an argument about it and I also remember her nonchalantly telling me, “Well if I have to choose him over my family, I’m going to choose my family.” It was with the ease in which she had said this that made me very uneasy. Don’t get me wrong: I know how hard a child/parent relationship can be; especially if you don’t want to disappoint them, if you love them, and yea, if they are your sole financial support. However, what was disturbing was the ‘ease’ of which she had shared her thoughts with me about the situation– without ever even saying something like, “Breeze, you are black and my mom’s beliefs about dating black people as unacceptable must be really hurtful for you to hear.” But no, neither “Thomas” or “Jessica” ever wanted to talk more about the implications of what it means for their parents, who are part of the racial-class status quo of the USA, to have these beliefs about black people (or perhaps anyone who didn’t fall into their social-class category). After all, if Black people aren’t good enough to marry their children, then they simply aren’t good enough, period. And the implications of this really troubled my 21 year old mind. I remember thinking:

If we’re not good enough to marry, then I wonder how “Thomas’s” or “Jessica’s” mothers think about us in other contexts. If they had to be on a jury and determine if a Black person on trial were guilty or not, would they automatically think they aren’t as deserving as being considered as innocent as white peers in their social network? If these women worked at a bank and a black person came in for a home loan, would they feel like they were less likely to deserve it than a white person with the same economic background? If they were on a college admissions committee and saw that the applicant had marked ‘African-American’ as their racial identity, would they not weigh his achievements the same way they’d weigh a white applicant’s?

After all, one just can’t think that their desire for their child not to marry ‘another race’ doesn’t impact how they generally feel about ‘that other race’ (and I put this in quotations to acknowledge that there really are no races; race is a social construct), even outside of the context of considering who your child should marry.

It has been a couple of years since the Facebook interaction I had with “Thomas.” I have yet to re-connect with him. However, over the last few years since I became more and more active on Facebook, I have been able to follow a lot of my Dartmouth peer’s lives who have Facebook friended me. It has been interesting for me to see the fan pages, political groups, etc., that many of my white peers follow and support.  I am taken aback when I see some of their strong support of political parties such as the Tea Party, or their firm stance against immigration, or liking particular public figures who are blatantly racist and white nationalists in their thinking. Had they always thought this way while we attended college together ? Why would they want to be ‘friends’ with me on Facebook if their heroes are people who hate those who are not white? (Or just hate another population in general!?)

About a year after I had graduated from Dartmouth College, I moved to Princeton, NJ to take on a telecommunications job. I had made a new friend named “Curt” who was working at a hat store I would frequent. After hanging out for a few weeks, he invited me to go on a weekend trip to NYC to explore the Stonewall area as well as other vibrant areas of LGBTQ life in NYC. We hitched a ride with his friends, a white gay male couple, “Luke and Dan”. While we were driving to NYC, a driver cut off “Luke”. In instant rage and anger he yelled at the driver, “Nigger!” (the driver of the other car had been white). Everyone in the car went silent as they realized that this was kind of awkward with Breeze in the car. After a small bit of silence, “Luke” responded with , “Sorry. Great, now she probably hates me now.” I responded with something like, “I don’t hate you, but you really should be careful with saying that word.” I think what was weird about this comment was that it was not really an apology as much as he was worried about how I would hate him. Was he not disturbed by his comment and what it represented about his consciousness and how structural racism and white supremacy had made him comfortable to say what he had? To think the way he did? He only seemed concerned about, “I wonder if Breeze now hates me”? It was an external response, not a deeply internal and critical response. For the rest of the weekend trip, he didn’t talk about it or offer a more sincere and deeper apology/analysis of what it means to be a white male and how he may collude with upholding racism and white supremacist ideas about Black people and other non-white folk (i.e. using “nigger” to insult someone). And perhaps this had more to do with the fact that we live in a USA in which white people– at least during the end of the 1990s– just don’t feel comfortable about talking about that white elephant in the big USA room because they are collectively socialized NOT to talk about it in this “post-racial” age.

When I first started the Sistah Vegan Project, I was met with a significant amount of resentment and anger from white vegans who truly thought that if focused on how racialization and socialization affected black female vegans’ collective epistemologies, I was creating disharmony, distractions, and ‘playing the race card.’ As I shifted from just black female vegan epistemologies, to understanding how neoliberal whiteness undergirds mainstream vegan philosophy in the USA, I opened up Pandora’s box. When posting updates on my Facebook status about the work I was doing and the questions I had, I ended up receiving posts and emails from white friends (none I think were vegan) who didn’t understand why race was so important to me. I even had a child hood friend unfriend me and call me a racist when I had posted about racism and white supremacy as structural and systemic problems. She sent me a post that ‘reminded’ me that she had grown up very poor and that we were friends and that she had never judged me because of my skin color. She told me she was not a racist and how could I post these types of questions and concerns that implied that she was, ‘just because of her white skin color.’

I was amazed that she interpreted my research as a direct attack against her as an individual. This is common, as I have spent years trying to explain structures and systems versus ‘individual racists’. No, having ‘white skin color’ doesn’t automatically make you a racist, but let’s start thinking about how all of our consciousnesses have been shaped by white racist structures in the USA. How has being racialized influenced how all of us experience our world, regardless if you identify as an ‘individual’ or ‘overt’ racist or neither? This is what I tried to share with her, but she completely disagreed with me and promptly unfriended me. For those who I have grown up with or went to college with and have not [yet] unfriended me on Facebook, I get the ‘reminders’ several times a year that, “I am not racist and don’t care about skin color.” Funny reminder, no? You know, when I receive posts, articles, updates from friends who analyze their embodied experiences about being fat in a fat shaming culture, trans identified in a trans-hating culture, or living with disabilities in an ableist culture, I know they are not individually attacking me as a slim bodied, CIS gender identified, able bodied woman. I completely understand that they are trying to understand issues of sizeism, transphobia, and ableism at the structural and systemic levels. I also understand that regardless if I am or am not a fatphobe, transphobe, or ableist, my consciousness has been affected and I have automatically earned certain privileges because of my body shape, my CIS gender identification, and my able-bodied status. And yea, I want to know what I don’t know, because of the ignorances that my privileges have produced in my consciousness. I am thankful that I’m asked to engage with these issues because I may very well be complicit. I want to eradicate the injustice, suffering, and violence that epistemologies of ignorance and privilege produce.

I still hold in my heart the wonderful memories and times I have shared with these friends, in spite of these clear instances of racial ignorance and misunderstandings. (As a matter of fact, that weekend “Luke” yelled “nigger” was a weekend that also inspired me to write about my experiences and develop them into the ‘fictional’ character “Cesar” in my newest novel Scars). However, maybe I’m naive, but I also hold in my heart that one day, my friends from childhood and college, such as “Thomas” and “Jessica” , will make the effort to reconnect with me one day. I fantasize that they will share with me a type of awakening and acknowledgment they have had about the realities of systemic racism in the USA; how they were able to realize that ignoring racism in any manifestation won’t make it go away… and that they really are trying to do something to remedy it.

In the mean time, for many of us who are still hurt and confused, and seek ways of healing from ongoing racisms and/or racial micro-aggressions: I continue to do my anti-racism activism and scholarship through webinars, web-based conferences, and writing.

I will be offering this one below on February 25, 2019 as a webinar-workshop. 

 

 

Learn more about this online event here.

Online Workshop: How Systemic Racism and Anti-Blackness Affect Animal Advocacy Culture in the USA

On January 22, 2019, the Lulu and the Lobster webinar-workshop event took place. It was completely sold out and overall, participants really enjoyed what Dr. Harper had to offer. A lot of people wanted to attend, but due to conflict in their schedules, they could not attend… However, back by popular demand, we are offering it again! 



Instructor:

Dr. A. Breeze Harper of The Sistah Vegan Project

Date and Time: 

February 25, 2019. 10:00am – 2:00pm PST


Upgrade Your

  • Diversity and inclusion framework
  • Approach to racial equity within animal advocacy
  • Professional animal rights/vegan toolkit

In this innovative workshop via online, Dr. A. Breeze Harper, strategic consultant and national speaker, will bring you and your organization a framing of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) with racial equity and animal advocacy in mind.

Many animal advocacy and/or vegan oriented organizations and individuals do not have a strong racial equity literacy or incentive to integrate more inclusive frameworks to reach their goals. Unfortunately, such a low literacy negatively affects how racial minorities such as Black people in the USA engage with animal advocacy, which impacts everyone’s potential to alleviate the suffering of non-human animals.

For this micro-workshop, Dr. Harper will introduce concepts and tools that engender alternative ways for animal advocates and organizations to integrate and implement inclusion and equity beyond cosmetic diversitySuch DEI tools will include critical social fiction and anti-racism pedagogies within the context of animal advocacy.

Participants will leave with beginner  tools and frameworks to enhance how they engage with diversity, equity, and inclusion as animal advocates and/or vegans within the USA.


Fees:

  • Individual: $39.99
  • Small Group/Organization/Business (Up to 10 Participants) : $250.00
  • Medium Group/Organization/Business (11-25) : $500.00
  • Large Group/Organization/Business (25+): $1000.00

Scholarships and Discounts Available. Contact sistahvegan@gmail.com to inquire.

Choices



Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutionsa seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives MatterIn tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

Hair, Racial Codes, and Animal Advocacy in the USA

[EVENT]Animal Advocacy and Casualties of Anti-Blackness

How Systemic Racism and Anti-Blackness Affect Animal Advocacy Culture in the USA

TRAINER AND FACILITATOR:

DR. A. BREEZE HARPER OF THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT

DATE AND TIME: 

JANUARY 22, 2019. 10:00AM – 2:00PM PST


Upgrade Your

  • Diversity and inclusion Framework
  • Approach to racial equity within animal advocacy
  • Professional animal rights/vegan toolkit

In this innovative workshop via online, Dr. A. Breeze Harper, strategic consultant and national speaker, will bring you and your organization a framing of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) with racial equity and animal advocacy in mind.

Many animal advocacy and/or vegan oriented organizations and individuals do not have a strong racial equity literacy or incentive to integrate more inclusive frameworks to reach their goals. Unfortunately, such a low literacy negatively affects how racial minorities such as Black people in the USA engage with animal advocacy, which impacts everyone’s potential to alleviate the suffering of non-human animals.

For this micro-workshop, Dr. Harper will introduce concepts and tools that engender alternative ways for animal advocates and organizations to integrate and implement inclusion and equity beyond cosmetic diversitySuch DEI tools will include critical social fiction and anti-racism pedagogies within the context of animal advocacy.

Participants will leave with beginner  tools and frameworks to enhance how they engage with diversity, equity, and inclusion as animal advocates and/or vegans within the USA.


Fees:

  • Individual: $39.99
  • Small Group/Organization/Business (Up to 10 Participants) : $250.00
  • Medium Group/Organization/Business (11-25) : $500.00
  • Large Group/Organization/Business (25+): $1000.00

Limited Scholarships and Organizational Discounts Available. Contact Dr. Harper to inquire about this.  


Choices




Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutionsa seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives MatterIn tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

Children Can Remind Us of Our True Potential

If this 6 year old girl can make it to the summit of the highest mountain in the contiguous USA, driven by determination and focus, I can’t wait to see how she tackles other challenges as she grows up. Mt. Whitney is a challenge for most adults, let alone a 6 year old girl. This focus and drive reminds me how I can overcome challenges in my professional life through determination and focus; by turning fears into opportunities for growth. Sometimes I forget, despite being her mother. Often, it takes our own children to remind us of our true potential.

If you liked this video, it is part of my new family project, The Ethicureans. I released the trailer a few months ago and Eva Luna’s ascent is the first episode.

Missed the trailer? Here is it:

Subscribe if you like it!

I Am Not Ingrid Newkirk or Gene Baur: On Race, Gender, Class, and the “Free Labor” Trope

Dr. A. Breeze Harper with her Baby Miro

In December of 2015, I was invited to give a talk at an Ivy League Law school’s animal rights/vegan  event. The law school assured me that even though they could not give me  an honorarium, 50-100 students would most likely attend my lecture and I would know that I made a big impact in spreading my knowledge.

Below is how I compassionately and assertively answered them, which was inspired from the fact that the writer of the email strategically invoked the names of Gene Baur and Ingrid Newkirk as speakers who didn’t request an honorarium, implying that I should be comfortable with doing the same. Though well-meaning, I found it deeply problematic and explained to the co-organizer of the event, why it is a reflection of assumptions around who can engage in free labor without going bankrupt.  Suffice to say, I am not Ingrid Newkirk or Gene Baur, and they needed to know this.

I have shared this letter (taking out identifiers of the law school and the person who wrote it) with quite a few non-white folk who have written me privately, frustrated that they were invited to do ‘free labor’ as if they have the same resources as white financially privileged AR/vegan icons. The letter isn’t to shame the organizer who invited me, but rather, to explain how intention vs. impact operates and creates exclusion of already marginalized or vulnerable communities.


Original Email Sent to Me on December 2015

Dear Dr. Harper,

 Many thanks for your reply!  [Law School name removed] is very excited about the possibility of having you come speak. We really want our fellow classmates to hear your perspective.

 Unfortunately, our [Law School Organization name removed] chapter cannot afford to offer honorariums to any of our speakers, due to our extremely tight operating budget. We hold as many events as we can, and we spend our entire budget on serving event attendees free vegan food. We have been fortunate that many distinguished speakers (including PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, Farm Sanctuary President Gene Baur, and dozens of other) have paid their own way to speak at [Organization name removed ] in part because of the opportunity to share their perspectives and build their profile within our law school community and beyond.

 What we can offer is the promise that your event would be well publicized at [Name of Law School remove] and that our events routinely attract audiences of 50 to 100 engaged students.  If you are interested, we can also look into the possibility of creating a video recording of the lecture which we could share on our website, and which you could use for your own purposes after the event. 

We hope that it will be worth your while to make the trip to [Name of City removed], and eagerly await your response.

 

Many thanks,

[Name removed]


Response from Dr. A. Breeze Harper, December 2015

Dear [Name removed]
Thanks for responding. So, here are my thoughts….

Though I know you mean well to provide an incentive by mentioning the people who were even able to pay their own way, the comparison is not equal. I have 3 children. Leaving to give a talk in which I’ll be gone for 2-3 days means $22/hr for childcare for 10 hours times 3 days. This is $660. The Sistah Vegan Project is just me and it’s volunteer. Flying out to [Ivy league institution name removed] would cost me money I do not have, even if the flight were covered along with hotel.

I am glad that you admire my work and at the same time, I have to let you know that I am seeing a pattern in the invitations I receive to give a talk. And of course you are not aware of this pattern because you do not receive these messages meant to for me, so I’d like to share this pattern with you, in hopes that it will help with future planning of inviting speakers, policies changes, and re questioning what it means to be an ally and in solidarity with marginalized communities that don’t have the resources they need, due to legacies of colonialism, imperialism, Jim Crow, racial caste system, etc., in the USA.

The common scenario of being invited to speak:

I am invited to give a talk. I ask for an honorarium + flight + accommodations. I am told that certain people can do it for no honorarium and this logic is used to persuade me to do the same. I’m usually told something like:

1. “[type in the name of a person who makes six figures and has no small children to take care of and is pretty much in an economically powerful and privileged social location] was able to donate their time so it would be unfair if we were to give you an honorarium.”
2. “[type in the name of a person who makes six figures and has no small children to take care of and is pretty much in a economically powerful and privileged social location] was able to do it because their organization paid their way, and in return, they were able to share their knowledge and it will be widely publicized.

Though this is not the intention, the impact is negative: It is a socio-economically class privileged framing of what is assumed that an invited speaker has the resources to do. Me and a significant number of people of color– mostly women identified–, have spoken about how we are asked to give a talk for ‘free’ and all of us are struggling financially in a way that Gene Baur, Ingrid Newkirk, and Howard Lyman (you don’t mention him but other groups have said he did a talk without an honorarium) do not. Again, not your intention, but the pattern I see is that those who are able to ‘foot the bill’ or volunteer easily are collectively white people who are not struggling economically and then they are used as the ‘benchmark’ of how policies and procedures are written around how speakers are accommodated how they will be remunerated (if at all).

I appreciate that you were upfront and honest that your school doesn’t pay out honorariums, but I’d like your organization to think about the impact of this as well. Once again, it’s not your intention, but myself as well as other people of color doing this work have spoken about how deeply troubling and hurtful it is to be struggling economically and be asked to give our services (knowledge) for free. We would love to participate in so many opportunities that would allow us to grow, but it would ‘bankrupt’ us (if that makes sense) if we did, under the current system of being asked to do it for free. I am not sure how your school or other organizations can change their policies, but they need to change them, or marginalized communities doing the ‘good work’ within Veganism, AR, and beyond, will never be able to participate in the opportunities so easily available to the status quo. Once again, your organization is not solely responsible for this, but it’s a reflection of how ‘the system’ has historically to the present, arranged access to resources and power through not only a racial caste system (starting with colonialism), but also via other systemic ‘isms’ (i.e., systemic classism, systemic ableism, etc).

I guess what I’m trying to convey is that it is one thing to invite a diversity of speakers to share their knowledge with your community and it’s another thing to put the policies, structures, resources, etc in place to make sure we all thrive and have equal access to the opportunities presented to us.

Thanks for inviting me and asking me to be part of your school’s event, I truly appreciate it. I am also an upfront and honest person and send this message with compassion and love. It may very well be that your organization is unaware of the impact they have when it comes to not supporting speakers they invite with a reasonable honorarium and other accommodations. I believe that it is my responsibility to draw your attention to something you simply may be unaware of.

Best,
Dr. A. Breeze Harper

The organizer ended up responding positively, thankful that I took the time to write them about the impact of their actions and that they’d see what was possible. However, they weren’t able to provide what I needed and said that they have a small operating budget but hoped to start thinking about how to implement what I had suggested in the future.


Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutionsa seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives MatterIn tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

Also, consider subscribing to her new upcoming video series coming Fall 2018/Winter 2019 :

On Being an Exhausted Black Mom, Expected “Free Labor”, and Heroes

{The original post had ‘heros’ and I immediately edited it to ‘heroes’ within 5 seconds}

I am not a hero. Please don’t refer to me as a hero. Hero worship is dangerous (read Marti Kheel’s essay here).

I am not a guru or an “all knowing” expert. Yes, I have a PhD in my field of expertise, but I repeat, it does not make me an infallible “all-knowing” expert. I am on a continuum of constant learning, re-learning, and un-learning.

People often imply or refer to me as “hero”, “expert”, etc… but I am far from those and don’t identify as such. What I do is simply engage in my activism and scholarship because it is a passion of mine. I feel that it is a better path for me to alleviate pain and suffering— and that this path is constantly forking, veering, changing as I learn how my own ignorances and biases (from still decolonizing my brain from within the ‘normalcy’ of a white supremacist racial caste-capitalist system USA) put me far from being some perfect or ideal hero.

Heroes and gurus are social constructs— mythic narratives that will almost always disappoint the people who subscribe to them. Gurus and Heroes are fairytales.

Objects of hero worship give meaning to the frequently unfocused or direction-deprived lives of society’s many emotional casualties. Yet mixed with this idealization is an urge to degrade the object of one’s admiration, sparked when the “hero” ultimately disappoints. This desperate need, intensified by the machinery of mass promotion, can turn even assassination, political or physical, into a form of spectacle. (Source is here)

I appreciate people who appreciate my work and I kindly ask that you do not construct me as some type of super-hero , infallible, etc being. In addition, what I write and speak of (in my videos) is always within that specific time period. For example, if you heard something I said in 2014 or read something I wrote in 2010, it doesn’t mean that is how I have always thought or will think, or am thinking now in the present moment. Please be mindful of not doing this.

Also, please don’t tag me and bring me into fights and disagreements you are having with the hopes that I will join a side. I am getting this a lot amongst vegans of color who are disagreeing with other vegans of color (and white allies) about how “intersectional” they are and how the other person is not “radical” enough. There are folk who enjoy being tagged and enjoy engaging in these debates, but I do not and cannot; I’m not interested in “winning” or “proving” anything to anyone, within these social media spaces, for the most part. For me, most of the time, these debates I’m tagged in are not an easy binary and are complex with a rich history that I am not privy to. In addition, I’m working a lot (doing my consulting work, writing my talks, writing my book, and taking care of 4 kids), so I’m not always available to engage in an hours long debate about whether someone is or isn’t “ethically vegan enough”, or whether a white ally is or isn’t a “true” ally, etc. I literally don’t have a budget to afford child-care from what I make, so I’m doing freelance work and giving talks to barely cover childcare, pay off $70,000 of student loans, children’s medical bills (Eva Luna’s broken arm was pricey this past spring while my oldest son’s ambulance bill that the insurance didn’t cover, has take me 2 years to pay off monthly). It’s stressful and exhausting.

On a similar note: I have mostly white social justice non-vegans, foodies, and or vegans and animal rights people who are better resourced, asking me for free labor— whether it’s to “pick my brain” for my “expert” knowledge or to interview me for a book they have with a major press or interview me for their documentary because they want an “intersectional” social justice/vegan represented. In case you didn’t realize this: you are asking me to consult for free. Please don’t paint it any other way or use manipulative language to make it appear that my free labor is something I should be thankful you asked me to give. If you don’t have upfront money, give me the option of equity in your project or company the way data scientists or full stack developers get when they initially help startups (eventually worth millions) in Silicon Valley.

A significant number of you either consciously or unconsciously don’t realize how little time I have or monetary compensation I get as a Black woman professional PhD doing anti-racism and social justice consulting, speaking, training, and writing. You realize that if I am in your project, it is major cultural capital for a majority of you to bank on within the trend of “intersectionality”– and without actually divesting in possessive investment in neoliberal capitalist whiteness system.  I only become visible and valuable if it fits into your plan to be more successful and carry a badge of being “progressive”, or “pro-intersectional” , or even a “feminist” and “anti-racist” advocate.

Thus far, within the context of the last paragraph, the majority of people asking me for this free labor are white— usually men (and please don’t start with me supposedly ‘attacking’ white men). There is a whole history behind this collective demographic who are generally constructed as “saviors” and “heroes” doing the ‘real work’ (White Savior Industrial Complex.  I think you may not realize that I am a BLACK WOMAN with CHILDREN and my labor and your labor , historically, have never been the same (Read here, here, here... and here). Please don’t ask me for free labor with the assumption that I have the same history as you. I literally work a triple work day as a [Black] mom, working for myself at the Sistah Vegan Project and Critical Diversity Solutions, nursing nonstop for 10 years, doing activism, etc. Few of you have any idea how damn hard it is to keep yourself alive, generate income, take care of domestic tasks and be the primary person who is supposed to keep young human children alive and as safe and happy as possible; Black women collectively work harder and get paid less. It’s labor and an embodied experience that most [white] men simply do not have (we’re talking facts here, not ‘attacking’ white men. Please, I ask again, don’t go there. No one says you don’t work hard, but historically, your ‘hard’ and my ‘hard’– and I speak collectively of Black women raising kids and working– are not the same, do not yield the same results, and are not valued the same way).

I am not a hero. I am not a guru. I am not an “all-knowing” expert. I am not “free labor”.

(P.S. It took me 2 hours to complete this post, trying nurse the baby, work on client projects in between, put out some fires trying to get the other 3 kids ready for school, etc, all while my 1.5 year old is sucking on my boob half the time because without childcare today, it’s the best way I can keep him calm and in my view while trying to work because it seems like he is cranky and probably coming down with a cold that the other 3 kids were fighting and getting over).


Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutionsa seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives MatterIn tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

The Ethicureans: Black Feminist PhD Mom, German Dad Physicist, and Their 4 Kids

 

I wanted to share information about my new series. I have been writing my academic book Black, Mama, Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, and Motherhood which is due in 2019. Below is the side project that has come out of writing that book that you may find of interest.

“The Ethicureans” (Trailer) Description:

Coming Fall 2018/Winter 2019

Description: Black mom with a PhD in ethics, food, & Black feminism + German physicist dad with a penchant for mountaineering who used to be the chief data scientist for Impossible Foods. They have 4 kids. Adventures around travel, food, what is ethical, raising multi racial Black kids together, etc. They’ll be focusing on a lot including critical approaches to parenting and beyond. What is meant by “critical”? They will be discussing many topics such as systemic racism, camping and hiking (and why they rarely see more Black folk in national parks), ethical consumption and its limits in a neoliberal capitalist economy, traveling to different regions as a Black woman vs. White man and how race and gender impact that experience, talking to their children about racialized and gendered bullying, and how to hike a 14k+ foot mountain to the top with a 6 year old. Also, there are “lighter” topics like fun vegan places to eat and how to critically review a vegan product or service beyond asking questions like, “Was an animal harmed?” (i.e. “This was a great vegan cafe we ate at but the staff say the women endure sexual harassment all the time. Not a ‘cruelty-free’ environment!)  

Please subscribe to the YouTube channel if this is series you’d like to see and support!


Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutionsa seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives MatterIn tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

The Future is Vegan…(And Still A White Supremacist Racial Caste-Capitalist System)

Can I write a science fiction book based on the future? Like, can I write a book that shows a world that is entirely vegan and simultaneously still systemically oppresses human beings along the lines of race, class, and gender?

I think this book needs to be written. I can’t count how many times [mostly] white vegans make the claim that all other oppressions will end once the world is vegan.

I envision a futuristic world in which all animal consumption has been made illegal and there are still news headlines of disproportionate number of Black and brown folk in prison industrial complex, brown migrant laborers being exploited and abused to pick kale, strawberries, and tomatoes, and the majority of the world’s population still being food insecure (more due to political and economic strategies to keep them hungry and easily controllable).

I can easily envision non-human animals becoming ‘persons’ with equal rights and given the same status as [ white land owning men] while certain human beings are ‘animalized’ and placed in the role of sub-human who exist to make sure the vegan human ruling class remain happy ‘ethical’ vegans (but those words like ‘sub-human’ and ‘animalized’ can’t be used by ‘true’ vegans because it would be speciesist, so other racially coded words would need to be used…kind of like dog whistle racial politics).

This would be such a dope book idea to counter the white vegan utopian fantasy that makes the claim that going vegan would magically make the world a peaceful place and that a few vegan sprinkles would abolish white supremacist racial caste system that is the USA. Such a system, in this futuristic novel, would enslave millions of non-white human beings to grow, harvest, and make the ‘pure’ foods that will help a ‘better’ class of human beings be ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ in the USA (and maybe beyond?). This future would Incarcerate the poor and/or more black and brown people as free labor to create a world of easily accessible vegan commodities that are controlled by vegan corporations and politicians.

I think this could be a dope book. Or, at least a novella. I think the whole “going vegan” = “peace” needs to be unpacked because it’s not an easy binary to narrate. It’s complex and it’s used as a spiritual bypass by many [white] people who really think veganism is the only thing they need to practice to make the future “peaceful”.

I already wrote an entire dissertation that reflects this, so how do I use speculative fiction, critical animal studies, and the black radical tradition to tell that story? I think it would be a phenomenal social-fiction project to explore critical animal studies, critical whiteness studies, ethical consumption studies, and food studies.

P.S.: I know veganism isn’t only about eating vegan food, however, veganism is primarily enacted through vegan food consumption so that is why I focus on vegan food commodities in this post.


Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutionsa seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives MatterIn tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.