[Video] On Ferguson, Thug Kitchen &Trayvon Martin: Intersections of [Post] Race-Consciousness, Food Justice and Hip-Hop Veganism.

On October 22, 2104, I gave a lecture at Middlebury College. It was called On Ferguson, Thug Kitchen & Trayvon Martin: Intersections of [Post] Race-Consciousness, Food Justice and Hip-Hop Veganism.” 

Unfortunately, the recording quality of this video isn’t very good. The audio is very low, so I do apologize to the hearing impaired. I usually bring my own camera to record but I lost my SD Card, so the university fortunately recorded it. I do suggest that those who can hear well enough, to wear earphone on high while listening to this. I also had problems with trying to play various YouTube videos. The audio simply wouldn’t work, so I do apologize for that.

I really felt at home at Middlebury College for the brief time that I was there. I stayed at the Middlebury Inn. A 1/2 block away was the Middlebury Coop that had plenty of yummy vegan goods to select from. As usual, I brought my baby with me, across country, so I could nurse her on demand. At 11 months old, Kira has been to about 6 of my lectures now. I am incredibly thankful for all the students who helped to make my and Kira’s stay very nice.

Thank you Charles Griggs for initially inviting me to speak and organizing a dinner at the eco sustainable student coop. Charles and other students cooked an amazing vegan gourmet dinner. Vegan plant-meat based stroganoff with three different types of mushrooms, a golden beet and red beet fennel salad, an artichoke spinach dip, and for dessert, a chocolate smoothie made using sunflower seed butter. It was a delight! Thank you Andrew Scott Pester for helping with all the logistics, like hotel, contract signing, and hotel. Thanks Nina for watching Kira while I gave my talk. Thanks Matt for picking me up from the airport, so late at night.

Anyway, I really enjoyed giving this talk. It was challenging to take an intersectional approach to social justice issues surrounding race and food, but I wanted to do this so badly. I decided to use Thug Kitchen as a springboard to discuss issues ranging from white privilege, to Tupac Shakur’s “geographies of thug life”, to how race-conscious Black male vegans are using hip hop methodologies to promote racial justice, food justice, and combat the prison industrial complex.

I also wanted to share that one of my Sistah Vegan followers wrote me a comment that she didn’t understand what that big deal was about Thug Kitchen. I wanted to share my response to her comment which can be read fully here on this post. I thought it would be helpful to share my perspective and am thankful that she offered her take on ‘thug’ to engage me in thought-provoking conversation.

From Lorrie:

I don’t get this protest.

Going by the above post (especially the second paragraph), the disagreement is based ONLY on personal opinion. Some people DO like their cookbooks. Why protest just because you (you, I mean in general anyone) don’t like their cookbooks. To each their own. Were there complaints BEFORE they identified themselves?

Also, who cares what color they are? I know very little about them but I had assumed they were white all the time, because most vegans in America are white. Did they ever lie and say they were black? Had they been black then it would be OK for them to say “Thug” and use street slang, but being white it’s not alright?

Thug, to me, by they way they had used it, meant someone with a positive confident attitude.

Sorry, I just don’t understand all the negative hoopla about the authors and their book.

Breeze’s Response:


Thanks for posting your comments.

You wrote: “Thug, to me, by they way they had used it, meant someone with a positive confident attitude.”

There are thousands — and I mean thousands- of Black and Brown people who experience the word ‘thug’ differently, including myself– and [I figured this out] after I spent a good 6 months on my dissertation chapter, researching about Trayvon Martin and then making intersectional connections to the violence enacted upon him because he was demonized as a ‘thug’ who ‘deserved’ preemptive strike. This research came out of an entire canon of critical race studies that shows how ‘thug’ is part of a long history of words with a socio-historical context that are strategically used as tools of white supremacist based violence against Brown and Black people. As a social scientist focused on critical issues of race, feminism, and food, I’m interested in the fact that there are a significant number of Black and Brown people who have the exact same feelings that Liz does about Thug Kitchen…and that there are plenty of academic scholars who have written about the problem of using ‘thug’ as a code word for a ‘scary black man’ (See George Yancy’s critical race philosophical work like Look, A White!.)

Yes, there are a lot of people who like the Thug Kitchen blog and cookbooks— I’m not disputing that… But, there are also a lot of people who like to do and say things that will illicit horror and pain from us that are clearly speciesist. When we vegans protest it, we too are asked things like, “Who cares what people eat?” or “Who cares that that chef wrote a cookbook about how to eat veal and lamb?” I know these are not the same as your critique of Thug Kitchen controversy, but I know that you have mentioned in the past that you won’t read certain books that have speciesist language in them , even though these books don’t seem to traumatize nearly everyone else. I totally understood where you were coming from and would have understood why you would protest a book (not that you did that, but if you wanted to) because of that language used, in order to make people aware of the suffering the underlies such privileged use of speciesist language/behaviors.

It’s not that they are making a big deal about nothing, in my opinion. The book, the author’s white racialized consciousness around their use of the word thug (and not knowing why some people find it upsetting), simply reveal a more interesting microcosm about how race is lived in the USA for MOST white people; it says a lot that over 75% of white people in the USA only have white friends in their close friends network/developed intimate relationships with. I don’t think the authors are ‘bad’ people at all; as a matter of fact, I don’t even think that that is the point of this controversy. But, after nearly a month of this controversy and the the authors still haven’t even said something like the following, is a little confusing for a lot of us who support Liz’s stance—> [What Breeze would like them to say]—> “You know, not everyone experiences the word thug the same way. However, over the past few weeks, I realized that my own whiteness has pretty much protected me from the racialized history of ‘thug’— I would never be Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, or Jordan Davis because my whiteness protects me. It has protected me so much that for the past month, I simply could not understand how ‘thug’ could also be traumatizing for many– especially for those in Ferguson who are currently there to symbolize that Black and Brown people are sick of being born into this White settler nation in which they are immediately racialized as a ‘thug’. I had no idea that I could quite possibly be promoting blackface at a deeply unconscious level– I didn’t even know what it was or that it could manifest in different ways PAST literally painting a white person’s face with black paint…Even though we put a lot of effort into making this blog and cookbook fun for everyone, these past few weeks have allowed me to realize that there continues to be a lot of physical and emotional pain experienced by Brown and Black people in the USA, due to structural and systemic racism that I never really understood was still a problem because, like I said before, my whiteness protected me from it. Maybe I can start looking at how I can merge vegan activism with being a white ally anti-racist activist for my next book project. ”

My fantasy response above is called “cultural humility”, and is discussed in the book Pondering Privilege.

Just my two cents.

Thanks for discussing 😉

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