Wearing a Hoodie and Going Vegan are ‘Easy as Pie’?: What Type of Support Are You Really Asking For?

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I get requests all the time to support a wellness, animal rights, vegan site, organization, book, campaign or new health/food product that is framed through post-racial and neoliberal capitalist logics. What is intriguing to me is that the emails I receive state that after reviewing my Sistah Vegan site, they believe my site would be perfect to support their cause.

 
19/20 times what they want me to support has NOTHING to do with intersectional anti-racism, critical engagement with systemic racism– or even critical engagement with what human beings (and non-human beings) were potentially exploited to bring that commodity’s ingredients to the market. If anything, the way they frame their campaigns, products, books, etc., reinforce unequal racial and class power dynamics already operating within a white supremacist capitalist and heteropatriarchal system.
 
When I’m contacted, rarely, if ever, does someone write something like, “…we’d also like to see what WE CAN DO to support the work that you are doing. What can we do to eradicate systemic racism, not perpetuate anti-Blackness rooted in the fabric of the USA, etc.?” I actually DO expect this to be asked if they in fact have read through my site and claim, “We love the work that you’re doing.” 
 
For example….
 
I was asked to support a book by writing a preface to a book by a white identified vegan who wrote that people making fun of her for being vegan was the ‘same’ as racism. But it was clear she didn’t know what systemic racism was or how to be an ally but wanted me to support her experience of being treated the same as a ‘racist’ would treat her. I patiently and politely sent her a long email explaining this was inaccurate and something I can’t support.
 
I was asked to support a nutrition publication that was clearly a cis-sexist framing of food and health for women and men. This is despite my website always pointing out the transphobia and cissexism embedded in mainstream health, food, and nutrition publications focused on producing a ‘moral’ and ‘healthy’ white body.
 
I frequently have organizations contacting me about how I can support them to get non-white people ‘on board with veganism’ when it’s clear it’s a missionary approach and they don’t care about first asking how they can be allies to both Sistah Vegan and those communities they want to ‘enlighten’.
I am genuinely curious about these requests because it’s almost always white identified people/organizations (19/20 times) that are contacting me. They probably don’t consider themselves to be consciously in collusion with systemic racism and white supremacy…yet, their framing of whatever they want me to support is in collusion with these systems.
Maybe those contacting me don’t realize that this is the negative impact they are having on me (and other intersectional activist vegans of color they may be contacting). I don’t mind being contacted if the message clearly states some type of awareness or concern around being allies to eradicating systemic racism, anti-Blackness, white supremacist based racial caste system, etc. Just some food for thought.
Like what you read? See below to know what are my next projects, speaking engagements, and books.

Despite having brown skin and being a “melanated peoples”, I burn in the sun in approximately 5 minutes. It can be as ‘cool’ as 69 degrees Fahrenheit and I will burn…My mother used to always joke, “You would have made a horrible field slave”, which kind of makes perfect sense. She has always enjoyed calling me an Oreo since I was a tween. Oreo was then promoted to the affectionate label of Oreo Double Stuff by the time I had graduated from high school in 1994 and I had been accepted into a gazillion PWIs like Smith College, Tufts University, Bryn Mawr, and Dartmouth College.  I vividly remember when I first discovered the Four Seasons when I was 14 years old. I asked my mother if she could buy it for me on CD. Boy was she elated that I was inquiring about the Four Seasons…. Except she thought that I misspoke and that I must have meant the Black Motown group The Four Tops (Yes, I meant some music composed by a dead white Italian man). #blackcardrejected #notauthenticallyblack

How did I get from being a white cream filled dark sandwich cookie with two left feet and an unhealthy obsession with Anton Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to being told I’m uber ‘articulate’ and ‘non-threatening’ in post-racial vegan venues? I could tell this story from so many vantage points. I thought long and hard about it, writing draft after draft, dropping some heavy critical theory sh$t from Angela Davis, to Frantz Fanon, to Charles Mills. But every time I tried to do this, it just wouldn’t work out. Critical theory takes deep concentration, plenty of sleep, and mental acuity….

…which is hella blown out of the water when you’ve got 4 damn kids– a 6 month old, a 3 year old, a 5 year old (the middle one with a damn freaking attitude and a propensity for sticking her hand in the monkey jar) and an 8 year old who continuously interrupt your prophetic destiny to be a  scholar with such greatness and [can’t think of an intelligent word because my 5 year old just came outside screaming and running towards me, naked, holding a bowl of Cheerios] that would make Sara Ahmed’s rumination on phenomenology and post-colonialism look like simple nursery school rhymes. #badphenomenologyjokes

-Dr. A. Breeze Harper. Draft from her upcoming book Black. Mama. Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, and Toddler Tantrums in a ‘Post-Racial’ Era (2018).

In a delightful and humorous, yet deeply critical talk, Dr. A. Breeze Harper will ruminate on the past 12 years of her activism and scholarship as well as read excerpts from her upcoming book Black. Mama. Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, and Toddler Tantrums in a ‘Post-Racial’ Era (formerly titled Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches). Get ready for a different side of A. Breeze Harper, PhD, as she uses a fusion of satire and critical race feminism to explore just how “post-racial” we are– in veganism and beyond.

This is a fundraising event for the Sistah Vegan Project. Register for the Live Lecture with Q&A below.

Ticket Options


If you can’t make her live webcast but are interested in inviting her to give a talk and/or workshop at your organization or university, contact her at bookbreezeharper@gmail.com .



Dr. Harper is the creator and editor of the first of its kind book about veganism and race: Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society(Lantern Books 2010).

Dr. Harper holds a PhD in social science from University of California Davis (with an emphasis in Black Feminisms, Critical Theories of Race, and Ethical Consumption). She has a Masters degree in Educational Technologies from Harvard University, with emphasis on Black Feminisms. Her thesis earned her the prestigious Dean’s award.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact being a Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. She has taught university staff and students how to use the book as a tool to develop literacy around unconscious bias and understand how deeply impactful systemic racial and socio-economic inequities are.

After observing numerous white vegans making the claim that race doesn’t matter (i.e. the passive-aggressive responses to Black Lives Matter with “All Lives Matter”) , Dr. Harper organized the highly successful professional conference The Praxis of Black Lives Matter. The conference taught participants how to operationalize racial equity during an era of Black Lives Matter with a focus on plant-based foodie culture like veganism and raw foodism. 

In 2016, Dr. Harper collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the report Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system. Dr. Harper is well-known for her talks and workshops  about “Operationalizing Racial Equity” and  “Intersectional Anti-Racism” in ethical consumption, which were given at top universities this past year (University of Chicago, Stanford University, and Penn State to name a few). 

You can check out Dr. Harper’s 2016 talk at Whidbey Institute below about Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape as well as the University of Oregon-Eugene talk Reading Food Objects: A Black Feminist Materialist Reading of Scars in Oregon.

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4 thoughts on “Wearing a Hoodie and Going Vegan are ‘Easy as Pie’?: What Type of Support Are You Really Asking For?

  1. Thank you for speaking that truth and avoiding being caught or being in collusion with the missionary practice of these 19/20 requests to lend your name and/or support. It clearly ignores your work and scholarship around what’s been problematic in this industry. Good for you, Breeze!

  2. As a fairly self-aware person who doesn’t have the desire to correct people who assume I’m a straight white cis male, I see a lot of systems that contribute to racial disparity despite being designed not to and even despite the fact that those identical systems would not contribute to racial disparity if there wasn’t already existing racial disparity. That’s an enitire discussion unto itself, though.

    What the people who got into Prestigious Business Schools 25 years ago see today is that their products are underperforming in demographics that are underrepresented in “got into Prestigious Business School in 1991”. They are aware enough to know that they don’t ‘get’ those demographics, and they are even mostly aware enough to look at almost everything they do and conclude “we’ve made an effort to be inclusive in doing this, and the reason we’re not getting more [demographic] in this is because [demographic] has more [characteristic], which makes our efforts less effective”. And they’re mostly factually right about that most of the time; I don’t have the education or experience or knowledge to tell if the important characteristic among e.g. single black cis get makes is hairstyle, population density, income, culture, willingness to trust authority, or what, but marketing directors CAN get that specific.

    What they can’t do is figure out what to do about it. Business schools in 1991 didn’t teach that, and for the most part brands segregated around demographics rather than try to cross them. (Even though each brand wanted market share from other demographics and tried to get it, and would have it if weren’t for the income, cultural, and status inequalities that already existed). What business school did teach is how to break into a demographic. You bribe a person popular in that demographic to endorse your product.

    Marketing directors and managers are not in the business of overcoming systemic racism. They are in the business of selling something. The tool they expect to use to buy endorsement is money, proportional to the gain they expect to get from the endorsement (which is also measured in money).

    They won’t come to you and offer to become aware of how their current practice is hurtful to you; that’s not the kind of thing they could know and it’s not an offer that they think is valuable to you. The contribution to systemic racism caused by their polices is only under their professional purview so far as the PR from things which are good or bad publicity is.

    Does that help with the confusion about why people ask you for endorsements and offer only money?

    I suspect the way most likely to get you what you want is to respond with “I value my integrity too much to do an endorsement for an amount of money that I think is within your budget, but I am willing to serve as an educational consultant and help to educate your people about why their efforts to reach my audience might be failing.”

    If you can find someone to take you up on that, remember that they aren’t in the business of accepting blame for or even fixing institutionalized racism. That doesn’t mean that they can’t improve their marketing by doing things that also help people. The basic education of “this corporate behavior makes people hostile to you because of historical reasons. Regardless of any fairness about that, it’s a barrier to your marketing and being aware of that barrier is important–the fact that potential customers have a problem IS your problem. You have to change the perception of this behavior; the most effective would be to change the actual behavior, but that’s sometimes something that’s beyond the power of anyone here. Otherwise, you can gain acceptance by [action]”

    1. But it shouldn’t be her sole responsibility to set so much “educate” white people who clearly don’t give a crap, if they did they would have made some kind of effort to research about what they are doing wrong. I would understand doing offering to educate, if they had made an effort to understand/learn what she and other vegans of color are talking about…There is soooo much information out there, heck they could’ve started on her site. Clearly talking to people with their mindset of ‘animals above human life’ , would be a waste of time and effort, that could be used on doing something meaningful, like supporting and uplifting the black(vegan/or nonvegan) community.

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