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.

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