The Messy Truth is That Your [Working Class] Whiteness is Not Like Trump’s [Elite] Whiteness

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I watched an episode of Van Jones’ new series “The Messy Truth” that has him talking to Trump supporters in battleground states who are convinced that voting for Trump means Trump will make America ‘great’ again by making sure the working class can have financially secure and thriving employment.

In the episode I saw, Van was in the living room of this white family in Gettysburg. There was a husband, wife and 3 sons (who are old enough to vote).  Van Jones asked the husband what the husband did when he kept on hearing the racism, the Islamaphobia, and xenophobia being spewed by Trump and a significant number of his supporters. The husband’s answer was predictable and disappointing: He said he threw all that junk/garbage away (cognitive dissonance maybe?) and concluded that all that didn’t matter. Why? Because it was all about how Trump was going to help working class families like his and that is all he (husband) should be focusing on.

The family seemed to make their support be about them needing someone who can “speak” for and help the working class..but all I heard was the white privilege to basically tell Van Jones that all that racism et. al is junk and garbage and that it doesn’t matter [to white people] because, “We’ll, I am a freaking white guy, so why the hell should I care that Trump embodies racism, anti-Muslim, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric? I am protected because my family is white just like Trump. He is looking out for the backbone of the USA which is the working class [white heteronormative] family in which the woman runs the kitchen and the man runs the home.” 

Did anyone else catch that when the husband first said that women can do whatever they want to do (in terms of career, running for office, etc) and how his wife has a Masters in Teaching… but that ultimately in their household, “Mama runs the kitchen and Dad runs the house”; wow, he sounds contradictory, proud that his wife has a Masters but still she knows her place in his household (and the upcoming Trump USA). His wife was hard to read and I wonder how honest she was being in her ’support’ of Trump and how the gender power dynamic works in that household.  She said she voted for Trump but voted for democratic candidates for everything else on her ballot on November 8. But, the thing is….

…this family is not in the same category of whiteness as Trump and his family who are part of dynastic elite whiteness. This working class family’s delusional and possessive investment in whiteness make them believe it anyway; that they are perceived by Trump as being the same caliber as Trump’s whiteness. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think it would be great to read the book Wages of Whiteness about intersection of whiteness, working class, and racism amongst working class whites. I also highly recommend the books White Rage and Possessive Investment in Whiteness. Also, revisit my older blog posts related to Trump here and here


(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist forCritical Diversity Solutions, a 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 known 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 offFoodFirst’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 candidate for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

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All Lives Matter Brings the Country Together While Black Lives Matter is ‘Dividing’ Us (Not Systemic Racism!)

"What, you're saying all this time I just had to say 'All Lives Matter' and then us Black people would be treated better? Wow, I never knew!!"
“What, you’re saying all this time I just had to say ‘All Lives Matter’ and then us Black people would be treated better and bring the country together? Wow, I never knew that! Thanks!”

So I just watched this show about Black Lives Matter and racialized police brutality and I am really confused….
Zainab Merchant is one of the co-hosts who tries to explain the importance of Black Lives Matters movement when it comes to fighting against and acknowledge racialized violence toward the collectivity of Black people in the USA. However, the other co-host named Hadi, gives an interesting analysis of “Black Lives Matter”. I think what is confusing to me is that Hadi believes that Black people should be saying “All Lives Matter” and proclaims that BLM is ‘dividing the country’ and that BLM is blowing “out of proportion,” the killing of a few Black people by police.
 
Hadi has a gross misinterpretation of the meaning and actions of the Black Lives Matter movement and phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Hadi keeps on pushing for Black people to use “All Lives Matter” instead. Well, all lives are supposed to matter, but it’s obvious it hasn’t (systemically, institutionally, historically) which is why “Black Lives Matters”, as a phrase, has been used to point this out. Black Lives Matter movement isn’t just about focusing on police brutality, but focusing on systemic racism and anti-Blackness in general and trying to eradicate it; making sure that the most marginalized of Black folk (like those incarcerated, transgender Black women, Black people with disabilities, etc) are treated humanely and fairly; that’s what the BLM site actually talks about. Yes, the police ‘brutalize’ everyone but there are clear differences racially (and class) and there is plenty of research showing this; it doesn’t mean Black Lives Matter is neglecting those realities, but rather, trying to bring awareness to the racial biases that show how Black people are generally perceived as ‘less than human’ and then treated accordingly. My husband is a white German and I never worry about him not coming back alive because of police brutality. Never. He doesn’t worry about it either. He knows he doesn’t have to. But I get to worry all the time about whether my twin brother or father will come back home alive– especially since both live in 95%+ white towns. As a matter of fact, I never worry about any of my white friends being victims of racialized violence by the police or other institutions of power. Never. Why would I have to? 
 
Hadi is claiming that Black Lives Matter is ‘dividing’ the nation (But not systemic racism or white supremacy, right? It’s us BLM supporters who are ‘dividing’ the nation– not a white supremacist capitalist based racial caste system over the past 400 years. So let’s base this on the few media representations of BLM and ‘protesting’… Ok, got it!!! ). Hello, no one said white people don’t matter, but they have been collectively ‘humanized’ for hundreds of years in a way that Black people collectively have not been. Why are we even arguing about this, still, 400+ year later? (SPLC tried to explain the point of Black Lives Matter and I think they did a good job.) And Hadi asks, “What would happen if someone put together ‘White Lives Matter’ group?” Well, actually, they have and here are the predictable results.  
And there is no deep interrogation of the Prison Industrial Complex in general or other forms of anti-Blackness that are reality in the USA during the dialogue. Actually, other than shaming Black people for not wanting to be treated like crap– due to systemic racism and anti-Blackness that this USA was built on, what was the point of Hadi’s analysis?   Why is Hadi focusing on the few mainstream media depictions of BLM protestors that show them in ‘bad light’ versus the amazing work a lot of BLM activists, scholars, etc are doing?  (And all those that came before doing Black Liberation and anti-racism work that non-white people like Hadi actually benefit from? It’s a continuum of social and restorative justice that all people will benefit from).
Of course the mainstream media is going to show us Black people opposing oppression as ‘dangerous’ and ‘anti-white’ vs. showing the work thousands are doing to end systemic oppression that screws everyone over. The mainstream media has done this since we protested being treated so badly– you know, like since ante-bellum slavery when we protested and/or fought against that and we were told we had a mental illness for protesting our enslavement by trying to run away? You know, since Reconstruction….? You know, since Jim Crow..? You know, since the Civil Rights movement….? Mainstream media is always depicting us as ‘dividing the USA’ or being ‘trouble-makers’ and ‘not knowing our place enough’ to keep the peace and let the white supremacist capitalist establishment just ‘do their thing!’ Martin Luther King Jr. was depicted by the media as a “troublemaker” back in the day. But 40+ years later he is held up as a ‘fine’ example of fighting for racial and class equality: 
The reality is that, in his time, the man we honor today with a national holiday was divisive; to many, he was a troublemaker, to force the social change we now all celebrate. He challenged the social order of things and pushed people out of their comfort zones. When Dr. King arrived in many of the same cities for which a major street is now named for him, the Mayor and the Police Commissioner viewed his visit with dread and couldn’t wait for him to leave. (Source: https://blairopolis.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/mlk-was-a-troublemaker-and-his-dream-is-not-fulfilled/)
 
Zainab does offer to her cohost to be ‘more critical’ about how systemic racism and anti-Blackness operate…but Hadi has his statistics to prove that she and the rest of us Black folk doing anti-racism work are wrong and that there is no racial bias in policing and we’re just wasting our time and being ‘divisive’. He knows best because the statistics he reads from proves that us Black people are basically more pathological and commit more crimes and that, I repeat, there is no racial bias in policing or in the criminal justice system…in any  system. (Let’s not interrogate how ‘white logic and white methods’ in gathering ‘statistical data’ about racial groups is quite biased towards upholding white supremacist notions of racialized subjects!) Who cares that Zainab is talking about implicit bias or that she brings up how racism is defined in terms or systems of power and prejudice (i.e., she bringing up context and history in how the dictionary defines racism and the significance that yes, white men wrote Merriam Webster with a white cisgendered man’s consciousness and ethical base). So, in a nutshell, “All Lives Matter” Brings the Country Together While “Black Lives Matter” (Not Systemic Racism) is “Dividing” Us? Ok, got it! Thanks.
Good to know that I had nothing to complain about the other month, when moving into my mostly white neighborhood, when the police had been called because I looked ‘suspicious’ (a Black pregnant woman moving boxes into her house). Apparently this had nothing to do with that caller’s potential conscious or unconscious biases about Black people being ‘suspicious’. (sigh). I’m not even supposed to bring that possibility up or even argue that if I had looked like Taylor Swift the police would not have been called because people who look like Swift belong in Albany CA.  Oh, and by the way, let’s not forget that anti-Blackness in this country can affect you even if you aren’t Black but are read as Black. The Indian grandfather visiting his son in Alabama and new grandchild was misread as a Black man and was slammed to the ground and paralyzed.  The logic being that a preemptive strike was needed against him to protect the mostly white neighborhood from this intrusive Black man walking in the neighborhood! Or what about the mother and daughter who were shot at by police 107 times delivering newspapers in their pickup because the police thought that a Black man was in the car?
Now I’ll go back to being ‘divisive’ and a ‘troublemaker’….

Photo on 8-29-16 at 4.28 PM #2 (1)About Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutions, a 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 known 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 offFoodFirst’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 candidate for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

SUPPORT THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT'S LATEST BOOK
SUPPORT THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT’S LATEST BOOK

Secret Ingredients of Whiteness and Intersectional Anti-Racism and Other Updates

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The NPR Secret Ingredient podcast is not available now, but I will update you once it is available and will provide the link.  To learn more about the show, go here.


(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper
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 us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.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 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 FoodscapeIn tandem with this book project, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”


BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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Fanon’s Tears, Octavia’s Hope: The Ongoing Trauma of Racialized Violence and Strategic Ignorance

fanon-s-tears

I’m still impressed that 4 years after Black Lives Matter movement was founded, thousands of white people still have the luxury of being ‘confused’ about something they could simply clarify by going to BLM’s main website to learn about it, as well as access the plethora of publications that explain BLM as (1) an intersectional framing of anti-racism and (2) continuum of liberation from decades of documented systemic racialized oppression that you can easily find in critical race legal studies publications. Instead, they send me nonsense about “Black on Black violence” or tell me, “If Black people just taught their kids to adhere to the law…”
I call it strategic ignorance, as plenty of white people can self-educate themselves about many things they were once ignorant about that have nothing to with the ‘taboo’ subject of race (well, ‘taboo’ to white people who collectively say they have no race or aren’t the problem). How many white people do I know were ignorant about learning computer programming but then educated themselves to become computer programmers? Or, how many white people do I know didn’t know anything about becoming vegan but consciously decided to teach themselves about veganism? And I know countless white people who knew nothing about Buddhism, but they then learned about it through reading, going to a sangha, etc. This syndrome of “pretend confusion” around race, racism, and racialization was articulated brilliantly in the book Race and Epistemologies of IgnoranceI highly suggest this as core reading to “unconfuse” yourselves….

The confusion, the silence, the ongoing years of, “I just don’t understand what you mean by systemic racism” or “Anti-Blackness” are simply strategic and luxuries of whiteness. I have found that those white people who do have brown and black kids (whether biologically or adopted) eventually became ‘unconfused’ once they realized their children were targets of racialized violence (whether it be their teen daughter being stopped for j walking and handcuffed or their brown son punished 3x worst than the white children who ‘act out’ in his elementary schools.) Or, they fall in love with a brown or Black person and witness first hand, clearly racialized violence against their partners when they did the same thing and got off  “Scott free.”

I think one of my other favorite books for white people to get ‘unconfused’ is George Lipsitz’s book “A Possessive Investment in Whiteness“.

The next one is Chris Crass’s book below, Toward the “Other America” Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter


I also am trying to avoid the trauma of constantly listening to white people tell ME that BLM is anti-white, anti-cop, and racist. BLOWN away and enraged by it. The response is a huge indicator of the consequences of growing up with the ‘privilege’ of being racialized as white in this white supremacist racial caste system.

This morning, I was going through NextDoor posts that are about racial profiling and listening to white identified– mostly men– whitesplain that there is no racial profiling in ‘safe’ communities like N. Berkeley and Albany. They are telling the rest of us that are not them, that us asking about racial profiling of not just police, but mostly white people calling the police about ‘suspicious’ activity has ‘nothing’ to do with race. A white man wrote that there is no racial profiling in Berkeley CA– that if [Black] people only abide by the law then there would be no negative consequences. Complete annihilation/dismissal of the reality that they suggest you simply need to be abiding by the law ‘while being black’ to not be arrested, beaten, killed. Blown away by the arrogance and it’s quite scary because he is in a camp of many , mostly white people, who strongly believe this about the USA we live in.

Sharing Journal Entry Excerpt From July 9, 2016:

Wish there were more mental health therapists trained in Frantz Fanon’s type of psychoanalysis (or similar). There are so many of us going through intense emotional pain and suffering, who need mental health care from the ongoing violences of racism (whether overt or micro-aggressive)–  both experiencing and witnessing it for 500+ years– but also from the constant violence from so many called white ‘friends’ who remain silent or make ‘excuses’….

I spent the the last year seeking someone and found one person available– a Black man in Oakland– who uses Fanon based psychoanalysis but does not take health insurance. When I did find those who do take insurance (and there were only a handful in my area), they could take any more clients. Fully booked. (sigh)

I guess a lot of us resort to other ‘therapies’ like our spiritual communities, working out, meditating, etc… but even though these can be helpful, it’s quite telling that there are not enough professional therapists ready to take on these traumas with deep literacy around the emotional consequences of living in a white supremacist racial caste system…Or, if we do have access to them, we can’t afford them because most charge $120/hr or more and/or do not accept health insurance.

I think about the years of trauma that Philando Castile’s 4 year old daughter will endure and wonder what professional therapists will be there for, trained in racialized violence and trauma, to enable healing; to make sure she can blossom and not internalized what happened to her father for her entire lifetime. I think about Alton Sterling’s 15 year old son, breaking down and crying behind the podium at the horrible realization that his father was shot to death and it was video-recorded. These are only two children that have been centered in the USA media this week out of thousands…

What about an entire collective community who is constantly experiencing these traumas with no adequate professional mental health care support that is focused on our real racialized needs? Yes, it takes more than therapy to fix a broken system, but as I re-read Fanon over the last week, I couldn’t believe how applicable his psychoanalysis from decades ago, is applicable now…

My only nightmares, since becoming a mother about 7.5 years ago, were of my children being victims of racialized violence; or my twin brother and parents being victims of racialized violence. In some of these dreams, I get phone calls that they have been killed as targets of racism. Or, there were the dreams I had the other year when my children were swept away into the past, back into antebellum USA and I jumped through some time hole to find them. Probably me reading a lot of Octavia Butler at the time that showed a terrible past (Kindred) but also amazing hope in the possibilities of afro-futurism...(check out Aph Ko’s talk about this here.)

This journal entry is what I can only call “Fanon’s Tears, Octavia’s Hope….”  

The same morning I wrote this entry I received an email from a friend. Black. Ivy league educated. Mother of a Black boy. Brilliant scholarly mind. She emailed me that if she were ever killed by the police and smeared as ‘asking for it’ because of being Black = ‘inherently criminal’, that I tell her son that it was all a lie… This is 2016…. I’ve seen a lot of these ‘reminders’ from Black friends being posted on FB. ….This is 2016…

Learn more about Frantz Fanon here.

Learn more about Octavia Butler here.


(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper
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 us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.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 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 FoodscapeIn tandem with this book project, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”


BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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2016 Birthday Wishes and Update on Book Project

I would love for you to help me meet my project fundraising goals for my birthday within the next two weeks.

In addition, your support would go to the next installment of Sistah Vegan anthology.  The first one came out in 2010 and was groundbreaking. Here is a teaser for the call for papers for the sequel. I have already invited about 5 prominent Black identified vegan women to contribute and will open it up to all to submit this summer:

Sistah Vegan: The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter (working title)

Call for Papers and other Expressive Art Forms

In 2010, Lantern Books published the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan. This was an anthology of Black women identified vegans who wrote about their practice that Dr. A. Breeze Harper edited. 

The Sistah Vegan project would like to organize and edit a sequel to Sistah Vegan called Sistah Vegan: The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter (working title). For this volume, we envision deeply critical engagements amongst Black women vegans who are actively doing social justice, food Justice, environmental justice , etc from intersectional frameworks. The theme of the volume would centralize being in an ‘era’ of Black Lives Matter and how you as a Black identified vegan woman  is engaged in the continuum of dismantling systemic racism (and other isms) that affect Black people— not just in the USA, but throughout the African diaspora. We hope to have this published by end of 2017 and already have a publisher who would like to take this on.

Link to Patreon for Sistah Vegan is here.


(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
(Photo Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper
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 us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.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.

 

“Veganism Should Always ‘Trump’ Intersectionality: Make Veganism Great [and White] Again!”

(Credit: Sistah Vegan Project 2016)
(Credit: Sistah Vegan Project 2016)

In 2005, when I first proposed to embark on my Black feminist vegan journey to learn how being racialized as Black women affected Black women vegans, I got a significant number of white vegans furious with the idea; an idea that eventually became the Sistah Vegan anthology, published in 2010.

In 2007, I completed my Masters Thesis at Harvard University that earned the Dean’s award for interrogating how covert whiteness operated amongst ‘well intended’ and ‘but I’m not racist’ white vegans on an internet site.

A few days ago on Facebook, it was posted that VegFest UK would be having their first ever conference on “intersectionality” within veganism. Shared on someone’s page, there were 5 comments– all negative and all written by white men (at least that is how I read them) who were obviously furious with the idea of ‘intersectionality’ being applied to veganism…and thought it implied that speciesism would not be part of the conference. Essentially, their responses implied that talking about how racism and sexism operate within veganism having nothing to do with veganism. They made a lot of assumptions and it was clear none of them had picked up Kimberle Crenshaw’s publications on intersectionality (nor picked up any other POC scholar engaged in holistic and intersectional approaches to racial justice, social justice, environmental justice, etc over the last 30+ years)… but these men were confident that they knew that ‘intersectionality’ has no place in veganism and that it was erasing engagement with speciesism.

It made me think about Trump and his, “Make America Great [and White] Again” rhetoric. These comments from these white vegan men made me think they were essentially saying, “Make Veganism [White &] Great Again.” This framework is cut from the same cloth, though I’m quite certain these men would never want to associate themselves with such fabric…

….that cloth is from the fabric of a white supremacist racial caste system. Really, it is no surprise that the same foundational thoughts I witness from Trump and his supporters can easily be found in the mainstream white vegan movement amongst well intended, mostly white, people who become upset and furious that “their” veganism is being “tainted” by folk like me/us (i.e. those non-white people crossing into your philosophical borders that you supposedly own as intellectual property and have always had the power to define). Aph Ko spoke about similar ‘border crossing’ within vegansim at the Whidbey Institute’s Intersectional Social Justice Conference in March of 2016.

I responded to the comments. I explained what intersectionality is and referred them to Kimberle Crenshaw (the woman who coined the term, though many people of color were engaged in the concept, long before). I then asked those who commented, what they thought about this literature and the canon developed from this. I asked them if they could tell me more of what they have learned from critical race feminism and critical animal studies which should enable them to tell me how they concluded what they have concluded about how ‘damaging’ intersectionality is, when applied to veganism … (Of course they haven’t read this canon, but I’m asking them to respond and engage because if you’re going to white mansplain ‘intersectionality’ to a Black woman with a PhD in it and a Black woman who is a vegan, you’d think you would have done some of the foundational readings to have a valid argument on why you disagree. For example, I would never jump into a conversation about a topic or discipline that I have NO FOUNDATIONAL knowledge in– just assumptions– and then confidently DEFINE what it is and should be.)

Just a reminder: You can have a vegan conference that successfully focuses on anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-classism, etc., without damaging veganism. Intersectionality (within the context of Crenshaw and similar scholars) is an enhancement to non-violence, compassion, and justice.

I personally have been written by countless numbers of non-white people over my last 10 years, who have told me that the reason they went vegan was because of how my fusion of anti-racism, critical race feminism, critical whiteness studies, and critical animal studies was more relevant and aligned more with their racialized embodied experiences; it helped to get them ‘woke’ about the importance of ahimsa veganism. That is what my intersectional scholarship and activism has done and continues to do: frame veganism in an intersectional way (using critical race feminism and critical animal studies– but not limited to) that is inclusive and inviting to a majority of non-white people who are trying to survive through and fight against systemic racism.


(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
(Photo Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper
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 us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.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.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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[Video] Afrofuturism and Black Veganism: Towards a New Citizenship

The other month I attended the Whidbey Institute’s Intersectional Justice conference where I gave a talk about Uprooting White Fragility. Aph Ko also spoke and gave us holistic food for thought around moving beyond “intersectionality” into the realm of afro-futurism. Christopher Sebastian McJetters is the amazing moderator for the entire event. The video is below and I highly advise you watch it!

Aph Ko created Black Vegans Rock and co-blogs with her sister on Aphro-ism.


About Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

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.

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 bookScars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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[VIDEO] Uprooting White Fragility: Intersectional Anti-Racism in the ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape

blackvegansrock

 

March 2016, some of us from Black Vegans Rock attended the Intersectional Justice Conference in Clinton WA at the Whidbey Institute (see photo above). It was an amazing event that you can learn more about here at Pax’s Funcrunch blog recap. Thanks Pax. Below is the professionally recorded video of Dr. A. Breeze Harper giving a talk at conference. The talk is called “Uprooting White Fragility. ”

Video Credit : Photon Factory


 

NOTE: I have given many talks with the same or similar titles but the content is always unique; I do not give the same talks over and over again.

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

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.

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 bookScars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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Intersectional Anti-Racism: The Myth of Happy Eggs, White Fragility, and Omnivorous Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape

Last week I gave this talk: Uprooting White Fragility: Intersectional Anti-Racism Within the Ethical Foodscape.

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This is the first time I have ever given a ethical food studies oriented workshop that builds on the work of Dr. DiAngelo, who coined the term white fragility.

White Fragility is basically the derailment of any action to confront white people about white privilege, the existence of a racial caste system,  or the existence of racism by invoking strong emotions and defensiveness– or just ‘being silently neutral’. It’s one of the biggest impediments in getting ‘non-racist’ white people to become true anti-racist allies. Read the whole article if you need to learn more.

I have written about white fragility and received hate, rage (when I wrote my Joel Salatin article and questioned the racist and sexist framing of ‘food and sustainability.’) However, last Friday was the first time I decided to go beyond research and writing about whiteness and offer a workshop with take away tools.

This was a great experience for me. There were about 30+ plus people who showed up from the Stanford  University community and surrounding areas. They enjoyed a catered meal from Veggie Grill. I always appreciate when I’m invited to speak and the catered meals are all vegan .

2 hours to give a workshop was certainly not enough time to talk about all the issues I wanted to, but it was more of a micro-workshop to get the ideas rolling. What I really wanted to emphasize during the workshop was that I am planting “seeds” as tools to use in creating intersectional approaches to anti-racism in the ethical foodscape (and beyond).

Intersectional anti-racism means attempting to become anti-racist activists without replicating other ‘isms’ (i.e., make sure one’s framing of anti-racism doesn’t perpetuate cissexism, ableism, etc).  I wanted to make sure that folk knew the basic racial concepts and terminology, so, I supplied a definitions sheet that explained these ideas as well as an explanation of the disciplinary studies/tools/methods that unpack them (i.e. defining racism, non-racist, and critical race feminism). I also asked folk to think about the impact systems of oppression have had on not only shaping our social identities (race, class, gender, age, ability, etc), but how most of us are unaware of how our unconscious bias around such social identities shape how we frame “ethical foodscape”; well, how we frame everything. I was not so much concerned about conscious bias as much as unconscious and its unintended consequences; even amongst those of us who think we are ethical food activist. I said, “If you don’t know you have unconscious bias and you are in a privileged social location, you will end up having negative impact by default.” I explained that for years I didn’t know I was cisgender woman with cisgender privilege, so my framing of veganism was cissexist, and though not intentional, had negative impact on transgender and gender non conforming people. Unconscious bias is very powerful. I explained how the original Sistah Vegan book and early years of my blog was framing vegan as cissexist and of course this was exclusionary and taught other cisgender identified women and men how to replicate this exclusionary vegan praxis (unintentionally, but still, it has negative impact and that is the point!).

At the end of the workshop, even though I wanted more time to explore these questions, I asked folk to talk about how and why they intervene when white fragility takes place within spaces of ethical consumption (and beyond). “What do you do when white people start talking about how they are uncomfortable, their emotions are hurt, become angrily defensive?” I wanted them to take away the idea that compassionately understanding the roots of white fragility is important, but also assertively intervening and calling white people out on that behavioral pattern is essential. I also made it clear that white people and non-white people have difference of safety when ‘intervening’- that for white people, it may just be ‘safer’ to intervene as opposed to non-white people, simply because white people are more open to, and less ‘scared’ to listen to white people, than a non-white person calling them out on their unconscious bias/unconscious racism. I asked about safety and implied that that, in itself, can be a privilege. We also brought up the dynamic of when it is appropriate to ‘intervene’ and how do you know it would not jeopardize your job (i.e., you could be a white person who has a boss in a food organization that enables white fragility, but you don’t know if you can say anything without losing your job; maybe your dissertation advisor enable white fragility and you can’t really say anything about it because of that power dynamic.)

The most memorable moment for me, during the workshop, was when a new graduate student from China approached me and asked me what was up with veganism and why vegans do not eat eggs, “Even if that animal isn’t killed.” In a brief minute, I explained to her the murder of tens of thousands of baby chickens (being ground alive, being suffocated, etc.) and the hell life that hens go through. Her response, “Why don’t more people know about this!? Everyone should know about this because I didn’t know about this. This should be part of basic education.”  I responded, “Because it’s too profitable for an animal-centric agricultural economy. You can’t sell the truth. You can’t put the photo of baby chickens being ground alive on an egg carton and expect people to buy it. You have to sell people the myth that that animal is ‘happy’. ( I wrote about this last year)” .

The mini-workshop, I hope, helped people realize not just  how white fragility operates, but also how omnivorous fragility operates (i.e. the fragile and hyper defensive responses from omnivores who have the privilege to access a vegan diet but decide to believe that narrative of ‘happy meat’ or ‘happy eggs’ despite the research showing otherwise or despite asking themselves if they’d really be ‘happy’ if they knew they’d eventually be slaughtered).  This is only a beginning…. this white supremacist racial caste system took 500 years to build, so I don’t expect a workshop to dismantle that over night (or even in my lifetime).

I will be doing more Uprooting White Fragility workshops and talks throughout the next year. Check my speaking schedule below.

If you’d like to have me come and give a talk or workshop on this subject matter or something similar, contact me at bookbreezeharper@gmail.com . My speaking schedule is below, via Google Calendar.


Dr. A. Breeze Harper
Dr. A. Breeze Harper

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper

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.

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 us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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On Beating Up “N*ggers” While on Patrol: An Engaged Mindfulness + Critical Race Feminist Response

She read the reports. She knew they used the word “nigger” to describe Black people. Using “nigger” in that context makes it incredibly difficult for many Black people to respond in a way that isn’t an “eye for an eye”… Judge Evans was able to not do an “eye for and eye”, despite that. That is a very difficult thing to do and the impact is amazing…

Thank you so much Judge Vonda Evans. You are one of my new heroes. Amazing how you first focused on the racism of white cops who just wanted to beat up “niggers” (which was captured on social media exchanged by cops who supported this activity)…. to explaining that this is a microcosm of systems of oppression, the lack of structural support of the city, the lack of training and mental health resources available for police officers, etc. She does not excuse them for the violently racist behavior towards this black man they nearly beat to death. However, she shows compassion in understanding how an exploitative system is unhealthy for all, including the racist cops who publicly believe they can beat up “niggers” as their pass-time. Judge Evans makes the connections…even bringing in Flint MI.

This is what a critical race feminist framing of justice and engaged mindfulness (I called it engaged Buddhism) looks like. Judge Evans  “reminds” the defending officer that despite his despicable behavior captured on video, he is still capable of being an amazing human being she knows he can be; that this one horrible act doesn’t mean that this is who he was in the past, who he is now, or who he will be in the future.

After the weeks of me trying to understand the constant hate towards my critical race feminist analysis, intersectional, and engaged Buddhist (some know it as mindfulness) approaches to ethical consumption, this video reminded me why we Black folk doing this work are so powerful; why we scare the white beneficiaries of this white supremacist capitalist racial caste system. Many of these beneficiaries don’t know they are ‘benefiting’ from this system and many do; many think they are being ‘objective’ but in fact, think and act as racialized white subjects And though Judge Evans doesn’t say it exactly, it is unclear who really benefits from this white supremacist capitalist racial caste system in the long run, including these white cops who may have racial privilege but do not have socio-economic privilege such a a system was supposed to guarantee for people who look like them.

Our intersectional approach to social justice with a critical race feminist framework is not playing “identity politics” , “playing the race card”, or has a “white hating” racist agenda (click here and here to see what I am referring to). Thank you again for reminding me of this Judge Evans. And even though you do not mention this in your sentencing, your embodied experience as a black woman in a white supremacist capitalist racial caste system, has produced a unique consciousness around ethics and justice that is a gift. And because of your powerful position, you were able to leverage that.

Without spite, Judge Evans served justice engaged mindfulness  to both the defending officer and the man he hurt so badly. Yes, you can tell her heart is broken and she is so frustrated, but you can tell that she is not an “eye for an eye” human being in this moment. She doesn’t pinpoint the one bad thing this officer was documented doing, via video, and then allow that to permanently define who he was, is, or can be.  


Dr. A. Breeze Harper
Dr. A. Breeze Harper

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.

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 us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

patreon

Speaking Schedule of A. Breeze Harper