Responding to Fear Through Killing vs. Compassion: The Crane Fly and the Three Year Old

 

My 3 year old was crying in the bathroom. She said there was a bee in the bathroom and she was scared of it. She said she hated it and it was going to hurt her. I informed her that this is not a ‘bee’. That it is not an ‘it’, but a living being.  At the time, I do not know what type of insect this is, but the insect looks like a very very big mosquito (which I later will learn is a Crane Fly). I know they are harmless… I explain to her that the insect must be really scared: “I mean, just imagine you are lost, away from home, from your family, and this huge being is hooting and hollering about how they are scared of you and want to squish you. I mean, how terrified would you be when all you want to do is find your family and friends and be safe again?”

A few minutes later, she comes to me, calmly and says, “Mama, I want to help the bug find his family.” This is a very very awesome thing for her to say, because since she was about 14 months old, she has always conveyed to me how she is scared of spiders and insects; ‘hates them’. And for nearly 2 years I have explained to her that you can’t go around scared and hating beings just because they ‘scare you’ or ‘look funny’. “It’s not the being’s problem that you have issues…and you shouldn’t try to stomp or kill the insect or spider unless they’re trying to hurt you” I would say (or similar).

It is hard for her to fully understand what I have been telling her for the last 2 years, and for her to put the philosophy into practice. We live in a US culture in which most children’s parents are telling them that if a bug or spider scares them, “kill ‘it'”. Many of the parents at the playground I have encountered do kill the bugs and spiders their children are hooting and hollering about. Dealing with one’s fear of another being that means them no harm, by “killing it”,  is cruel and problematic on many levels. This method does not teach children compassionate and critical engagement with the beings they share the planet with. And how does this rhetoric infiltrate how they engage with human beings they fear who mean them no harm?(i.e., cisgender kids who ‘fear’ children who are not cisgender, due to learning this rhetoric in a cissexist society, so their response may be to bully and harass these children they are taught to fear.)

Also, I have observed that it is mostly girls in the USA, who are taught to be scared of insects and arachnids and to not find anything worth learning about these beings. I’d even argue that this has been one of many ways to socialize cis-girls into “proper” girlhood (whereas cis-boys are socialized to not be scared of these little beings and/or expected to be ‘brave’ enough to kill them to impress girls or ‘save’ them from these little creatures = “proper” boyhood).

I am teaching my 3 year old (and other 3 kids) a way to interact with insects and spiders that my father taught me when I was a little girl (I talk about this in Sister Species). One day, I was about 9, and I had been hooting and hollering about a spider I wanted him to kill because I was scared of the little creature. He told me it wasn’t the spider’s problem that I was scared of them and that killing the spider as a solution to my issues was not going to solve the root of my problem; my fear. He had tried to teach me this for years, but for some reason, it resonated with me and it was an ‘a-ha’ moment. (It was the same year he was kind of pissed when he saw me deeply cutting into a tree in our yard, to peel its layers of bark off. He said something like, “What is wrong with you? That’s like peeling the skin off of you while you are alive. Would you like that?” The tree survived and is still in the yard with a deep scar– and I still feel like a fool and ashamed for having done something so ignorant and unmindful, whenever I see that scar, decades later. )

So, I am uber psyched that my 3 year old finally had an ah-ha moment and realized that this being should not be squished but that she should try to help them as much as she can.  We went through similar with our first born in 2014, and I talk about this in the blog post, “Mama, Do Police Eat Animals?”

Here are two excellent resources for children:

Humane Education (Teaching Kindness and Activism for Humans, Animals and the Environment)

Teaching Tolerance and Activism for Children in Regard to Human Beings


Dr. A.Breeze Harper (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

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 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 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

The Prop of Black People in White Self-Perceptions: Revisiting the Slavery Comparison (Guest Post: Christopher Sebastian McJetters)

 Guest Post From Christopher Sebastian McJetters (December 28, 2015)prop (2)

For the past week, I have been following discussions in different spaces where white vegans are arguing about what I suppose is their inherent ‘right’ to appropriate slavery in order to further the narrative of animal rights. And yes, the vegans in question are almost ALWAYS white. That alone should tell us a lot. But unfortunately it doesn’t.

Let me share an experience from my own life that might explain why this is problematic. This past summer, I was with a very progressive white vegan and his family. An opportunity arose for him to bring up veganism again in front of his mother. I can’t remember what it was. A news story perhaps where she expressed some empathy for an individual animal or something like that.

Anyway, seizing upon that opportunity, the slavery comparison came out of his mouth. For a brief moment, nobody said anything. None of the three of us. We just sat there in his mother’s kitchen. And then she suddenly started falling all over herself. Handling objects, moving things around, cleaning furiously, with a worried frown on her face. She just kept muttering overe and over about slavery. “What does slavery have to do with anything? Why would he even say that? What kind of a person does he think I am? I would never support slavery!”

And it eventually dawned on me that all of her fretfulness had to do with me. Me. As author Claudia Rankine would say, I was a black object immediately thrown against a stark white background. I was a prop in a discussion between two white people — one white person who was looking to use a history of blackness to make another white person understand a point he wanted to drive home and another white person who was deeply invested in not seeming racist.

In truth, this discussion stopped being about the animals. In fact, it might never have been about animals at all. It was about whiteness. Neo-liberal white guilt on the part of my friend. And white fears on the part of his mother. They had centered their white feelings to the detriment of the animal victims involved. And there, for all the world, sat me. With my own history laid bare and a voyeur to a scene where everyone was desperately uncomfortable with my presence.

And this isn’t an isolated incident. This is what it often means to use slavery in the context of animal rights. His mother didn’t have his foundational comprehension of critical race theory. She didn’t share any knowledge of intersectional feminism or have a context of power, oppression, and privilege. She’s a homemaker. A woman who was raised in the bosom of capitalist patriarchy in the United States and who worshiped at the altar of American Exceptionalism. She had no understanding about the reality of animal slavery whatsoever. All she knew in that moment was that she didn’t want to be racist. And in dealing with her white fragility, this conversation threatened her self perception.

Yes, there are times when the slavery discussion is productive. I don’t disagree with that. But overall, this is what we’re looking at. This is the reality of introducing slavery. It can help. It can be useful. But the dangers of letting the discussion center whiteness are very real. And don’t even get me started on how whiteness invokes slavery when having this discussion with black nonvegans. It’s nothing short of emotional blackmail. And emotional blackmail is one of “the master’s tools” as Audre Lorde is famously quoted as saying.

For the record, I also keep hearing white vegans say that the animal rights community is unfairly singled out when making comparisons to human rights. But that criticism is also untrue. In the past decade, we’ve watched queer activists fetishize American blackness to win human rights for the queer community. Some people here might even recall The Advocate magazine famously ran a cover with the headline “Gay Is The New Black?” and black Americans everywhere doubled over with laughter.

This isn’t to say that queer persons don’t experience discrimination or are not meaningfully oppressed. We are! But to compare queerness to blackness is (bluntly stated) insulting. And I say this AS a queer black U.S. American. The ways in which I am oppressed based on my queer identity compared to how I am oppressed based on my black identity aren’t even in the same ballpark. And as with animal rights issues, blackness was (and is) left once again worse off than before (see: police violence). Meanwhile, white (and largely male) gays are victoriously picking out China patterns for their weddings.

And we see this reproduced over and over again in white feminism when celebrities like Patricia Arquette andNancy Lee Grahn behave as if black people either owe white women something or opportunities for black people are equal across racial lines.

Basically what we’re looking at is a pattern whereby blackness is used and commodified at different times and by different groups to further an agenda without offering any type of real solidarity on black issues. And if animal rights doesn’t address this, our activism will be no different.

I have said repeatedly (and still maintain) that I don’t think the language of slavery should be entirely abandoned or that certain people are forbidden to use it. Some resources like Marjorie Spiegel’s classic The Dreaded Comparison make these connections respectfully and forcefully without compounding racial aggressions. Three tips for how to be a good ally against racism and speciesism:

1.) Stop being too liberal with how we apply such incendiary language, and learn to employ better sensitivity and discernment when approaching these discussions.

2.) Amplify the voices of marginalized people who talk about these issues themselves instead of appropriating their histories or experiences to further our agendas. Noble though your intentions may be, what does it say about your activism if you need to say incendiary things when you don’t have those experiences?

3.) Make an attempt to understand how layered oppressions impact different groups to maximize our impact and build a broader, more inclusive community.


Learn more about the guest author Christopher Sebastian McJetters.

 

This is the Impact Gary Francione and Ruby Hamad’s ‘Moment in Time’ Had on My Engaged Buddhist Practice

[Updated Monday Dec 21, 21:20 PST]

 

francione

 

I posted the above last night on Facebook and, at first, was most interested in the focus on my first pregnancy from 2008. At first I was thinking about how a person’s body has frequently been used as a site of ‘moral baseline’ when they are pregnant ( say ‘person’ because not all human persons who are pregnant identify as a cisgender woman). I could go into this in more detail, but I am not going to spend time on that. Instead, I wanted to reflect a little differently on my post above from Dec 20 2015 to talk about the impact Francione’s article had on me (which was impacted by Hamad’s article) and my developing practice of engaged Buddhism  which my anti-racism and Ahimsa are rooted in.

I’m not hurt or traumatized by how Francione is using my work and talking about my lecture or using my pregnancy as an example to explain his moral baseline; I say this first because of how many people contact me about how ‘bad’ Francione is. Secondly, I have written and lectured about, plenty of times, that my 2nd and 3rd pregnancies were vegan. Also, since the last few years, I have offered several vegan pregnancy webinars. I have also publicly spoken about how much my own confidence improved once I was pregnant the second time around and found more support around de-programming my mind. I needed to decolonize/deprogram my mind around “proper omnivorous dietary pre-natal nutrition to not harm your baby” ideologies so deeply entrenched in USA society that I had clearly internalized. I was not scared to openly speak about these conflicts, knowing full well that a lot of pregnant people trying to practice veganism, had gone through or were currently going through similar.
To my fans: No defense of my work needed or labeling Francione as ‘bad’ (or other language that has been used that I won’t repeat). For me, these responses, though well intended, are not in the spirit of the Ahimsa I personally practice. More or less, I am sincerely curious about how these things transpire; the amount of energy and effort expended. For the most part, when these situations transpire, I try to practice this current mantra that I’m continuing to develop:

I can only do my best.

Try to be as mindful as possible with the understanding that that is no ‘guarantee’ in preventing negative impact.

Instead, be open to and learn from that unintended impact.

Understand the impact my ignorances will have.

And not be so focused on pleasing everyone.

Accept how my privileges have negative outcomes if I can’t acknowledge them or consciously dismantle the system that keep them in place.

Be compassionate to myself and to those who experience me as ‘the enemy’.

Be dynamic and non-fundamentalist.

Try not to have reactive responses or be so quick to ‘prove’ how ‘right’ I am and how ‘wrong’ everyone else is.

Keep on working towards what types of actions are needed to create a world with the least amount of suffering.

 
I know many folk are quick to call someone out as ‘bad’, ‘evil’, ‘horrible’, but I’m not really interested so much in labeling people ‘bad’, ‘good’, ‘moral’, ‘immoral’, as much as i’m interested in how it comes to be that individuals can be so confident that their ‘way’ is the moral baseline (whether vegan or not) ; especially when they have only had the embodied experience of their self and haven’t had the chance of ‘being’ the millions of humans who came before or the billions who are in existence now. I’m not actually targeting Francione; I’m speaking about most human beings who firmly believe that their way is the right and only way. We all have done it/do it. But are we mindful of it and actively trying to not repeat it?
 
And then throw social media in as a ‘medium’ for [mis]communication, and wow! It gets tough.
 
If I spent all my time defending myself, that is all I’d be doing. Francione thinks a certain way and I can’t control the impact; I can’t control how he received what I do. I can’t let myself become emotionally and physically unwell from the potential stress that this may cause, along with all the other folk who interpret my work the way they do (remember, I always get anger, vitriol, even death threats from mostly white people who don’t like what I have written and can’t or won’t spend my time consumed with it).  
 
I can learn from all of these moments, whether I agree or not, and know I have learned that this person (Francione) uses my work in the way that they do; that there are many who support him and many who do not for various reasons I can’t control. The creation of Hamad and Francione’s essays have allowed me to learn a little more about them, but also learn how the dynamics of race, gender, whiteness, ethics, play out  in a system (here in the USA) that generally privileges white able-bodied cisgender men.
 
I also don’t know Francione and he doesn’t know me; I don’t have an intimate relationship with him (and by intimate, I don’t mean romantic; I mean I don’t have a deep friendship developed over time and trust). What he ‘knows’ is what he has experienced from my blog or lectures (which are videos on my blog). Those are ‘pieces of Breeze’s work’, but not the entirety of Breeze. It doesn’t reflect that Breeze, like all humans, is always transforming, growing, on a continuum to reach some ‘moral baseline’ that will probably always be dynamic and most likely not come from the taken for granted lineage of ‘Eurocentric cisgender men’s canon of morality’ that philosophy in the USA (Academe, at least) is rooted in as ‘common sense’.
Also, I find it pointless to jump on the bandwagon of anti-Francione or pro-Francione, and then start bashing or uplifting Francione. A lot of people do this, but I honestly am not interested. I don’t know how such actions create compassion, solidarity, love and how I personally engage with the concept of Ahimsa. A lot of people take screenshots of certain people or organizations that supposedly ‘bash’ me or simply disagree with me. Although I appreciate folk making me aware of this, I can’t really do much about how I am received; I can’t spend all my time responding to every screen shot that ‘captures’ a moment in time of how someone may not like me (or also may idolize me). I am more concerned about the impact and dangers of doing both, though I know these screen shots are sent to me with the best intentions: Remember, they are moments in time and don’t necessarily define or represent the entire human being that that action is coming from, historically, in the present, or in the future. 
 
I think there is a danger in taking something out of context, and from one point in time, to ‘prove’ that this is how this person is ALL THE TIME. Please note, I’m not fundamentalist about this belief, as I know there are certain situations when it is more clear that a particular ‘captured’ action in that moment in time is a red flag (and still, that is often difficult to decipher) that needs to have some mindful and strategic intervention.
In terms of taking something out of context or from a single point in time to ‘prove’ how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ something is…. We have all done this before (me too) and often don’t realize that people are dynamic, and what one says or does on March 5 at 6pm in 1976 doesn’t mean that that is how they define their entire existence, how they were in the past, or how they will be in the future. I am more interested in the overall timeline of one’s consciousness, life, actions, and what patterns I do or do not see, what hints of potential change and room for growth I see, and what it could mean for the future of contributing to the alleviation of suffering and pain; what can I learn from it, whether I agree or not? 
 
So, what I mean is that I like to experience people over time, experience how they may or may not have changed, how their social locations impact that change, etc. I read works from my favorite folk and it’s clear that what they said, did, thought, etc 50 years go, changed, evolved, etc 10 years later, then 10 years later again, etc. To pinpoint one part of body of work without context and then to not bring in the grace and compassion to understand that humans are dynamic creatures on a continuum of consciousness raising and growing is a challenge for most of us to overcome, in my humble opinion– especially when we are speaking from a social location of power and privilege and fear that loss of the power and privilege. 
 
Also, for context, I come from the spiritual practice and training of engaged buddhism, influenced by Zen Buddhism. Ruby Hamad and Gary Francione, I just wanted to let you know that this blog post is the impact both of you have had on my developing practice of engaged Buddhism and Ahimsa; these  are ‘central’ to my personal ‘moral baseline’ [that will always be on a continuum]. I appreciate it, because what it has done is allowed me to practice responding to actions and impact and not necessarily ‘take the bait’ or be ‘ensnared’ into trying to defend myself or prove myself all the time; it’s teaching me to understand the difference between responding to an individual vs. understanding actions and their impact.
I think for me, most importantly, it’s taught me how much fear plays into why so many of us respond in individual attack (consciously or not) if or when our privileged social locations are questioned. Fear + being in a privileged social location + anxiety around losing that privilege and power (conscious or not)  is real and its negative impact is significant. (Fear + being subjugated by those in a privileged social location + anxiety and suffering around being hurt by that person  in a privileged social location from benefiting from systemic oppression is real and I am not ignoring that. The latter is a very different dynamic than the former).  I am still working very hard on how to respond to the former. I attempted to do similar a few months ago (though not perfect example) in a different situation, when trying to understand how fear and hurt emotions from someone in a privileged social location, potentially impacted a response that intended to be rational
To those who are reading this blog post:

What are your thoughts on Ruby Hamad’s letter and Francione’s response?

What was the immediate impact this ‘moment in time’ had on you?

Can you speculate what the long-term impact could be?

Is there a way to answer the questions above that I am asking without instantly labeling each individual who wrote their articles as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but talking more about how they ‘frame’ it within particular systems of [human] based power and privilege (or lack there of)?  

Is there a way to engage and answer with compassion and unconditional love, with mindful critique and appreciation– even if you don’t agree with me, Hamad, and or Francione?

Or, is that request too traumatizing and triggering for many of you because of the negative impact Francione’s actions may have had on you? I asked this last question because I got a lot of posts on FB and private communication from people that explained the negative impact Francione’s actions have had on them. 


About the Author and The Sistah Vegan Project

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

Dr. Harper currently manages the Staff Diversity Initiative’s Multicultural Education Program at UC Berkeley and is the founder of the Critical Diversity Solutions. Check her profile out on LinkedIn. Inquire about Dr. A. Breeze Harper lecturing or giving a workshop at your organization, school, or business. Find out how you can donate to the Sistah Vegan Project.

(UPDATED) The [White Savior] Elephant in the Room: Ally Theater, Savior Complex, and Speaking for ‘The Other’

[THIS POST IS UPDATED FROM YESTERDAY. I DIDN’T KNOW I HAD PUBLISHED AN EARLIER VERSION WHICH LEFT OUT PATTRICE JONES’ WORK]

Ally Theater (2)

[Note: Christopher Sebastian McJetters is a Black and vegan man who approaches non-human animal compassion activism with anti-racist and decolonial frameworks.]

Years ago (but post-2000), my friend, a person from Africa ( I won’t be too specific to protect their identity) was studying at UC Berkeley as an Anthropology doctoral student. They told me that they saw a disturbing poster in their Anthropology department. The poster had the images of indigenous African people and gorillas, with the question, “Who will speak for them?”

They were appalled, but certainly not surprised; the traditional discipline of Anthropology in the USA was fundamentally a white colonialist/imperialist project: on many levels, that poster reflected that continuing tradition, whether intentional or not (because it’s all about impact and not intentions). My friend wrote on a public forum about the experience:

The now infamous Gorilla poster is wrong on so many levels; however, my initial views concerning the poster’s phrases and imagery straddled the line between applauding the conservationism and masking my embarrassment over the overt paternalism inherent in the question: “Who will speak for them?”

Did it occur to the creators of the poster that they (meaning the “Indigenous people”) could speak for themselves? That rather than speaking for someone they could act as allies transmitting their message to areas they cannot reach, if in fact they are incapable of reaching such areas on their own?

Despite being bothered by the line, I wasn’t the least bit shocked by the poster. I’m kinda used to encountering that line of thinking, even at Cal. This type of conditioning results from a life time of hearing, seeing, and reading others act as if they can speak on my “Indigenous” behalf in the way that parents do for their children.

P.D.
It didn’t occur to me that the poster’s content could be interpreted as comparing Sub-Saharan Africans to Gorillas. The notion that some groups of people are “monkey-like” is not universal and certainly not an a priori form of perception and understanding. Sadly, some of the people making such comparisons will do so regardless of reason and truth. We can just work to ensure that that crowd becomes (or remains) a minute minority that doesn’t perpetuate its perspective

(Source: http://savageminds.org/2012/03/04/a-plea-for-anthropology/)

Though savior complex and ally theater are not limited to white people, I am focusing more or less on white savior complex within the USA. This is because a significant number of POC (vegan and non-vegan) experience ‘post-racial’ white people involved in animal rights (and other spaces) as being on a mission[ary] to be their allies save them. But, these “saviors'” are collectively ignorant about a centuries old history of [white] savior complex and have not engaged in any self-interrogation about its impact on how they both relate to non-white people and non-human animals…and how that, in turn, racializes and socializes them into whiteness.

And by ‘save them’, I mean the goal is to save the collectivity of POC from their perspectives that are so centered on anti-racism (which is read as “irrational and distracting” by the collectivity of white animal rights/vegans). POC must be saved and taught that non-human animals come first while issues around race and whiteness are not only secondary, but divisive and distracting.

However, veganism and animal rights are not the only spaces in which [white] savior complex and speaking for the ‘other’ can happen. White anti-racist and vegan activist pattrice jones’ recent book Oxen at the Intersection, critically analyzes the impact of white supremacist and ableist logic in terms of speaking for ‘the animals’. The book narrates the story of two oxen at a Vermont College, Bill and Lou, that focuses on locavorism and ‘traditional’ pre-industrial use of non-human animals. Even though there is a lot going on in her brilliant book, I can’t emphasize enough how students, staff, and faculty at Green Mountain College felt compelled to speak for the oxen through their white supremacist and speciesist imagination of how the oxen can ‘best’ serve the mostly white bodied campus. They ‘saved’ the oxen from having ‘meaningless’ lives by forcing them into a life of servitude and being part of a nostalgic white pre-industrial agricultural narrative…nothing short of the ‘noble savage’ narrative applied to the non-human animals who cannot speak for themselves or have their own agency to determine if they even want to be part of this white bygone-era farming narrative.

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but get the sense that collectively, these people who wanted to decide the fate of Lou and Bill considered themselves non-human animal allies. These ‘good allies’ were teaching Bill, Lou, and other non-human animals how to make a mostly white campus look ‘ethical’ and ‘holier than thou’ when it comes to sustainability and creating a better food system.  The ‘white innocence’ agricultural narrative and image, depended on how this pro-locavore white Green Mountain College community spoke for these animals as both their ‘allies’ and their saviors– whether Bill and Lou truly benefited or not (which isn’t really the point; branding a white dominated college in white dominated Vermont as the symbol of white ethical practices around farming and food is the point).   (Click on title below for more info)

51J1xYzcGNL._SL1025_

So, now that you’ve read this post, here are some questions below (but don’t feel limited by them).

  1. What was your initial reaction after reading the quotes?
  2. Have you ever engaged in ally theater or savior complex?
  3. Were you ever called out because you were engaging in ally theater or savior complex behavior, and if so, how did you respond?
  4. If you identify as white, have you every leveraged ‘being an ally’ or savior  for non-white folk and/or non-human animals to show how you are ‘one of the good whites’? (You may not even be conscious of having done so)

Thanks Christopher Sebastian McJetters for starting this conversation and giving me permission to post. Thanks pattrice jones for your amazing book.


About the Author and The Sistah Vegan Project

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

Dr. Harper currently manages the Staff Diversity Initiative’s Multicultural Education Program at UC Berkeley and is the founder of the Critical Diversity Solutions. Check her profile out on LinkedIn. Inquire about Dr. A. Breeze Harper lecturing or giving a workshop at your organization, school, or business.

Getting Real About Race: A Starter Toolkit for Understanding Race in Ethical Consumption (Veganism, Animal Rights, and More)

If Race is Just a Skin Color...

I have spent the last 10 years writing and giving lectures about how whiteness impacts ethical consumption and beyond in the USA. The number 1 theme of confusion I have encountered, about this topic of race and whiteness, is from mostly white people who literally do not understand how race and racialization are historically, socially, physically, geographically, and legally constituted. Most white identified people who have spent their formative years in the USA or other white dominated societies, seem to believe that race is simply a “skin color” with certain phenotypes like ‘blonde hair’ or ‘thin lips’ as race markers; even more so, most think racism is not a significant impediment to equity and inclusion, despite the rigorous post-2000 data showing otherwise. For this demographic, race is simply ‘skin color’ and basically a ‘thing of the past’….

…But nothing could be further from the truth.

Several major questions I have asked in response to [white] constructions of race being about ‘skin color’ have been:

If race is just about ‘skin color’, then why have I constantly been told that I sound ‘white’? How can one possibly ‘hear’ one’s skin color?

If race is only about skin color, then why were the Irish in the USA, up until the 20th century, not considered white like White Anglo Saxon Protestants, despite having the same skin color? How were they and other light skinned European immigrants able to work towards whiteness?

If race is just about skin color, why was my newborn baby in 2009, who was born with very fair skin and bright blue eyes and straight brown hair considered to be ‘Black’ by some yet “White” by others?   

In SPLC’s latest Teaching Tolerance newsletter, H. Richard Milner IV’s work is cited. I took a screenshot of how SPLC is teaching people about how the concept of race operates beyond the skin color myth. (See below)

GettingRealAboutRace

(Source: http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-51-fall-2015/feature/excerpt-getting-real-about-race)


 

Toolkit for “Excerpt: Getting Real About Race” in the Ethical Consumption World

The best holiday turkey….

image

I saw this beautiful turkey family a few minutes ago, while driving in Berkeley, CA. I thought to myself , “The best Holiday turkeys are ones that can spend time with their families and stay alive too!” Until I learned about the sentience of non human animals, I too believed the American myth fed to me that turkeys are stupid , which justified why it is ‘okay’ to raise and kill them as a symbol for humans to share family time together. Before I read about veganism, I was never told that they feel pain, have families, have relationships, and care for each other.

I saw these animals after having left my natural grocery store that was asking people to ‘Order your holiday birds’.  And of course as a natural store, the birds being sold as being humanely raised and organic. I know I don’t feel like being humanely raise and then slaughtered , so not sure how or why so many people think that that is really okay.

Watching Slaughterhouse vs. Strawberry Harvest Videos: How Plant Harvesting is Often Romanticized as Cruelty-Free

I was on one of my FB sites dedicated to anti-speciesism. Someone posted this photo below.

slaughter
Source: Facebook

I do understand why they posted this.  But…

…I felt compelled to mention that strawberry harvesting, though not nearly as visually ‘gruesome’ and as directly ‘cruel’ as slaughtering non-human animals, does not mean that the harvesting of strawberries is cruelty-free (as applied to those of us who buy strawberries vs. those of us who have the ‘privilege’ of growing our own to pick). Thousands of human laborers, mostly brown people from what is considered Latin America, harvest strawberries (and many other vegetables and fruits) in cruel conditions. Being sprayed with pesticides, not having access to clean water and toilets, working for poverty level wages, etc are what a significant number of what these folk must go through. I don’t mean to throw a wrench in this image and text’s meanings, but I really think this is something I often see being elided within talks about how one’s conscious is more ‘clean’ by eating vegan diets of fruits and veggies in North America. Once again, I am not saying or equating the slaughter of non-human animals as the SAME as exploited and abused human farm laborers; both practices are disgusting and cause a lot of pain and suffering. However, I just want to point out that the former (non human animal slaughter) is always made visible amongst the vegan mainstream in the USA, while the latter (harvesting strawberries or other plants for human consumption under horrible and insufferable conditions) is painted as something one need not think deeply about [since non-human animals weren’t directly harmed].

Here is a book that can help us think more about not getting swept up in what looks like an ‘easy’ binary to make. The cover has a laborer picking strawberries. Click on the title to learn more:

fresh-fruit-hero
Source: http://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/fresh-fruit-broken-bodies-the-true-cost-of-our-produce/

The Food Empowerment Project, a pro-vegan organization, also advocates more awareness around the human cruelty endured by farm laborers.   Lauren Ornelas, ED of the Food Empowerment Project,  discusses these issues in this video below:

Enjoy this article? See what Dr. Harper is doing for her next book project and how you help fund it. Click below.

gofundme

Update: G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)

gofundme

I have updated my new book goals and TITLE. Originally titled “Living Bling, Going Green”: Redefining Black Masculinities Through Hip Hop and Veganism, I changed it to this….

Title: “G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix).

ceeknow
Cee Knowledge (left), Breeze Harper, DJ Cavem (right)

 

Book Description: Vegan mainstream rhetoric often falls into a post-racial mindset; that is, the assumption that since the Civil Rights Acts, racism and legacies of colonialism are no longer significant impediments to achieving equality in the USA. Furthermore, rarely does the vegan mainstream reflect on how structural racism shapes one’s logic, goals, and communication strategies around ethical consumption.

In this book, I will explore how key Black male vegans are employing hip-hop methods to create race-conscious and decolonial approaches to vegan activism. Such icons will include vegan chef Bryant Terry, Kevin Tillman of the Vegan Hip Hop Movement, hip hop and eco conscious musician DJ Cavem, and Stic.Man of Dead Prez.

These men are examples of alternative black masculinities, cooking up complex and complicated models of ethical consumption, environmental justice, and nutritional activism that you won’t find in the popular PETA campaigns or the bestselling books Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard.

What also makes this book unique is that I will use social science based methodologies such as black feminism, decoloial theory, and critical pedagogies of consumption to analyze the work of these men. Simultaneously, the writing style will be fun, easily accessible, inspirational and critical; one need not have a graduate degree in critical theory to understand it.

Goal: Ultimately, the goal of the book is to show how intersectionality of race-conscious, decolonial thought, and hip hop activism do not DISTRACT from the tenets of veganism, but in fact strengthen it. This is Sistah Vegan Anthology’s sibling and long overdue. If you enjoyed Sistah Vegan, you will enjoy this new book project, which I gave an amazing introductory lecture about at Oberlin College this past spring 2014.

Delivery date to press: Fall 2016.

Funds will be used to pay for travel to areas such as Denver, CO to interview DJ Cavem, copy editing, proof reading, cover design, a new computer (mine died), and promoting the book.

I already have a press for the book. Once I sign the contract, I will let my fans know who it is with.

If you also want to know more about my writing and success in this field, you can go to http://www.abreezeharper.com .
gofundme

Sick of Children's Music That Promotes Speciesism? Me Too.

As a picky mom when it comes to my children’s musical entertainment, it is hard to find vegan-friendly and non-human animal friendly music! I am glad we have Michal “Peanut” Karmi to help change that.

Michal is amazing and she visited us here in Berkeley, CA a few days ago. We met Michal a few years ago while she was in graduate school at UC Berkeley. A very committed animal rights oriented vegan, she also has the unique talent of connecting amazingly with little kids through song. My children, 2.5 and 5, are obsessed with her first album. She has a new album she is working on and I highly recommend it. It will help kids think in non-human animal friendly ways. And let’s face it: most children’s music albums in the USA are quite speciesist.  Please support her newest album through this kickstarter campaign. Also, enjoy the photos of her singing to our family. She is a wonderful spirit!

DSC_9483DSC_9504
DSC_9515DSC_9523

 

The Best Damn Vegan Oriented Children's Singer: Meet Michal Peanut Karmi

Michal is amazing and she visited us here in Berkeley, CA a few days ago. We met Michal a few years ago while she was in graduate school at UC Berkeley. A very committed animal rights oriented vegan, she also has the unique talent of connecting amazingly with little kids through song. My children, 2.5 and 5, are obsessed with her first album. She has a new album she is working on and I highly recommend it. It will help kids think in pro-vegan and anti-speciesist ways. And let’s face it: most children’s music albums in the USA are quite speciesist.  Please support her newest album through this kickstarter campaign. Also, enjoy the photos of her singing to our family. She is a wonderful spirit!

DSC_9483DSC_9504
DSC_9515DSC_9523