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.

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SUPPORT THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT’S LATEST BOOK

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

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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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[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

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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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“How could ‘we’ let Trump happen?” Don’t include [Black] me in your [white] ‘we’]

trump-happen (2)
Are white people who consider themselves non-racist and non-Trump/non-Cruz supporters really SURPRISED that there are millions of violently racist white people in the USA ” all of a sudden?”
Here’s a confession: I am more angry and pissed off about this convenient lack of awareness from “moderate” and/or liberal “But I am not racist” white people than I am from the obvious racist and xenophobic Pro-Trump or Pro-Cruz supporters I see going viral on social media. This lack of awareness is more traumatizing for me to hear from my white friends and acquaintances; especially when they keep on telling me that they are “shocked” or “surprised” that “we” let this happening or, “I don’t understand how we in the USA let this happen!?”
 
First of all, don’t include me in your ‘we’– I didn’t let sh*t happen. Own it and what you really should be saying is, “How did we ‘but I’m not racist’ white people let this happen?”
 
Stop sending me essays and articles that talk about “how did ‘we’ let this happen?” and then never take any ally-building actions. Sharing an article on Facebook or Twitter is not the type of activism that is going to tackle both systemic racism and your learned ignorance. 
Oh, and my quick answer is this: this has been happening since colonialism. Systemic racism, overt racism, etc isn’t new. The mere fact that you don’t have the racial literacy to understand how and why it is happening is frustrating to me. Muhammad Ali had the same frustrations about the ‘not all white people are racist’ in 1970….
The racial ignorance of ‘non-racist’ white people is strategically designed to be this way; this ignorance is the ‘glue’ that keeps the more extreme ‘white racists’ in the place that they are in and have always been in; it is the glue that sustains the millions of White people that support Trump and Cruz. And I repeat: just sharing posts about ‘bad racist whites’ on social media is not enough. I still consider it bystander mentality. If you don’t [want to] understand the impact of white liberal ignorance (read Marc Lombardo); if you don’t [want to] understand the evolution of the 500+ year long white supremacist racial caste system in the USA…If you didn’t even know that we’re supposed to ‘know’, then of course, “that is how YOU (not ‘we’) let this happen.”
And let’s face it: you’ve been this way since the ante-bellum slavery officially ended. You were that ‘moderate’ white person who didn’t think Black people should be “slaves”… but also didn’t think they really should have the same power, resources, agency as any white person. And yea, you considered yourself one of the ‘good’ whites since you weren’t lynching Black people like those ‘bad’ whites; yours was a kinder non-racist racism.
And I am frustrated that since I was a child, I’ve been trying to explain what a lack of white racial literacy means; what the horribly racialized consequences/impacts are. I have pointed it out, testified, published, etc., and many of my white liberal friends and colleagues just didn’t want to engage and/or have dismissed my concerns and experiences. Many of you have kept on sending me articles with this same theme over and over again:
How could ‘we’ let Oscar Grant Happen?
How could ‘we’ let the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people happen?
How could ‘we’ let Trayvon Martin happen?
How could ‘we’ let Dylann Roof happen?
How could ‘we’ let Trump Happen?
Let’s face it: You have just as much a “progressive”/possessive investment in [neoliberal whiteness] as Trump/Cruz supporters have in their strange investment in Jim Crow-esque or antebellum era types of whiteness. This is what is going on. Some of you are conscious of it while some of you are engaging in it unconsciously. (I’d gander most are unconsciously doing it). A majority of you continue to be a fake bystander in this –– not because you don’t know what to do… but because you un/consciously  know that if you actually do something to dismantle systemic racism you will lose the privileges, resources, power, etc afforded to you as part of the [neoliberal], “but I’m not racist like Trump” [whiteness] club.
P.S. It’s amazing that the majority of people are white who say they will leave the USA if Trump wins; white people who don’t even talk about how being an “ex-patriot” is a white racial privilege when sh*t hits the fan. When you tell me that you have plans to move to a European country, this blows my mind. A lot of non-white ‘we’ don’t have this privileges and a lot of us would opt to stay and fight. I know there are non-white people who have plans to leave too, but there are far more white people saying this than non-white folk in my life.

About 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. Her latest book project is Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through the ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape (2017).

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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[Vegan Special Edition]: A Progressive Investment in Whiteness (‘Non-Racist’ ‘Cruelty-free’ Donor Power)

vegan-dollars-and-donors4 (9)

[Updated February 11 2016 to explain “progressive” a little better]

It’s been awhile, but the above is the latest from the Snarky Fanon series by The Sistah Vegan Project. Snarky Fanon is the comic/visual representation of how I experience the USA as a Black cisgender bisexual woman (raised in a working class household)…who then discovered how to analyze the meaning of my embodied experience through critical race feminism and Frantz Fanon’s groundbreaking critical race psycho-analysis. Fanon, though not perfect (but who is?), broke it down. He showed the collateral damage of living in a white supremacist-based racial caste system. Snarky Fanon is a kind of ‘inside joke’ for like-minded folk.

Lipsitz’s mid 1990s work on the possessive investment in whiteness inspired me to update the title for this Snarky Fanon comic above, to progressive investment in whiteness. In addition, Robin DiAngelo sheds light on the white ‘backlash’ against educational programming that directly confronts systemic racism:

If and when an educational program does directly address racism and the privileging of whites, common white responses include anger, withdrawal, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation, and cognitive dissonance (all of which reinforce the pressure on facilitators to avoid directly addressing racism). So-called progressive whites may not respond with anger, but may still insulate themselves via claims that they are beyond the need for engaging with the content because they “already had a class on this” or “already know this.”

Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

If the comic, Lipstiz, and DiAngelo sum up your experience as a non-white vegan and/or animal liberation scholar or activist, I’d like to know (hey, white anti-racism vegan activists, sure, you can share too). If I had a dime for every time my critical race feminist scholarship was called ‘racist’ or ‘white-hating’, the Sistah Vegan Project would be fully funded! LOL. Interesting that an investment in “cruelty-free” for many of these major donors is only focused on non-human animals; human “cruelty” manifests through not actively divesting from  their progressive/possessive investment in whiteness. This may not be their intent but it’s certainly the power of their impact as “progressive” and “non-racist” white identified people.

Being ‘non-racist’ (and I don’t mean ‘anti-racist’ which is NOT the same) + white + having financial wealth has major impact; it’s a collective action/identity that upholds the current white supremacist based racial caste system via white ‘progressive’ politics. I am flipping this term on it’s head to imply that white progressives are not invested in changing the government/state/institutional responsibilities that would name and dismantle polices and practices that continue to make systemic racism possible (which “progressive” has been historically connected to)– even in a a post-Civil Rights age!

For example, I can’t tell you how many times the simple answer to creating a vegan world amongst racial-class privileged leading pro-vegan organization, is to vote with your dollars and buy vegan. “We can change how we eat through voting with our dollars and choice“– though seemingly innocent at first, this is a “progressive” belief embedded in using the ‘free market’ to make change.  This  is very privileged and limiting, once one breaks down the racial-class privileges of both voting and choice in a USA in which those resources (yes, voting and choice are resources!) are impacted by the white supremacist racial caste system….Not to say buying power doesn’t have power, but first you have to get to the point in which everyone is on equal playing ground to vote with their dollars… But I’d like to argue that this is difficult, if not impossible in a system of globalized exploitative capitalism that needs systemic poverty and racism in place to make vegan products possible for a privileged few to vote for (My 2013 dissertation work focuses on this and the neoliberal whiteness concept of ‘cruelty-free’). In referring back to the comic, the major donor base and board (almost always white with financial stability ) is voting with their dollars in a method that is  not divesting away from this white supremacist racial caste and capitalist system.

I also have experienced many white identified people in leaderships/donor positions at pro-vegan organizations as implying that they are ‘non-racist’. The intent is to not appear racist but:

Non-racist(a.k.a as ‘post-racial’ or the ableist term ‘colorblind’):  non-racist is an identity claim that denies any role one has  in upholding the continuation of a white-supremacist based racial caste system. Mostly used by white identified people, those who identify as “non-racist” do not take accountability nor do they take responsibility to actively dismantle the systemic racism they benefit from.  While overt racism is enacted and maintained by those who identify as overt racists (i.e. KKK members, Nazis, etc.), systemic racism is most often perpetuated by self-identified non-racists who fail to challenge racism through acts of neutrality and/or silence. Neutrality/silence is actually a form of consent.

So, are you involved with a pro-vegan organization as staff, board member, or even as a donor? Is your pro-vegan organization committed to divesting in both the white supremacist-based racial caste system and non-human animal exploitation? Or, are you not there yet? Or, do you even not know if you’re supposed to be there yet?

What is your story?


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.

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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 that such  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.  

Like what you’ve read? Continue below and learn what I’m up to with my latest projects on Black Feminism.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ticket Options


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

and

 

Ruminating on Perpetually Being Labeled as a “White Hating Racist” and Other Thoughts

Bigot

UPDATED January 21, 2016 22:05 PM PDT

Over the duration of my scholarly endeavors (12 years), I have experienced increased hostility towards my critical race feminist engagement with ethical consumption , as well as Buddhism,  by primarily white identified people.

There is a difference between mindfully disagreeing with a person and being cruel , a bully, and violent because that person doesn’t agree with you.

So, here are some questions/thoughts…

What is the strategy  in gathering an army of white-identified people and teaching each other that the scholarship and other writings/work by A. Breeze Harper are”racist” and “bigoted”?  There has been 450+ years of racism/whiteness in operation in the USA (institutionally, legally, structurally, systemically). It has changed throughout time…and it is going to take a lot of work to understand and dismantle it, using various methods, including critical theory, legal studies, and grassroots activism.  I have found that these racialized systems of oppression have deeply affected ethical consumption in the USA; it’s inevitable, as ethical consumption was not developed in a vacuum. 

When I suggest how this white supremacist racial caste system has affected nearly everyone in the USA, I am intrigued by the amount of uproar and pure vitriol that comes from mostly white identified people. We are all racialized subjects with racialized consciousnesses that have been born out of a white supremacist racial caste system; the way we are socially and geographically located in that system affects how we frame, perceive, experience, everything. This includes ethical consumption. This isn’t about me saying individuals are bad vs. good. I’m more or less pointing out the damages/consequences of such a system… and that it affects most of us at a deeply somatic and unconscious level. 

It would seem that many of you have made it your full time job to intimidate me by immediately joining this army. Here is a gentle reminder: “white identified” people are ‘damaged’ by such systems as well, in the long run, despite the many privileges that come along with it. (And no, I didn’t make this up. I would love to send you a long list of citations that show these damages).

I consider myself on the continuum of many Black anti-racism activists and scholars that have come before. And during this continuum, various scare and intimidation tactics have been used to dissuade folk like me from doing the work that we are doing. I am not sure if you realize this, but thus far, these tactics have not worked throughout the centuries. It’s not going to work on me, so you may want to stop putting so much time into it; furthermore, even though many of you spent a lot of time trying to be cruel, verbally abusive, etc, I don’t ever react the same way towards you. I’m not an eye for an eye type of person. It’s just not going to happen.

I’m not going to dedicate my life to trying to destroy you or spend countless hours trying to gather an army of people to hatefully bully or troll you. Right now, I just accept that bullying, threats, etc towards me is coming from a place of fear, insecurity, anguish, etc.

Perhaps some of you can explain what the point is in gathering such armies and then trolling my social media sites and intimidating me by calling me things like a “white hating racist”…? Or making comments like beating me to death with a crow bar because I critique the ways well known leaders of mainstream food and sustainability movement frame their ethics through normative whiteness? I’d like to hear more concretely what those fears, insecurities, etc are– especially when I make it a point to not attack individuals but rather, understand racism and whiteness from the systemic and unconscious levels….and how we are affected by that machinery of whiteness as racialized subjects within that system. I cannot count enough , how many times I have been called a white hating racist when I simply give a talk about the work I’ve been doing.

Recently, I went to University of Oregon to talk about my new book Scars. I recorded the talk with my camera. Someone who watched a video of the recorded talk on my YouTube channel, posted that I was must hate white people and blame them for everything. They concluded this after spending 3 minutes watching the 60+ minute video of me reading from my new fiction novel and talking about how whiteness impacts the ways 2 characters practice plant based diets. The book had nothing to do with hate and everything to do with unconditional love and working through the collateral damages of racism together. These intensely hateful reactions to my writing and talks happen all the time and really only through social media and similar online platforms.

I’m curious about this tactic. As someone who wrote an award-winning Masters Thesis at Harvard focusing on, ‘But I’m not racist’ White vegans who used cyber space to ‘bully’ POC who wanted to engage in critical race interrogations of normative whiteness within AR and veganism, I’m not really surprised these reactions are coming my way, 12 years later, but still, if you could share what’s on your mind, I’d love to hear.

Perhaps I can share something with you that can help you leave the realm of spite, vitriol, and bullying…. When I was being critiqued for my ableist framing of my Sistah Vegan project’s early years (because I have able-bodied privilege it affected how I made assumptions about ability and health) , I chose to not gather an army. I chose not to bully those who are doing disability studies work and activism and/or living with disabilities. What did I do? I picked up some training materials and educated myself about how, even though I’m not “overtly” an ableist, I am still framing health and veganism from an “ableist” angle and need to STOP doing that. That as a visibly able-bodied woman, I have benefited from systemic ableism my entire life. I did not bully or harass those who call me out. Instead, I realized they are not attacking “me” but critiquing how I “frame” veganism and health (believe it or not, these are two different things) and that even though I may not agree with everything they say, I could learn a lot from them that can only strengthen my activism towards creating a world with less suffering and violence. I learned from those who have developed knowledge from the embodied experience of being systemically oppressed… and without saying they know everything, but without saying I know everything either.

I’m also interested in what the strategy is of ‘hiding’ behind social media to intimidate me. Feel free to respond on the social media you are using or on my blog, because I’m curious. Many of you block me, after you intimidate me and that makes it difficult to have an open dialogue (or perhaps your ultimate goal is just to intimidate me?) If you are so confident that I’m a “racist” or “hate white people”, then why immediately block me? Shouldn’t you have the confidence to believe in what you have said without needing to “Block” me?

When someone such as myself spends years using social science methods to TRACK themes/patterns , analyze them, and come to the conclusion that, “This is the new way in which [type in systemic oppressive patterns of white supremacist racism] operates” , this is not simply “making up new definitions” for racism. Many have implied I and other women of color doing critical race studies scholarship are ‘redefining’ racism to achieve some ‘hidden white hating agenda’. When many of you write me that I need to only use the Webster dictionary definition of “racism” from 70 years ago, you’re basically saying this dictionary definition should “trump” the complex definitions of ‘racism’ developed by the more recent critical race studies scholar. Those scholars developing that canon weren’t invited to write up the dictionary at that time, for obvious [racist] reasons.  What is the strategy in explaining to me that you are sending me the Merriam-Webster definition to “educate” me on how I am “incorrectly” using the word “racism” ?

I think you probably don’t understand this or how academic disciplines work, such as critical race studies. Critical race studies scholars don’t just ‘make up’ and randomly define the way new forms of racism and normative whiteness operate. We collectively go through a rigorous process to develop these theories through various methods that are usually “approved” by the disciplines we are working within. That’s how new theories/knowledge about systemic oppression are developed; we don’t refer to the dictionary definition via Merriam-Webster…

Just because you don’t like the results of what decades of critical race studies scholarship reveals, doesn’t mean the collectivity of people of color engaged in this scholarship are “racist” or “hate white people.” It means that we know something is very “wrong” within the moral fabric of the USA…. and has been for centuries. We are developing the tools to create a literacy and action plans around this. Even though at first, it makes many white people ‘mad’ and ‘uncomfortable’, this is what the results of this canon reveals: systemic racism/normative whiteness exists to a degree that significantly impedes people of color’s ability to thrive and be in safer environments, have the resources we need, etc. I can’t change or lie about those results (and why would I?). Some tips:

  • Consider taking time off from intimidating me and instead, explore the canon of critical studies of race and whiteness so you can develop a critical literacy skill set and a plan to dismantle these systems.
  • Get out of the Jim Crow era of simply using Webster dictionary definition of “racism”.
  • Be gentle to us and yourself by admitting you just didn’t know how new systems of racism and white supremacy operate…and that the anger and vitriol you have is a symptom of terror.
  • Consider the fact that maybe you are terrified about what this could all mean to your points of security and what you know as ‘normal’ and comfortable.
  • Let’s we work together, and like I said, it took 450+ years to create this, so why don’t we understand it’s going to probably take just as long to understand it and unravel it?

Again, I won’t engage in an eye for an eye. No matter what. The more hostility I receive, the more I want to understand it and find new ways of using mindfulness, unconditional love, my Engaged Buddhist practice, to break through it and enter a new sphere of possibilities.  The anger, vitriol, spite are symptoms of the collateral damage– the emotional and spiritual damage– that this systemic racial caste system has caused to the very white people who want to [un]consciously hold onto it.

For those of you interested in the spiritual poverty that systemic racism and white supremacy have created within the collectivity of white people living in the USA, I think the Starr King School of Ministry says it best for their Educating to Counter Oppressions core values. (*Please note that even though the below excerpt is within the context of religious education, this school of ministry promotes using spirituality and anti-oppression as their core values; fighting white supremacy is listed as part of their values. As an agnostic, I am still able to appreciate the use of ‘religious task’ for what I could interpret as ‘moral/spiritual task’ for myself):

People of color have resisted white supremacy in many ways. Communities of color teach patterns of resistance. Each person who survives oppression has found and moved along a path of resistance.

Those who ‘were never meant to survive’ but have survived, extend to the larger human community the wisdom and ways, options and opportunities, sounds and rhythms of resistance and survival. Such people make their lives a gift of authentic presence and witness.

Members of the dominant society often miss the opportunity for fuller human meeting. To become more fully present and engaged, we must all engage in the work of seeing how white identity has been constructed in narcissistic ways. An embrace of fuller humanness relinquishes self-centered needs, arrogance, and self-serving patterns, and contributes to fresh possibilities for just and sustainable community.

Members of the dominant society must accept responsibility for this religious task, without depending on people of color to be ‘the mirror that talks back’ and makes whites visible in their ignorance, thoughtlessness, or denial. At the same time, genuine and transformative human encounter happens when people are willing to speak the truth in love to one another and are open to being confronted.

White supremacy reveals a spiritual crisis at the heart of the dominant culture. Overconsumption and exploitation are hidden and tolerated for the sake of a quality of life that is neither abundant nor sustainable. Engaging white supremacy involves discovering a deeper experience of abundant life. This discovery, in turn, means confronting and changing social systems, including economic systems, that perpetuate too banal a sense of ‘the good life’, making it available to too few and causing harm to too many and to the earth.

Starr School for the Ministry, Educating to Counter Oppressions 

Fanon knew it.

DuBois knew it.

hooks knows it.

Yancy knows it.

Powell knows it.

The collectivity of us doing this work have always known it…. and that is what keeps many of us on this path, despite the threats and intimidation.


sistahvegan06

Dr. A. Breeze Harper Giving a Talk about Scars at Pomona College in 2015

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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[Opinion] Most Venture Capitalists Would Never Invest Into Foodie+Tech Projects That Dismantle the Systemic Racism They Collectively Benefit From

From Seed to Tablet


 

About the Author and The Sistah Vegan Project


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.