Revisiting ‘All Lives Matter’ as a Racial Micro-Aggression Amongst [Mostly] White ‘Post-Racial’ Vegans in the USA

I wrote this post below at the beginning of January 2015, but I would like to repost this again after reading Lauren Ornelas’ November 2015 postMy Scariest Halloween: Racism at an animal rights protest.

Originally written January 2015

A protestors sign from the January 3 2015 event.

Dear Post-Racial White Vegans:

This is not the first time I have had to sit down and write a letter to the collectivity of you who continue to be post-racial/post-human, yet benefit from systemic racism and white supremacy while simultaneously making claims like “stop playing the race card” or “I don’t see race.” Most recently, with the Black Lives Matter movement, I have gotten a significant number of white vegans responding to the theme of my conference with, “Everyone Matters” or “All Lives Matter”.  The theme of the 2015 conference is The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter: Challenging Neoliberal Whiteness While Building Anti-Racist Solidarity Among Vegans of Color and Allies (Before, After, and Beyond Ferguson). And for some reason, this upset some of you. Maybe you do not know it, but saying things like “All Lives Matter” or “Everyone Matters” are actually called racial micro-agressions and really don’t help with our collective struggle with racial battle fatigue.  Please revisit this concept of Ahimsa and extend it to all human animals as well and not get so defensive when a Black feminist vegan scholar with a doctorate in critical studies of food and race, organizes a vegan conference with Black Lives Matter in the title. By the way, in 2005 when I did a Call for Papers for the groundbreaking book Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010), I got similar racial microaggressions from white vegans committed to ending cruelty against non-human animals. As a matter of fact, in 2007, I wrote an award winning Harvard Masters Thesis about the verbal violence spewed when I did this call for papers on a vegan forum. Essentially, Sistah Vegan call for papers said “black womyns lives matter within vegan praxis” and it didn’t sit well with many of the white vegans on that forum.

When you say “All Lives Matter”, what you most likely mean is the following:

Well, what about me? My whiteness is reality and has always been center [but I have been dysconsciously aware of its racist implications until now]. Since Black Lives Matter has infiltrated my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and tumblr worlds, my unacknowledged privilege, my unacknowledged white socio-spatial epistemological narrative of the world, and my addiction to neoliberalism (i.e. proclaiming we live in a ‘post-racial world’) have all been called out. Revealed is  that I literally am in collusion with maintaining economies of whiteness (i.e. systemic racism, neoliberalism, and anti-blackness)… Ok, I’ll try not to panic (trying to breath and not appear too nervous). I’ll just keep on saying ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Everyone Matters’ [so I can shift the lens back onto me, pretending] to show I am in solidarity with all suffering beings and that I’m ‘beyond race’ since I know we all suffer; even us white people. (Trying to breath and not appear too nervous). [Internal monologue: Wow, who knew that giving up my speciesist privilege would be far easier than actively dismantling systemic racism/white supremacy? Giving up my organic eggs for tofu scramble, leather car seats for pleather car seats, and cow milk for soy milk are wayyyyy  easier than dealing with the implications of Black Lives Matter on my comfortable white embodied experience.] 

So, I offer you this: instead of responding with “All Lives Matter” or “Everyone Matters”, I invite you to participate in the online Sistah Vegan Conference, April 24-25, 2015. This will be a mindful space in which all can learn about how Black Lives Matter enhances vegan praxis and does not ‘play the race card’ or ‘distract from non-human animal suffering.’[Updated Nov 9 2015]  I invite you to download the Sistah Vegan hosted conference from 2015, The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter. This was a mindful space in which folk learned about how Black Lives Matter is integral to holistic vegan praxis and does not ‘play the race card’ or ‘distract from non-human animal suffering.’

For those of you in solidarity with the Sistah Vegan Project, please consider donating to make this conference a success, as well as make it possible for other critical Sistah Vegan projects and services to happen. I am currently working on a book called G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix). Click below on the image to find out more.


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.

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:


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.


[Event] Issue in Focus: The Chocolate Industry

The last chapter of my dissertation is about the work Food Empowerment Project is doing against slavery in the cocoa industry. They are having a special event on November 9th. It’s in the Northern California Area. Hope you can make it.  The info is below.

Issue in Focus: The Chocolate Industry

Date: Saturday, November 9th

TimeL 6:00pm until 9:00pm in PST

· Come join the Food Empowerment Project for our first ever public event. We will be in the heart of the Mission showing two short films:

The Dark Side of Chocolate
The Shady Side of Chocolate

We will have raffles, food, and beverages as well as a Q&A and short video about cows in the dairy industry.

Additionally, we will be using this as a chance to gather donations for a local food bank.


We are asking for a suggested donation: $10 for general public, and $5 for students.
(Nobody will be turned away for lack of funds – or for donating more!)


lauren Ornelas
Founder/Executive Director
Food Empowerment Project
P.O. Box 7322
Cotati, CA 94931

Because your food choices can change the world

About 1.8 million children toil in West Africa’s chocolate industry, where they may be exposed to the worst forms of child labor, including hazardous work and slavery. Please sign the petition asking Clif Bar to disclose where they get their cocoa beans

Please watch Blackfish and encourage others to see it on CNN, October 24th:


Animal Liberation, Tokenizing 'Intersectionality', and Resistance Ecology: Critical Race Perspectives

This is a video of the keynote address of Dr. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project and Lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project. We did an interactive keynote discussion format for the the Portland State University’s “Resistance Ecology” conference on June 1, 2013.

Did you enjoy this video?
If you enjoy the work I have done, if it has helped you, your organization, your students, your family, etc, and you want to see it go to the next level of a non-profit social justice organization, please contribute what you can by clicking on the GOFUNDME Link below. If you do not want to use this method, but prefer paypal, click on the link on the right upper corner of this blog page to donate via PAYPAL.


Snarky Fanon: Cruelty-Free Vegan-Consumerism

What is cruelty-free? What is sustainable? In whose interest?

So, this is the comic version of chapter three of my dissertation. I wish I could substitute 40 pages of one chapter with one Snarky Fanon (my new comic series and Sistah Vegan venture) comic. Maybe the dissertation committee would be okay with that? Goddess, I wish it were that easy!

Here is a little snippet from the chapter in progress to give you a little more context. Remember, this is just a snippet, and this is from a 200 page document:

One of the most important ideas that the reader is left with is the notion that just because a company claims ‘sustainability,’ doesn’t mean they will actually create sincere actions around it. Readers who have clicked on the link to the Der Spiegel article, from the Food Empowerment Project (FEP)page, read an unsettling idea about corporate concepts of sustainability:

Despite claims of sustainability, many companies continue to deforest the area. A concession costs about $30,000 in bribes or campaign contributions, reports a former WWF employee who worked in Indonesia for a long time. ‘Sustainble palm oil, as the WWF promises with its RSPO certificates, is really nonexistent,’ he says. (Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 2)

Yes, Earth Balance’s own webpage about sustainability claims that they source their palm oil from Malayasia and Brazil, not Indonesia. However, in reading the above paragraph excerpt from Der Spiegel, the reader is left with the potential initiative to start questioning how sincere Earth Balance’s sustainability initiatives are, and to what degree profit is the defining factor for sustainability, particularly if RSPO is working with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Readers learn that WWF was initially established and financially support by incredibly wealthy people with big interests in preserving certain wildlife areas for their own amusement, such as ‘big game’ hunting. Largest financial capital investments that WWF received have come from Shell and BP oil companies, Monsanto and Cargill as well as backing from nuclear, tobacco, and arms industry. One of the most striking realities implied in the Der Spiegel article is never-ending roles that European colonial configurations of the globe, economy, and people play into palm oil industry’s construction of ‘sustainable.’ Overall, those who have clicked on this article link from FEP are left with the knowledge that RSPO, WWF, and the palm oil industry are simply legalized forms of colonialism and cultural imperialism that benefit the same groups of wealthy white Europeans from a lineage that started over four hundred years ago during the racial colonial project.

Rich Europeans or Americans are allowed to behave as if the colonial period had never ended. They are allowed to shoot elephants, buffalo, leopards, lions, giraffes and zebras, and they can even smear the blood of the dead animals onto their faces, in accordance with an old custom. A WWF spokesman defends this practice, saying that quotas have been established, and that the proceeds from this “regulated hunting” can contribute to conservation.(Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 3)

 Only one of 55 article hyperlinks on FEP’s page, the FEP’s campaign against the use of palm oil functions as pedagogical tool to decode the language that Earth Balance and Smart Balance present to the USA consumer as ‘sanitary’ and ‘feel-good.’ Most importantly, FEP re-narrates the landscape of which the palm oil is coming from, explaining to USA consumers that the story of ‘wellness’ they are being marketed, is a myth. Through careful analysis, consumers learn that corporate capitalist’s sense of ‘sustainable’, ‘wellness,’ and ‘healthier world’ are not universal, but are rather defined by the logics of neoliberal whiteness; vegan products by  Smart Balance and Earth Balance are no different. It is another type of ‘white talk’ or ‘white logic’ that has set the rules for what is ‘ethical.’ Such ‘white logic’ means European and US American consumer’s material privileges are protected, while fooling them into thinking that their consumerism is ‘helping’ primitive non-white people go through “development” (Cárdenas 2012).

Works Cited

Cárdenas, Roosbelinda. “Green Multiculturalism: Articulations of Ethnic and Environmental Politics in a Colombian ‘Black Community’.” Journal of Peasant Studies 39, no. 2 (2012): 309-33.

Glüsing, Jens, and Nils Klawitter. “Green Veneer: Wwf Helps Industry More Than Environment.” Der Spiegel May 26, 2012, no. 22 (2012):