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.


Resistance Ecology, Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter, Hip Hop Youth Dinners

Breeze, kind of looking constipated.... With the lovely Lauren Ornelas.
Breeze, kind of looking constipated…. With the lovely Lauren Ornelas.

I gave a talk at Portland State University’s annual Resistance Ecology conference on June 13 2015 . My talk was called The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter and I recapped the Sistah Vegan conference from April 24-25 2015 and talked about the continuation of this and challenges. I give thanks to The Resistance Ecology Conference organizers for yet another amazing conference. 

I speak about the tweet that Vegan Revolution sent out that dismissed the relevancy of Black Lives Matters in terms of the importance of non-human animal lives. I also talk about the Sacramento Hip Hop Youth vegan dinner as an example of ‘vegan praxis of Black Lives Matter’ , featuring many artists such as Dj Cavem and Alkemia Earth doing their culinary concerts. Sacramento dinner was part of the Hip Hop Green Dinner tour for 2015, organized by Keith Tucker. Below is the same video I show at the end of my talk above, but this is far better to hear and see because it is directly from youtube while the one I show is a video recording of the Youtube video and it’s difficult to hear for many.

After the talk, I was on a panel with Jacqueline Morr (Project Intersect) & Lauren Ornelas (Food Empowerment Project) to discuss privilege in terms of animal liberation and vegan spaces. I learned a lot. I thank not just the speakers but the audience for engaging with us and asking really necessary but difficult questions. One woman spoke about a vegan and animal rights author who just published a book and is on tour. She said that he has committed sexual harassment against a woman (maybe more than one). She informed us that DXE tried to shut his talk down and she was disappointed that there was no support for DXE; that there seemed to be this excuse from his supporters that despite sexual harassing behavior, there was the notion that “He has helped so many animals, so we shouldn’t focus on things like him sexually harassing one woman.” She noted that there were a lot of women who still wanted to support him with these types of excuses. I thought that I don’t know much about the accusations towards this author but overall, the dialogue got me thinking about the many women who have privately emailed me telling me certain well known men in vegan or AR movement that have harassed or assaulted them or someone they know… but they are scared to say something about it. What do I do when both sides claim to be ‘innocent’ and we can only rely on the ‘legal system’ to ‘prove’ that something ‘wrong’ did or did not happen? (sigh). The entire 80 minute panel with q&a is below.

On a different note, I was interviewed this past weekend during my travels… and at the end, the interviewer said I was very ‘articulate’. Interesting, huh? Am thinking about how to breath and meditate on it; and how I will communicate to him that he should be careful, as a white guy, complimenting a Black woman for sounding ‘articulate’… I have always been told by white friends and random white people that I don’t “sound Black” throughout my life. I think they think that’s a compliment (?)….Tis not, but thanks for trying….

And as usual, if you like what I do, please consider funding the Sistah Vegan Project or hiring me to speak or do consulting and strategic planning for you or your organization.

The photos below quickly recap my journey.

Sacramento CA Hip Hop Green Dinner t-shirt
Sacramento Youth Hip Hop Vegan Dinner Organizing Crew. June 12 2015.
Sacramento Youth Hip Hop Vegan Dinner Organizing Crew. June 12 2015.
Alkemia Earth and DJ Cavem giving a Culinary Concert at Sacramento Hip Hop Green Youth dinner. June 12 2015.
Crew promoting info about the Bigger Picture documentary about diabetes and sugar consumption.
Cleaver promotional and informational materials from the movie The Bigger Picture.
Cleaver promotional and informational materials from the movie The Bigger Picture.


Lauren Ornelas, Breeze Harper, and Jacqueline Morr on June 13 2015 at Resistance Ecology in Portland, OR.
Lauren Ornelas, Breeze Harper, and Jacqueline Morr on June 13 2015 at Resistance Ecology in Portland, OR.

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?
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