Transphobia and Heterosexism are not "Liberating" or "Cruelty-Free": On Veganism, Ce Ce McDonald, and Trayvon Martin

I just read The Unjust Murder of Trayvon Martin is a LGBT/Feminist/Human Rights Issues by Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman.

CeCe McDonald                                      Source:

I have been pondering over how the mainstream media in the USA tends to focus on racially motivated violence enacted on cisgender-identified Black males… and how the injustice enacted upon Ce Ce McDonald and many other transgender people of color, do not garner the same type of outrage.

I do not wish to simplify matters, but I am rather disappointed (but not surprised since we live in a transgender-hating USA) by the amount of hate and disgust against LGBTQ people of color from hetero-normative Black folk who are simultaneously enraged about Martin’s murder. I have been trying to think about how to write about this for weeks. If you are not familiar with my work, my research and activism have focused on food, healing, and structural oppression as experienced by Black vegetarians and vegans in the USA and; how the [invisible] violence of neoliberal whiteness has ‘colonized’ mainstream vegan rhetoric coming from organizations like PETA. Simultaneously, I am also interested in understanding how veganism is used to ‘decolonize’ the Black USA community from legacies of colonialism. However, I can’t tell you how disturbing it is to realize that a majority of Afrocentric vegan/raw foods rhetoric is ensconced in heterosexist/hetero-normative/trans-phobic logic. Yet simultaneously, the same ‘liberating’ and ‘decolonizing’ canon has an outpouring of sympathy and understanding for Black [cisgender-identified hetero-normative] folk who collectively suffer under systemic anti-black racism and white supremacy in the USA.

For example, even though I appreciate the work of Queen Afua’s Sacred Woman, as it did help me to cure my fibroid tumors, her entire book makes the assumption that all Black identified women and girls are cisgender identified and heterosexual; that the most ‘sacred’ romantic union that I as a Black female can be in is with a man of African descent. This also automatically implies that transgender, as well as lesbian and bisexual women of African descent cannot be part of a new future ‘healthy’ Black nation. Such an exclusive Black nation, in Sacred Woman, can be achieved through proper vegan food preparation to feed one’s family and self. Let me clear: Afua never directly says she hates people who are not straight or not hetero-normative gender conforming; but the absence of including transgender and non-straight women of African descent says something very profound about what bodies, sexualities, and genders are normalized and can be nutritionally ‘cleansed’ and ‘purified’ towards a moral or correct type of healthy Black nation (see Harper 2013). An Afrocentric guru who has been direct about his disgust with non-straight and non-gender conforming Black people is Dr. Llaila Afrika. His work has advocated that a properly planned holistic vegan or raw diet can “cure” queer Black folks. His rationale is that “gender-confused” and/or non-straight people of African descent have impure gender and sexual behaviors due to consuming the white colonizer’s industrialized and carnicentric diet (Afrika 1994; 1998). This logic is dangerous, unmindful, and unloving. But of course the Afrocentric canon of holistic health is not a singular anomaly in the mindset in the USA; it’s a microcosm that simply reflects the moral fabric of an entire mainstream USA that may have progressed a little better in terms of understanding how racism impacts Black [cisgender identified] people, but are still in the dark ages in understanding how violent it is to teach us that hetero-normative gender binaries are ‘common sense’, ‘natural’, and ‘pure.’ After all, PETA’s vegan anti-fur campaign from a few years ago delivered an anti-transgender message, “Wearing fur is a drag”,. The campaign depicted a picture of a drag queen wearing fur. Why are we supposed to want to throw blood on her? Are we supposed to be disgusted by a person wearing fur? Or are we [cisgender identified people] supposed to ‘naturally’ be disgusted by a person wearing fur who is transgender-identified?

I have organized a web conference for September 14, 2013. It is called “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women Vegans and Allies.” Many topics are covered. Not surprisingly, I could not find one person to submit a proposal about the anti-transgender and/or heterosexist rhetoric that undergirds the canon of mainstream veganism. I have extended the call for papers deadline to August 20, 2013. I don’t want to speak for a demographic of people that I am not (i.e. transgender identified), however, if I cannot find anyone to present on this dire matter, I will need to contextualize and speak about both Martin and Ce Ce McDonald’s tragedy: How do transphobic Afrocentric ‘food liberation’ rhetoric, as well as the realities of USA’s white supremacist value system, help to perpetuate the unjust outcome of McDonald and to leave her suffering as invisible and inconsequential to mainstream media? Why is her tragedy not garnering outrage for justice even by mainstream American sympathizers of injustice? Trayvon Martin should not distract us from thinking about racialized-sexualized-gendered, etc. forms of violence that take place on minorities within a minority (i.e. transgender people of color).  How can USA mainstream simultaneously acknowledge that racism not only affects the “ heterosexual Black cisgender identified males” but also sexual and gender minorities? How can we hold both Martin and McDonald in our hearts and consciousness and understand, as Dr. Grossman says,  “that the Unjust Murder of Trayvon Martin is a LGBT/Feminist/Human Rights Issue”?

 Works Cited

Afrika, Llaila O. 1998. African holistic health. Rev. 6th ed. Brooklyn, NY: A&B Publishers Group.

 Afrika, Llaila O. 1994. Nutricide : the nutritional destruction of the Black race. 1st ed. Beauford, SC: L.O. Afrika.

 Harper, Amie Louise. 2013. Vegan Consciousness and the Commodity Chain: On the Neoliberal, Afrocentric, and Decolonial Politics of ‘Cruelty-Free’. Dissertation, Geography, University of California, Davis, Davis.

On PETA, Trayvon Martin, and Being a Black Critical Race Researcher in White Spaces


The full title of this talk is actually “‘Never Be Silent’ and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness: On Trayvon Martin, PETA, and Being a Black Critical Race Researcher in White Spaces”. I just could’t fit the entire title in the WordPress title setup box.

I gave this talk on June 4, 2013 at University of California, Davis for the GGG Speaker Series. I critique the ‘cruelty-free’ products that PETA promotes in their Vegan Shopping Guide which is accessible online. I use critical race materialism and decolonial world-systems analysis to question how any commodity sold to us vegans as ‘cruelty-free’, can truly be ethical if it relies on human exploitation. For example, I speak about racialized-sexualized exploitation of indigenous Mexican females to harvest ‘cheap’ tomatoes for the Global North. I also question how PETA can support a plethora of cocoa products that are ‘free’ from animal-products, yet the cocoa from companies such as Nestle and Hershey source their cocoa using African Child slavery.

I examine PETA’s superficial use of Trayvon Martin’s murder as a way to ‘boost’ their animal liberation campaign, and argue that PETA falsely constructs Trayvon Martin’s tragedy as ‘true racism’ they are against. The problem is that PETA never engages a dialogue about the structural racism and coloniality that make the ‘cruelty-free’ vegan commodities they advocate, possible. It is contradictory to their ‘intersectional’ animal liberation campaign that asks people to “Never Be Silent” about injustices in the world.

At the end of this talk, I explain why I am ‘nervous’ and ‘out of breath”: because it is emotionally difficult for me, many times, to show up in a predominantly white space, as a black critical race feminist in a supposed ‘post-racial’ era, and talk about ‘whiteness’ and ‘white supremacy’ to a predominantly white audience.

I have to admit that the most notable memory from this experience was the first question I received during the Q&A. This question was from a white male who said he was completely unfamiliar with the Trayvon Martin incident. He asked that I provide him information about it. I do not expect everyone to know everything that is going on in the USA, but there is something to be said about the question about Trayvon Martin being asked. As a ‘survival’ rule, I personally need to be cognizant of racial profiling of us brown and black folk, here in the USA, so I stay up to date on these tragedies.

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.


On Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and [Un]Intimate Knowledge of Your Own Yoni

For this video I share my thoughts on the USA popular media obsession with which celebrity is having [hetero]sexual relations with which celebrity’s yoni and how in contrast, I find it strange that most people with yonis in the USA don’t want to have a holistic and intimate knowledge of their own reproductive health. Yoni is another word for vagina. 

The book I refer to in this video is call Sacred Woman by Queen Afua.

Feeding a Black Nation: Decolonial Vegan Politics and Queen Afua's Kitchen

Part I

Part II

Above are the two videos from my most recent talk that I gave on November 1, 2012 at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. The topic I was to address was “Intersectionality of Oppressions: A Look at How Race and Gender Shape the Vegan Experience in the USA.” The title of the talk that I gave to examine this topic was called “Feeding a Black Nation: Decolonial Vegan Politics and Queen Afua’s Kitchen.” It was hosted by the Boston University Vegetarian Society and Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism.

I had a really great time. I also let everyone know that this talk is from a dissertation chapter that is still in its draft stages, “So bare with me as I try to work out a lot of the theoretical stuff I talk about at the very beginning.” I’m also functioning off of 2.5 hours of sleep and flew across country and basically went directly to the talk. Whew, crazy day getting there but it was well worth it. I think the Q&A session was the best because the questions were very critical and engaging.

The next day, I had brunch with a bunch of friends and my twin brother, Talmadge, who I had not seen in person in over 2 years. We video Skype several times a week, but this was a gazillion times better. We ate at Central Sq. in Cambridge at a place called Veggie Galaxy, owned by the same people who run Veggie Planet. It’s vegan and vegetarian diner style.

Talmadge Harper and Breeze Harper at Veggie Galaxy. Cambridge, MA. November 2, 2012.

Lastly, I mentioned a few titles at the end of the video. Here they are with a few more that may be of use. I think Barthes is really excellent as a semiologist because he can help folk understand how food ‘signifies’ and communicates an entire society’s “attitude” about life in general.

Afua, Queen. Sacred Woman: A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit. New York: Ballantine Publishing Group, 2000.

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. New York,: Hill and Wang, 1972.

Barthes, Roland. Elements of Semiology. 1st American ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1968.

Grosfoguel, Ramón, and Ana Margarita Cervantes-Rodríguez. The Modern/Colonial/Capitalist World-System in the Twentieth Century : Global Processes, Antisystemic Movements, and the Geopolitics of Knowledge, Contributions in Economics and Economic History, No. 227. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

Lewis, Tania, and Emily Potter. Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Sandlin, Jennifer A., and Peter McLaren. Critical Pedagogies of Consumption: Living and Learning in the Shadow of The “Shopocalypse”. Edited by Joel Spring, Sociocultural, Political, and Historical Studies in Education. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Sullivan, Shannon, and Nancy Tuana. Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance, Suny Series, Philosophy and Race. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

Warren, John T. Performing Purity : Whiteness, Pedagogy, and the Reconstitution of Power. New York: Peter Lang, 2003

Zuberi, Tukufu, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. White Logic, White Methods : Racism and Methodology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008.

Video available:: Afrocentrism, vegan methodology of the racially oppressed, and revolutionary black feminism

Last night I spoke at UC Berkeley, and explained the Afrocentric approach to veganism that is race-gender conscious, decolonial, and revolutionary black feminist. I did this because I wanted to explain that there are more than just Eurocentric philosophical ‘ethics’ behind why some people choose veganism. By Eurocentrism, I mean the philosophical canon of ‘ethics and animals’ that dominate the mainstream academic literature in the USA. While Eurocentric philosophy focuses on the ‘ethics’ of non-human animal consumption and non-human animal exploitation, Afrocentric veganism (through Queen Afua) focuses on how veganism becomes a decolonial tool against the unethical abduction and enslavement of Africans and the institutional of chattel slavery; an unethical institution that took away their original plant-centered dietary philosophy and “forcing” them to eat a carnicentric diet. This is what a vegan methodology of the racially oppressed can look like! Video of talk and Q&A :

Part II

If you comment in a way that is obvious you didn’t watch the video, but are “annoyed” that I am looking at race, whiteness, and decolonial theories as a way to understand vegan consciousness, I will not post your comments. For me, it simply doesn’t make sense to receive passive aggressive comments from people who don’t know anything about my work, haven’t watched the video, but then feel like they are “experts” on the subject matter and then wish to “educate” me about my “incorrect”  4+ years of dissertation research and 35 years of racialized-gendered bodily experience as a black female in the USA.  If it’s not enough that I have been “educated”  at Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and now University of California, learned how to engage in qualitative research, and document ongoing themes in vegan cultural practices (themes that are influenced by race, class, gender, whiteness, neoliberalism), then what more can I offer? (I’m being funny with educated in quotations, because of the mainstream assumption that if you just “educate” non-white folk through the “proper” Western university educational system, they will “assimilate” and agree with the perceptions of the white middle class status quo. But if they don’t, they must simply be ‘irrational’ and ‘angry’, and must be “educated more”)

Ill effects of being racialized as white and "Wheatgrass"

This is the sequel to “studying racialization in vegans cultural studies” (go here if you haven’t seen that yet because it will help you understand what I mean by ‘racialized’ and ‘racialization’ )

This video below is an update of my dissertation work, my funding campaign to get my PhD, and my friend DJ Cavem’s new vegan and green hip hop CD “Teacher’s Lounge” and video “Wheatgrass”




Martinot, Steve. The Machinery of Whiteness : Studies in the Structure of Racialization. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.

Sullivan, Shannon, and Nancy Tuana. Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance, Suny Series, Philosophy and Race. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

Yancy, George. What White Looks Like : African-American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Why vegan activism can't be 'race-neutral': Afua's race conscious veganism

I speak about how Queen Afua has a black female racialized-sexualized consciousness around veganism. She is “race-conscious” and I speak about how the top 100 selling vegan diet books  on don’t engage in a ‘race-conscious’ approach to veganism, but a ‘post-racial’ non-classed conscious approach. Yet this lack of racial consciousness and class consciousness IMPLIES that it’s for ‘normal’ population. Read ‘normal’ as default white middle class

I also break down the first 40 pages of Afua’s book, “City of Wellness” and analyze it as part of my dissertation work, which looks at revolutionary black female vegan activists who are ‘race-conscious’ with their activism.
The City of Wellness: Restoring Your Health Through the Seven Kitchens of Consciousness