Monday, July 28, 2008

Black Vegan vs. Others

What do you feel is different about being black and vegan, as opposed to white, or perhaps another ethnicity? Do you feel more/less hostility from your family as a matter of ethnic culture?
-Drew- Thanks for this questions very important

Well I do believe there is a different between black and minority vegans compared to white vegans. Black and other minority vegan mostly come from cultures that veganism is something new and weird. I know when I went vegan the people I first met were white middle class vegans and felt it was wrong to kill animals. I feel the same way but the vegan world is so white that many minorities are always seen as trying to be "white" because they choose not to eat animal products. If you notice many group of minorities plates are usually food of meat and animal by products so it's so hard at times for the family to understand that you want to be healthy and save animals from cruel lives.

I know many white vegans and it can be hard for there families to understand why they are going vegan. But at the same time they have so many famous vegans who are white they can educate their families about who are healthy and living a great life without eating meat and any animal products. Let's take a look at literature when it comes to Veganism,Animal Rights. There is only one book written by a black woman about this topic and that was in 1989 - The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery ( there may be more this is the only one I know of at the time). If you were asked to write a list of books written on the same issues from white authors you could probably write a very long list. This makes a very big difference and this makes me think about ways on how the black and minority vegfolk are going to change the way people are eating and treating animals.

I do feel that their is more pressure in the black community to eat meat and animal products. When I examine the plates at black social event's that are not vegan there is always so much meat and I don't meat like steak and veggies on the side. I mean the choices are usually meat and then you have the veggie ( collard greens with pork or smokey turkey for flavor) and rice and that usually will have some juice ( animal by-product to make it taste good) and then we make it to dessert cake ( contains,eggs, dairy, and other products). I do feel that in the black community there is more focus on making things taste good then how good it is for you.


Phoenix said...

I am Chinese and a vegetarian. In my culture, vegetarianism is not that unusual. I grew up knowing that Budhists don't eat meat. We have a wide variety of mock meat that are quite delicious.

I am working on even doing more in botcotting cruelty! I am now buying more animal free products, and products not tested on animals.

Bobananda said...

I've never really understood the desire to segregate things into units of racial division - unless that reason IS racial division - whether they be schools or clubs or whatever. Maybe it's because I've usually lived in places where there didn't seem to be a 'majority' or 'minority'...Toronto and Atlanta for instance. I lived in East Point in Atlanta which was mostly black, and in Toronto you could be a minority or majority depending on which city corner you might find yourself on.

I sure wouldn't want to be associated with any club that chose to maintain racial segregation - especially one that defined itself as 'black' or 'white'.

I'm familiar with the regional cultural differences between people, but I think these are more regional than racial. I've known black people from Canada, California, Atlanta, Toronto, North Carolina, and while their personalities may be shaped by their region I don't think they were shaped by race. I say that because they were all incredibly different people - if they were all shaped by race i'd think that they would show signs of sharing some kind of racial stereotype, but they didn't. My black friends from California seemed to me to be very 'Californian', but not very 'black', and my black friends in north carolina and atlanta seemed really influenced by 'southern', but not so much 'black'. A regional support group for vegans seems to make some sense, but then you probably wouldn't need that in New York (I wish I had all those restaurants and specialty stores down here!!)

I don't think the fact that you only found one book by a black Vegan means much since the population of Vegans in North America is supposed to be something like only 1% of the total population.

I can't really see the value of having a club for black vegans, vegetarians, mountainbikers or whatever. It just seems really old-fashioned, divisive, and seems like something that perpetuates racism.

Donnie Smith said...


I understand how you may feel. But I don't know what you mean: My black friends from California seemed to me to be very 'Californian', but not very 'black', and my black friends in north carolina and atlanta seemed really influenced by 'southern', but not so much 'black'. Is black what you see or who you are? I feel it's who are and something you see and it seems that you are saying your black friends are defined by the way they act.

I do disagree with you strongly that there is no need for black group to be formed like The Black Vegetarian Society of New York for example has been a life saver. Even though vegans make up 1% of the population the black population in that population is very small and for those reasons I do feel having a group for black vegans is great because it provides support and encourages black people to get more involved in the movement of veganism.

Anonymous said...

hey donnie...dropping through to show some soulvegfolk love and ran across this interesting post...

one thing i would add to this post is that there actually is a history of african american veganism in this country that often gets neglected to be told, but dick gregory, mlk, and ben amin (leader of the hebrew israelites) were promoting vegan and vegetarian lifestyles decades ago. dick gregory turned many people on to fruitarian diets in the 70s and 80s. of course, there are still gonna be people who wanna hate on it, but so be'd find those haters in any race. i've gotten the skeptical side eye about my diet from 'nuff white americans who don't know about/understand/agree with plant-based diets...

in response to your conversation with bobrahman, i think it's great that we have affinity spaces (ir, soulvegfolk) where we don't have to justify our concerns, aesthetics, wonderings, mistakes, questions, or existence, which many of us have found in trying to be part of predominately white veg*n spaces, which may not *choose* to segregate, but naturally take the flow of it b/c most people in this country already live segregated lives offline anyway...which doesn't negate the reality that many of us are still going to populate those spaces, as well as the ones we create for ourselves...we're already used to navigating 'worlds', but it's nice to have places where you can just feel at home...

Anonymous said...

Hey Donnie,
This is Joe Rees from TAFA. I came by this blog via facebook. I hope you are doing well.

It might be of interest to you that a lot of contemporary critical theorists argue that the institution of speciesism created the original model of oppression within humans. That is, the way, both ideologically and in practice, that we domesticated and enslaved animals gave us a mindset to dehumanize and domesticate other humans. An interesting artifact of this process is the vocabulary we use to speak of oppression of humans: dehumanize, brutality, 'treated like an animal'--these are all expressions that make use of the institution of speciesism to structure oppression among humans--slavery, sexism, etc.

My point here is that this may be part of the reason that oppressed groups can be resistant to the idea of veg*ism. In 'Animal Rites: American Culture, The Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory,' Cary Wolfe argues that it is precisely because the distinction between human and animals was/is used to oppress minority groups that those same minority groups are resistant to the idea of animal rights. I've searched his work for about 5 minutes now, and have given up, but somewhere he says something to the effect of: 'It is understandable that oppressed minority groups are sometimes resistant to the idea of animal rights. If a certain group is beggining to be 'de-animalized' and 'humanized' a certain anxiety is provoked if that same ideological structure which they use to identify their oppression and their new 'humanity' is taken away, it seems there is no way to identify and express intolerance towards their oppression within a the same old vocabulary, and their new, more ethical 'humanized' place is brought down a notch as well.'

I certainly buy into Wolfe's idea to an extent. It does seem to explain why some oppressed minority groups are hostile to the idea of animal rights, and it gives a little more sense to the familiar yet frustrating 'why don't you care about humans?' response. I do think his idea is problematic in that it treats all forms of human oppression as essentially the same, and so we would expect the reaction to be the same across the board. But while many oppressed groups are resistant to the idea of animal rights, some others are champions of it--I've found the queer movement, for example, welcomes veg*ism to a greater extent than mainstream culture. Wolfe's idea doesn't explain this anomaly.

Anyway, just some food for thought. Hope all is well!

erika said...

I'm from Indiana and the attitude towards food is the same here as what you've described. Meat, veggies with meat, and rice with meat. Oh, and cheese drizzled on everything. I don't necessarily think that the food culture comes from black culture of white culture because those cultures are so diverse and impossible to lump together like that. I am working on one of my friends who is black (and a football player) and he has been more receptive to veganism than most of my white friends who think it is the weirdest thing they have ever heard of.