Abusive Relationships…’even’ in Vegan, Animal Rights, Buddhist, and Anti-Racism Sp
Photo of me during a week of stress that I eventually realized was from abusive interactions with ‘colleagues’ engaged in social justice/animal rights. Major bags under those eyes.
Abusive relationships are incredibly exhausting and repetitively traumatizing— whether it be one’s mother, romantic partner, boss, work colleague, friend, or teacher. Particularly horrendous are the ways in which the abuser is able to narrate to themselves that THEY are the victim. Not enough empirical data and other forms of professional research you provide them that PROVE they are acting abusive rarely, if ever, will convince them that their behavior is ABUSIVE. From professors I have had, to work colleagues, to supposed ‘friends’, abusive relationships are more than Hollywood’s stereotypical depictions of some [usually white] guy wearing a sleeve less t shirt beating his spouse or children. I’d like to find more information about narcissistic abusive people who are ‘charming’ and are well hidden in what would be considered more ‘ethical’ spaces like religious organizations, animal rights venues, social justice organization, etc.
My mind was always confused when I’d encounter what SHOULD be an ‘ethical’ and ‘compassionate’ person but they seemed ABUSIVE… but how could they be “wife beater guy” when they were Buddhist monks, or vegans who would die on the front lines for non-human animals, or were in the anti-racism movement for decades fighting against white supremacy?
I am still blown away by when I wanted to tell a Buddhist priest about a well known Buddhist guru. This guru had a well known history of sexual misconduct and I wanted to reveal the identity to the priest. The priest kindly asked me not to reveal the identity since he didn’t think it was productive. I guess I’d ‘hurt’ the Buddhist movement if it was revealed who he was. It was 5 years ago but still, I can’t believe I believed that it was the moral thing to do; to protect the abuser because this Buddhist priest suggested that revealing this person’s identity was pointless. And this Buddhist guru still continues to do his work and have ample amount of support and students. (Can you say spiritual bypassing?)
Hollywood narrated a completely different image of abuse to me as a child and late teen, so I didn’t have the holistic literacy to understand continuums and spectrums of abusive patterns.
And growing up in a culture of the USA in which carceral and corporal punishment are the NORM for controlling and abusing people (check out Discipline and Punishment as well as info about carceral societies), I didn’t realize it was embedded in many of my closest relationships. I had internalized that I must deserve to be physically and emotionally ‘punished’ for not doing what the abuser said I should do. For not being what they wanted me to be in order to fill some deeply troubled hole in their insecure soul.
It wasn’t until I started reading about the intricacies of abusive relationships and narcissist abusive traits in the past year (for my book project) that I realized that what I had and continue to experience throughout my life’s relationships (colleagues, schoolmates, friendships, etc) have been incredibly abusive and have left deep scars on my psyche that I didn’t even know were there. I had no idea I was traumatized by these relationships/interactions because I was never given the literacy tools to know that that was what was going on. It’s one big mind-fuck.
As I write my memoir/activist book Black Mama Scholar, and look over 30 journals I have filled the pages in, I can’t believe how many– mostly white people and/or men who constantly abused and gaslighted me while I tried to engage in social justice, vegan, and anti-racism work…. as well as the colleagues in earlier stages of my tech.com (early 2000s) life as a quality software engineer that were abusive and then turned it around to make it as if they were the victim by me simply being their in THEIR epistemological/physical space as Black, feminist, and woman.
Below is my upcoming event and information about my latest book project which, for the first time in my life, incorporates humor into the serious topics of Black feminism, veganism, food ethics, and Black motherhood.
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).
This is a fundraising event for the Sistah Vegan Project. Register for the Live Lecture with Q&A below.Ticket OptionsGold (Receive Signed Sistah Vegan Book) $70.00 USDRegular $30.00 USDStudent/Discount $15.00 USD
Dr. A.Breeze Harper (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
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.