On Beating Up “N*ggers” While on Patrol: An Engaged Mindfulness + Critical Race Feminist
She read the reports. She knew they used the word “nigger” to describe Black people. Using “nigger” in that context makes it incredibly difficult for many Black people to respond in a way that isn’t an “eye for an eye”… Judge Evans was able to not do an “eye for and eye”, despite that. That is a very difficult thing to do and the impact is amazing…
Thank you so much Judge Vonda Evans. You are one of my new heroes. Amazing how you first focused on the racism of white cops who just wanted to beat up “niggers” (which was captured on social media exchanged by cops who supported this activity)…. to explaining that this is a microcosm of systems of oppression, the lack of structural support of the city, the lack of training and mental health resources available for police officers, etc. She does not excuse them for the violently racist behavior towards this black man they nearly beat to death. However, she shows compassion in understanding how an exploitative system is unhealthy for all, including the racist cops who publicly believe they can beat up “niggers” as their pass-time. Judge Evans makes the connections…even bringing in Flint MI.
This is what a critical race feminist framing of justice and engaged mindfulness (I called it engaged Buddhism) looks like. Judge Evans “reminds” the defending officer that despite his despicable behavior captured on video, he is still capable of being an amazing human being she knows he can be; that this one horrible act doesn’t mean that this is who he was in the past, who he is now, or who he will be in the future.
After the weeks of me trying to understand the constant hate towards my critical race feminist analysis, intersectional, and engaged Buddhist (some know it as mindfulness) approaches to ethical consumption, this video reminded me why we Black folk doing this work are so powerful; why we scare the white beneficiaries of this white supremacist capitalist racial caste system. Many of these beneficiaries don’t know they are ‘benefiting’ from this system and many do; many think they are being ‘objective’ but in fact, think and act as racialized white subjects. And though Judge Evans doesn’t say it exactly, it is unclear who really benefits from this white supremacist capitalist racial caste system in the long run, including these white cops who may have racial privilege but do not have socio-economic privilege that such a system was supposed to guarantee for people who look like them.
Our intersectional approach to social justice with a critical race feminist framework is not playing “identity politics” , “playing the race card”, or has a “white hating” racist agenda (click here and here to see what I am referring to). Thank you again for reminding me of this Judge Evans. And even though you do not mention this in your sentencing, your embodied experience as a black woman in a white supremacist capitalist racial caste system, has produced a unique consciousness around ethics and justice that is a gift. And because of your powerful position, you were able to leverage that.
Without spite, Judge Evans served justice engaged mindfulness to both the defending officer and the man he hurt so badly. Yes, you can tell her heart is broken and she is so frustrated, but you can tell that she is not an “eye for an eye” human being in this moment. She doesn’t pinpoint the one bad thing this officer was documented doing, via video, and then allow that to permanently define who he was, is, or can be.
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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).
Get ready for a different side of A. Breeze Harper, PhD, as she uses a fusion of satire and critical race feminism to explore just how “post-racial” we are– in veganism and beyond.
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
If you can’t make her live webcast but are interested in inviting her to give a talk and/or workshop at your organization or university,
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.