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[Vegan Special Edition]: A Progressive Investment in Whiteness (‘Non-Racist’ ‘Crue

vegan-dollars-and-donors4 (9)

[Updated February 11 2016 to explain “progressive” a little better]

It’s been awhile, but the above is the latest from the Snarky Fanon series by The Sistah Vegan Project. Snarky Fanon is the comic/visual representation of how I experience the USA as a Black cisgender bisexual woman (raised in a working class household)…who then discovered how to analyze the meaning of my embodied experience through critical race feminism and Frantz Fanon’s groundbreaking critical race psycho-analysis. Fanon, though not perfect (but who is?), broke it down. He showed the collateral damage of living in a white supremacist-based racial caste system. Snarky Fanon is a kind of ‘inside joke’ for like-minded folk.

Lipsitz’s mid 1990s work on the possessive investment in whiteness inspired me to update the title for this Snarky Fanon comic above, to progressive investment in whiteness. In addition, Robin DiAngelo sheds light on the white ‘backlash’ against educational programming that directly confronts systemic racism:

If and when an educational program does directly address racism and the privileging of whites, common white responses include anger, withdrawal, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation, and cognitive dissonance (all of which reinforce the pressure on facilitators to avoid directly addressing racism). So-called progressive whites may not respond with anger, but may still insulate themselves via claims that they are beyond the need for engaging with the content because they “already had a class on this” or “already know this.” Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

If the comic, Lipstiz, and DiAngelo sum up your experience as a non-white vegan and/or animal liberation scholar or activist, I’d like to know (hey, white anti-racism vegan activists, sure, you can share too). If I had a dime for every time my critical race feminist scholarship was called ‘racist’ or ‘white-hating’, the Sistah Vegan Project would be fully funded! LOL. Interesting that an investment in “cruelty-free” for many of these major donors is only focused on non-human animals; human “cruelty” manifests through not actively divesting from  their progressive/possessive investment in whiteness. This may not be their intent but it’s certainly the power of their impact as “progressive” and “non-racist” white identified people.

Being ‘non-racist’ (and I don’t mean ‘anti-racist’ which is NOT the same) + white + having financial wealth has major impact; it’s a collective action/identity that upholds the current white supremacist based racial caste system via white ‘progressive’ politics. I am flipping this term on it’s head to imply that white progressives are not invested in changing the government/state/institutional responsibilities that would name and dismantle polices and practices that continue to make systemic racism possible (which “progressive” has been historically connected to)– even in a a post-Civil Rights age!

For example, I can’t tell you how many times the simple answer to creating a vegan world amongst racial-class privileged leading pro-vegan organization, is to vote with your dollars and buy vegan. “We can change how we eat through voting with our dollars and choice“– though seemingly innocent at first, this is a “progressive” belief embedded in using the ‘free market’ to make change.  This  is very privileged and limiting, once one breaks down the racial-class privileges of both voting and choice in a USA in which those resources (yes, voting and choice are resources!) are impacted by the white supremacist racial caste system….Not to say buying power doesn’t have power, but first you have to get to the point in which everyone is on equal playing ground to vote with their dollars… But I’d like to argue that this is difficult, if not impossible in a system of globalized exploitative capitalism that needs systemic poverty and racism in place to make vegan products possible for a privileged few to vote for (My 2013 dissertation work focuses on this and the neoliberal whiteness concept of ‘cruelty-free’). In referring back to the comic, the major donor base and board (almost always white with financial stability ) is voting with their dollars in a method that is  not divesting away from this white supremacist racial caste and capitalist system.

I also have experienced many white identified people in leaderships/donor positions at pro-vegan organizations as implying that they are ‘non-racist’. The intent is to not appear racist but:

Non-racist(a.k.a as ‘post-racial’ or the ableist term ‘colorblind’):  A non-racist is an identity claim that denies any role one has  in upholding the continuation of a white-supremacist based racial caste system. Mostly used by white identified people, those who identify as “non-racist” do not take accountability nor do they take responsibility to actively dismantle the systemic racism they benefit from.  While overt racism is enacted and maintained by those who identify as overt racists (i.e. KKK members, Nazis, etc.), systemic racism is most often perpetuated by self-identified non-racists who fail to challenge racism through acts of neutrality and/or silence. Neutrality/silence is actually a form of consent.

So, are you involved with a pro-vegan organization as staff, board member, or even as a donor? Is your pro-vegan organization committed to divesting in both the white supremacist-based racial caste system and non-human animal exploitation? Or, are you not there yet? Or, do you even not know if you’re supposed to be there yet?

What is your story?

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.



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