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Sistah Vegan Community BLOG
Friday, 10 March 2006
Embedded Racism and Elitism on VeganPorn Discussion Board
Mood:  blue
Topic: Racism in Veganism?
I did a Google search of "Sistah Vegan" several weeks ago and ended up finding something very interesting on Veganporn.com. (which has nothing to do with porn, but for some reason that's the name. It's a site for vegans to interact) Someone had posted my CFP, which I am greatly appreciative. However, it sparked a "debate" on the forum. The forum I'm referring to is at: http://www.veganporn.com/1052277800.html

I was astounded by how 30 pages of debate came out of my spelling of "sistah". I didn't participate in this discussion.

Instead of talking about the "positive" nature of what Sistah Vegan anthology will encompass, I felt that a majority in the debate portrayed a sense of "elitism" and "racism", focusing on my use of the word "sistah." I was shocked because I naively
assumed that most practitioners of veganism would be accepting of all of us who want to practice veganism and post on forums, regardless if we spell "sister" or "sistah." The class, racial, and power implications of this are huge. Hypothetically, if I wasn't a vegan but were interested in veganism and happened to cross this site as my first exposure to the "vegan world of cyberspace", I would have run
away; furthermore, this doesn't help the "myth" that veganism and vegetarianism is a "white middle class snobby" lifestyle (which I don't believe, but have run across plenty of folk who have this perspective). This Veganporn discussion shows just how necessary the Sistah Vegan anthology project is. More voices should be brought to the table that help enhance the vegan experience and make it accessible to everyone; not just a particular group concerned with how vegans "should speak Standard English".

I'm extremely baffled by the whole uproar. How do I explain to this particular demographic the underlying foundations of Sistah Vegan? Why have I found in my experirence that a majority of white identified middle/upper class people are so scared of solidarity among people who are NOT identified as themselves? Same goes with the fears that many heterosexual identified people I have met that seem to responde the same way to glbt identified folk coming together as a community. I know that "my skin color shouldn't make a difference in my vegnaism," but because it's been socially constructed around power for "white looking people" in USA and Europe for hundreds of years, it HAS made a difference in people's experiences. Therefore, I am interested to see how this socially constructed system (of race and gender and class) has informed the "vegan" experiences of a group of people who still experience the negative effects of such a system. I am curious to understand why the vegans on the particular Vegan Porn discussion I'm referring to are so frightened of what "Sistah Vegan" entails? Why have they purposefully interpreted this as something rancid? Have they ever even sat down and read Critical Race Theory? Memoirs of people of color who's HAVE experienced prejudice simply because of this thing called "skin color?" Why is race so uncomfortable with the posters on this particular veganporn forum? I wonder what the reaction would have been, had I not focused on race but instead the "experience of genocide and veganism." For example, a request for papers for "Jewish Holocauast survivors who practice veganism and how the Jewish Holocaust shaped their levels of compassion to resist all forms of suffering." OR if I posted, "CFP: Survivors of the Rwanda genocide that practice veganism." I'm simply interested on how similar "socialized" experiences shape someone's transition into practicing veganism. After I'm done with this anthology, I will also do a CFP for 10-18 years olds who practice veganism; after this, a CFP for people over 65 who practice vegansim. In the first case, I'm interested in how age and "Being a child in USA" shapes their experience- especially in school systems where the cafeterias serve not only flesh based foods but junk food. For the latter, the voice of senior citizens are always silenced in USA and I'd love to hear from them. Veganism should not only be constructed as a practice engaged in by "young people."

Also, for the Sistah Vegan Anthology cfp, I never designated a RACE, per se. For my submission guidelines, I invite "Black identified female vegans/female vegans of the African diaspora" to participate, which doesn't specifically designate "race" but specifically is talking about the African diaspora. Also, "Black-identified" is different than "Black." It's how "you" choose to identify and not as much as the label someone has pressed upon you. Ok, I'll stop now. As you can see, this has completely changed my whole perspective on practitioners of veganism. It's also good material for my thesis :-)

The forum I'm referring to is at: http://www.veganporn.com/1052277800.html .

Please let me know what you think.

Breeze Harper

Posted by Breeze Harper at 12:37 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006 1:17 PM EST

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