This post is my conclusion and reflections about my being tokenised as a disabled non-black vegan of colour (the only disabled and the only POC in that process where there were no indigenous, black or mixed people either) by the South African Vegan Society (SAVS) director who moved to //Hui !Gaeb and seemed to take all the decisions end 2011/start of 2012, I witnessed him doing so and being allowed to do it. I may owe some people I involved in the One Struggle 2012 conference (OS2012) an apology; then everyone who knew the SAVS director other than through the web, as I did, owes me one too. This is also relevant to the annual South African Anarchist Bookfair (pka Capetown; the same animal whites activists, aka white AR activists, organised it as far as I have seen before 2015).
What entitled white people entity don’t pass the blame onto IBPOC for anything that goes wrong? Tokenism is convenient, as is the apathy around it. In this case (I had been the only POC engaged in the movement for some 5 years so the first fact was unsurprising) I was the only non-white, and the only one who brought up access, the focus was intersectionality but accessibility was deliberately not taken seriously by them. Those who know me know I’d have tried my best but when white people have an agenda, it goes as they planned.
I got threatened by the white man in question against speaking of him, and white women involved, who knew, didn’t care. The largely-white //Hui !Gaeb vegan community will perhaps blame me for calling out someone they consider valuable or put on a pedestal. I’m neither of those things (having an intersectional life, I’m the only one who calls out shit since someone has to do it, how much they value that is surely not at all). At least this will be the case among the post-racial SAVS directors (of 2012) and other animal whites, I’m thinking of the animal whites I interacted with over email, Jo’burg-based SAVS directors whose input were always factored into the organising process, delaying a process for an “intersectional” event in Capetown, the irony masked by the contribution of design work by them.
I can’t travel, unlike white AR/vegans I knew who gave me no information that would make me be skeptical of SAVS – the only vegan body deemed “intersectional”. Until 2011ish the SAVS was an “ally” theatre based in Johannesburg. So when some of the directors moved to my city, while getting to know them, I accepted to co-organise OS2012 which was branded “intersectional” before the least attempt of including an indigenous, black or non-white person in their organising. Of course on their directors’ mailing list, one couldn’t be sure whom one is dealing with until one realises all the respondents must be white and indeed they were. In any country, opposing anti-indigeneity and anti-blackness should’ve been at the crux of their (alleged) anti-racist concerns.
Some speakers did the indigenous/black-centering work for them or tried – I never got to hear some speakers, I heard one indigenous/mixed POC left in anger after her talk, I don’t know why, I didn’t hear back from her. I never had access to videos SAVS made of the talks (for a conference that I put voluntary work in, ironic? and let’s forget decency..) though I’d remained close friends with one organiser. The white post-racial SAVS I experienced only sometimes put on an ally costume, and before I found that out, they’d also asked me to join their board of directors. So I asked the directors in my city about their prior process to determine if it had been a fair offer, the white man and unofficial/only spokesperson, said no one comes to their meetings or have interest in co-directing, he mentioned a meeting I hadn’t heard about – this was strange considering Capetownians mostly used a forum I co-founded and moderate (then thus, I was reading every post as I still tend to) to promote such events in our city. He added that most who have worked with him (the ones I encountered were white women) burn out mysteriously. I very naively took his word for it, I did some SAVS and The Missing Bookshelf (his personal business though it sells A Breeze Harper’s Sistah Vegan so one tends to think it’s not so bad or that maybe I’d get to read the book at last) market stalls in 2011, coming across a few complaints (high SAVS membership fees with the promise of T-shirts that people never receive), I did it as an animal ally.
As an unemployed disabled vegan not-on-welfare and being aware of this, even I got conned into paying membership. With other Capetown AR/AA organisations, there had never been pressure, it was tacitly understood that some of us can merely give our time and pay the odd event entry or rarely buy a DVD or book, very rarely because we’d share. When I explained this, I was told, as a ‘counterargument’ (of a few which were personal rants of his against these other NGOs’ chairs, white too), that OS2012 would be free only for SAVS members, that they had not worked out the entry fee yet; it turns out it was free after all and I ended up co-organising it. As unpaid work (as it goes in our part of the world), I organised some speakers and local connections, the 2 co-organisers I knew being ‘new in Capetown’ but of course they did know people, the others weren’t new; this being an intersectional conference they had to use a POC in the process and saying they were struggling or didn’t know many people was a way for them to get access to my resources. The 3 white organisers echoed all of the white man’s decisions, 2 weeks before the event he shifted the event timetable so one speaker (from a minority gender identity organisation) was forced to decline and another, a single-mother, was allocated a time without checking with her, noteworthy that there was to be a panel debate at the end of all talks but the white man who decided the timetable without confirming with any speakers, put himself as the last speaker, when he was available the whole day and someone else was usually allocated all the work. The white organisers started to have meetings at short-notice and knowingly during times I was unavailable for health reasons, pretending they forgot I was when I was available the rest of those same days. It became impossible not to quit and I apologised to speakers I was dealing with, simply warning them that someone else will take over all my communications.
My name had been affiliated with OS2012 on social media, was removed and of course not a word was said on that, at least not that I knew. In any case it tarnishes my image to be associated with them, perhaps less so to seem to have been unreliably associated if IBPOCs know what kind of whites they are. Aside from another director who was well-aware of all that went on, another organisation’s chair had seen but probably not heard details when him & I argue for a while in hushed voices outside the event when he was invested in gaslighting me. I should’ve long spoken of what happened but I had received threats by the white man in charge of the opinions of all organisers and SAVS directors, so that I would not even tell anyone else in the vegan community and in even my own communities, e.g. he had seduced a close disabled friend of mine. In the end I had almost no one to talk to about this in my circle of friends & vegans that got decimated.
Discussions around anti-blackness/ anti-indigineity were had been first hurdle: they were going to make money off what they deemed to be a non-issue (but it was colourism & I then deemed them to be disinterested in money-making, discussions proved it was not ignorance on their part. The whitey already knew my views and stressed that identity politics should be screwed, linking Jarach in his defense and the other directors supported him or remained silent. It isn’t Jarach I linked, have a read whether or not you’re familiar. By the way do these animals whites/anarchists always use a black or brown woman’s image in their event promotions and what do the black or brown women have to say about it? – The latter never seem to be co-organisers or decision-makers, neither are men of colour or intersex folks. In 2012 they featured a living black woman, I did try to ask but I don’t know who she was or if she was aware that she was on an event poster for free presumably. Then this with 2 non-white folks, was the event promotion poster graphic (uncredited), it was changed immediately before the 2014 Anarchist Bookfair:
Ironically, it seems a bit like the token that gets discarded at the last moment. Access obviously needs serious consideration (this is US-based – they were happy to use the talk in event promotion (and in fact used it for their future events like the Anarchist Bookfair, the last being by the same enabled animal whites) but they couldn’t even do something as simple as chalk out disabled parking at a venue that had none and was adjacent to a busy public beach while the event was on the weekend. There was also a “joke” that the white man in charge of the other directors knew sign language (when I asked what languages he spoke, with a plain face he told this “joke” I couldn’t tell was one until we talked about access needs weeks later!) but in reality no one knew SASL and no interpreter was arranged. We all know about the fake interpreter (that was much later) but what’s a privileged white guy’s excuse to make such a ‘joke’ or pretend he knew sign language? One of their subsequent Anarchist bookfairs was co-organised by an acquaintance of mine and to her, I reiterated what I had said before, even offered to send access guidelines (bearing in mind access is a basic need, this is about inclusion and not to promote their free event). They only specified in the event after that that the venue has a few steps at the entrance besides being wheelchair accessible(!!). The erasure of me then gaslighting had also been about access, they wanted to use the “ally” talk only, threatening me was thus ok. For no reason, I was blocked from SAVS’ facebook for months and tacitly banned from the restaurant they took over, I was uncomfortable going to any events where I would meet that director – the man who threatened me in Feb ’12, lest I speak of what happened around the ‘intersectional’ OS2012? They’d also not refund my membership which I wanted donated to a worthwhile animal sanctuary or an activist.
It was essentially an event by the SAVS who used and discarded the only disabled POC to avoid providing access (not for me but generally) amidst an event they still called “intersectional” and this may be unrelated but after postponing this blogpost for months, by mistake it was published very briefly, no views (perhaps an email subscriber) and I’m trying to recover from being hacked. It is vague whether I have been threatened about speaking of my experience with them, or for instance speak anything “about him” (his words) so e.g. I couldn’t then remark that in 2015 he was capitalising on the #RhodesMustFall Black students-led movement, he reposted a photo of a comment left by a racist on a board on the protest grounds. He was of course criticising the racist’s statement that Apartheid is over when months sooner he had no qualms making money from or reselling ‘I benefitted from Apartheid’ T-shirts, which his business bolo’bolo kept praising. In the South African vegan or anarchist movement, some who work/ed alongside him can see what he is doing but they are perfectly fine with it or they think that something else he does compensates. I had no physical spoons to debate this within the forum I moderate (with no help whatsoever), but he had the nerve to keep promoting his events and trying to explicitly recruit volunteers from there, I recall the event was at and co-organised with white UCT (University of Capetown) or the vegan academics there who have a history.
I was unclearly told the SAVS has now changed or that there’s an additional person involved but all animal whites (especially those representing oppressive agents) have responsibilities. However they’d see other animal whites tokenising IBPOC or abusing of my time and energy like 269life scum, and won’t say a thing and they’ll even insist for me to promote their traps then have a shot at gaslighting when I refuse to be on the fence about them or to be on their side. Animal whites suck by happy affiliations with scum. If one isn’t happily affiliated or being a sycophant to scum, I guess they’re not an ‘animal white’ then, they’re a white vegan.
I want to disengage more and more from //Hui !Gaeb’s animal whites and others who don’t realise that oppressive mechanisms need them to polish their image. I don’t get why you need a McDonaldisation of the vegan movement and why someone wanting decentralised grassroots efforts in that environment is called divisive. In fact I want to disengage with the maintream AR movement worldwide that is predominantly white. I saw an academic piece by a white academic vegan it seems to be saying that POC ought to be part of the movement and I’m yet to read it so I’m not expressing my thoughts but can already tell that it’s not for him to say what POC ought to or not do (sure I think he said it’s for other countries and it was the abstract but it’s very clear this is how it comes across and those countries are similar, in fact the animal whites are all big buddies, like this academic and others are buddies with my oppressor) and both movements referred to are problematic. It seems also to be erasing the fact that a Pan-African movement for example may have a strong ecological and pro-non-human-animal and vegan component. In Mauritius it’s the case.
By the way here is a real example where POC is more active than white AR/vegans. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with ‘my’ regional forum, ending up organically as the last co-founder 8 years later but laziness or rather refusal to look at white privilege drains me. To be fair it should be a place where non-white vegans feel free to say anything, in other words post or participate fully. This seems not possible. So I was the only vegan of colour and I was once someone who put vegan before colour because it was significant and important to come together for the animals and to start an AR community besides the NGOs in 2007 with 2 women and a man or 2 Afrikaaners and a fellow foreigner. We had met fellow vegans for the first time and we were the ones who initiate stuff. None of us talked about race or whiteness, when we were all targetted because of my colour we just dealt with it with no analysis or reflection on what had happened. I mentioned one incident in the last self-care blogpost, white academics Pickover and Best also did not view it from a critical angle. They reported what I needed to know from an incident, white friends allied with me, at the time I didn’t expect anything more. If I refer to that time I refer to being demonised at UCT or my being the only person speaking up when a white AR chairperson who will get enormous reach, posts colourism from an anti-Black and casteist Gandhi (there still isn’t space to talk about the latter part, I wouldn’t bring it up when there are other obvious issues that are more comprehensible). The issue that ought to have been obvious is anti-blackness and that the white person promoting it is given space to justify herself. As she was the ally to animals she could’ve rephrased it without anti-blackness and said Gandhi (who wasn’t vegan anyway) inspired her. That time was years before whites allegedly got educated through #BlackLivesMatter and #RememberMarikana because apparently they couldn’t learn from their immediate environment.
In the days of #FeesWillFall and #DecoloniseLabour I have seen more white crap from the ‘ally theatre’ continue to break our spaces and my spirit in a so-called community. Someone who seems nice was doing it with me in private just the day before, a rhetorical question I asked then: does one learn nothing from “allyship” to other movements? I was moderating that forum animal whites overuse and as usual I was straightforward and thought it’ll be easy, they support #FeesMustFall apparently. Yet white privileged shit was dumped on me (I’d think deliberately) and I waste time trying to clean it off or explain basic things in good faith, thinking they do want to ally. This at least reminded me that a former director of the SAVS supports PeTA very much, encourages sexual violence against women, and engages in politics of substitution. This fact got hidden I assume (not the article, which was right after the conference where she’d learned nothing from feminists) and she, a white AR woman, was a speaker at OS2012 when there wasn’t enough slots for others (guerilla gardening, transgenderism; disability and other issues weren’t even considered, no one could, say, help me present) and there was at least 3 other straight white vegans speaking on intersections with AR. Two of them, with valuable input and if I can’t even remember the other two themes at all but I was there.
Of course it’s not black and white thanks to surely, among other things, the saturation of the vegan movement they bask in, some B/POC vegans have been as apathetic as white people I thought I knew, the latter when they witnessed tokenism all I could see is them cutting ties with me; the former it was when I spoke out against racism, sexism or ableism in the movement (do animal whites leave them a choice if they want to be in the vegan movement?) or simply because of religious divergence which is no different to my experience with Lesley Dove(sp?) et al. – white un-religious vegans in the UK. Those who’re vegan, we’ll all know what that would’ve been about.
I started this post saying this is a conclusion, this is not a space to start a debate. This is the end of discussions or lack thereof or their passive-aggressiveness of the last 3 years. This is me speaking at last and this is me not enabling their white crap, and because if gaslighting happened in my face as if I may have only half a brain, I wonder what went on behind my back. What this is not is an invitation to bring any white crap here, or in places I moderate. Support or stories of similar experiences from IBPOC are welcome.
*IBPOC – Indigenous, Black and People of Colour. Indigenous people with Khoisan ancestry have different experiences and culture and their ancestral language had been erased for hundreds of years so there was oral transmission of few derivative words.