It was a rough fall back to virtual reality here after a refreshing immersion and too brief participation in an amazing black-centering conference, participation and presentation seemed diverse and inclusive – in ability (all visuals were described, also there were full scholarships), gender (3 transfolks presented and one was to center black transwomen’s history and trans lives) and sexual orientation (VINE is an LGBTQ-run animal sanctuary for one, a presentation covered sexual orientations and genders) and ethnicity of course. I won’t talk about points Jessica Rowshandel made in her presentation in the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter conference, which I had the privilege to attend thanks to Dr A. Breeze Harper (thank-you, forever!) I listened to most of the conference after writing this, I needed this out of my system. I must add that Paul Gorski mentioned a study among social justice activists of colour pointing out racism as the main cause of burn-out. No doubt additional levels of stress would be observed in women of colour activists, queer folks of colour activists and disabled activists of colour.
I have witnessed denial or at least a lot of apathy if not overt complicity with the oppressors of certain vegans of colour. Perhaps it was not her focus, Jessica did not mention disposability (Toi Scott had spoken about it the previous day, I hadn’t heard it yet), erasure, and slandering. This isn’t talked about at all in vegan communities, then again the local community of colour seems very happy to push white supremacist veganism (I doubt local white vegans here are responsible, rather PETA and other racist or otherwise misanthropic leaders are). I needed to start that conversation last decade – are some of these more commonly disability-specific or intersectional oppressions towards POC? In any case, privileged cis-gendered men vegan leaders love to carry them out.
Once I was ‘burnt out’, my process was respected, I was included (in spite of me being the only vegan of colour pointing out racial insensitivities in a white movement which is not a uniform one, there are several organisations in Capetown, and I had already been slandered once by a white vegan man not exactly involved with the orgs who were active in South Africa, their white colleague’s words also got recorded by accident and basically the very first hour when I met Michele Pickover and Steve Best, they were taken aside and I was slandered, they later told me and other [a vegan community] founders who were white). Later, I lost community to an alleged-intersectional vegan leader, a white man, and I got isolated. There is a pattern when I befriend local privileged vegans regardless of ethinicity (but they were all post-racial men or very closely linked to such men), I get used, erased and thoroughly excluded when my thoughts inconvenience them. Perhaps leaders are expert oppressors?
This is the first conversation I really ought to have with new vegans I’m getting to know in a country I haven’t lived in. Vegans I knew thus far think I need to put aside “differences” for the sake of the animals. So why do I get asked to stretch myself in ways humaneness wouldn’t allow, why not ask privileged vegans not to oppress, tokenise, use and slander others? I have hesitated to speak about one case because of threats issued to me by one influential man; and about the other because there was no interest (no responses from other moderators, almost no one I knew personally) or support in my favour. An AR activist who witnessed the latter was sympathetic but seemed on their side in the discussion. Later she became someone who was harassing and trolling me in other groups, in ways that can harm; and she threatened to gossip about my personal life if I unfriended or blocked her on social media. I blocked her as what she last did was completely unacceptable at any level. Let’s say I should’ve done more than a virtual measure to protect myself.
The issue which irritated Harry, founder (on FB?) or president of the Vegan Society-Mauritius was that I [a longer-term vegan, a WOC, who had more AR experience than him and moderated ‘his’ group as a favour (while living in another country)] dared criticise PeTA. He was really enjoying this PeTA ad that sexualises the abuse of women, posted it to the group -he’d- asked me to moderate and censored me repeatedly; at some point I wasn’t even talking about the ad but quoting beloved world leaders on censorship. So I wasn’t quoting radicals but Tata Mandela, I was censored and banned. In view of having to write to clarify on dietary needs in their local newspaper as I was no longer in contact with vegans there, I was sometimes observing the group from a fake profile because I saw him promote false and dangerous info on B12 in spite of learning facts (in a country where injections can only be had on the basis of a blood test to prove deficiency, this is an issue for non-vegans and anyone who takes analogues, which sell here, or anyone who is pregnant or have some illnesses); that profile, without saying anything, got banned too, much later. The poor fake person never even sought justice for this unjust unexplained ban. Does this happen to any local vegan who follows my facebook page? Lately I resumed contact with an ex-admin who perhaps could but never answered my important questions. I was asked to “put all issues with Harry behind me”, I was about to attempt a superhuman effort to create access for myself in spite of major odds, as in even provide a venue myself to join their Vegan Soc committee then Harry, whom I’d been told was no longer around, is suddenly their president (an oppressive man who lied to cover his mistake, that is all I could make out from admin responses, if any, back in 2012) I was told. I said nothing. In the weeks we have been discussing that, I got no response to update the only kind products list. I wanted to make it more usable, make leaflets; I didn’t get any feedback, product names, or acceptance to share or collaborate. I imagined my joining their Vegan Soc committee was the only way to get these simple things for the animals, with it likely to involve access creation from my side mostly.
I will no longer hesitate to express my wish to stay very far from such a community, this will be my tough love for them and vital self-care for me. What about the animals? The choice ought not be between self-care and a pretense to help them, the better I am the better an ally I can be but why don’t these humans who are after selfish gains and narcissistic image-building see at least how bad the widening gap between us looks? It’s no longer simply differences but them having oppressed me and cut ties or it was dangerous for me to keep communicating with them. Thank-you Laura Schleifer for the terms ‘narcissistic anger and pity’. Not only certain white folks have narcissistic anger, perhaps certain whitened folks or well, this is a country where MOC too run things.
What the WOC AR activist did which made previous in-private support futile, is try counter-argument in a violence against women discussion in a serious group explicitly saying that she enjoys making porn that depict violence against women, and it’s all well and good but when I was among the respondents because after all I was already commenting in that discussion before she joined, she used slurs towards me, trying to shame me publicly online in an open group of thousands of local activists who were paying attention.
I lived in 2 locations, having recently moved to my country of origin where I’d only met the oppressive vegan MOC and his vegan of colour girlfriend who was supportive of his oppression against women (let alone against me). I trusted them and the AR activist I have never met, based on our shared allyship to animals. That is a very common mistake we do as animal allies? We see A LOT of violence constantly experienced by animals, some of us get burnt out or triggered from that, many analogies get used to explain violence on animals to others who don’t get it and yet some AR/vegans want to oppress or erase marginalised people of colour they call friends.
When it is racial insensitivity POCs are guilty of, should we be lenient thinking of it along the lines of perpetrator induced trauma (a concept I didn’t know mentioned in the context of slaughterhouse work by Christopher McJetters in the same conference)? I don’t think so, when people use any opportunity to slander and erase. Maybe it says something on why they lack real-life members (I was told when asked to join their committee this time). What wrongs they have done so far doesn’t seem to be something they must do to put tofu on the table!
I have to stress that it is hurting animals in very obvious ways. In the absence of volunteers or information, I have 1 comrade I put on the task of helping me with the kind products list. She’s not vegan, may not be comfortable hearing about animal testing on products they can afford. I won’t show them violent photos, I share recipes, we’re trying to work out cost differences, I share health issues related to commercial products. Some women while raising their own kids and helping their communities, appear to be driving part of this movement here, until someone indicates otherwise or volunteers. I need to give AL/animal allies awards, their love actually has more to do with loving our Earth and loving me with all my allergies. But she is still be doing more than the AR activists and vegans I’ve known here for the past years in this country.
things ive noticed: conditionally white poc are white when they align w whiteness and poc when they reject it –@Izz145