Good morning, beautiful Brown people!
I’ve got a loaded question for us today.
Why would we exclude people in the conversation of exclusion?
Why are we uncomfortable with white people entering discussions that center us? Placing a boundary around those who enter the space with carelessness, hurtfulness and bigotry is valid (across all bases – ableism, transphobia, classism, racism alike.) I never think it’s appropriate for white people to center themselves in our space…
But consciously excluding those who seek the space with intention to support and listen; who want to learn or apply resources on how to contribute to Black/Brown vegan activism is actually harmful to our cause.
I do see the importance of empowerment within an identity, which is why I love hosting events such as FemPowerHour and the Sunday Brunch (more details soon) that are spaces specifically carved for Black/Brown femme folk to recharge, reconnect and relax.
But it consistently frustrates us to be speaking in an echo chamber on topics of liberation, land rights, and industrial systems amongst people with the same level of access to making systemic change…So why do we continue to do it?
We always say support Black/Brown vegan activism..How can they support if they are not apart of the discussion? (listeners are just as much apart of the conversation). I think it’s capitalist in nature to believe if white people gave us all their money that we would thrive or even achieve anything in terms of growth or liberation.
(Shoot, honestly, what would be lit is if white people and “rich” people started giving back land. Now, that would be lit. Forget the money at that point. Let me stay on topic here tho.)
Anyway, as we divest from capitalism, we need to think about what money represents within capitalist societies and that is: access. We want to decenter money as the motivation for all things, as this is something that capitalist notions have conditioned us to believe. I’ve come to realize that more than anything it represents value, access and worth.
I think as we are growing to associate value with a state of being- someone’s voice is simply valuable for being a person– then it would be wrong to exclude someone and say they are not valuable to the conversation based on an element of their personhood. In which case, are we really doing anything different or are we seeking the power to normalize ill-treatment of white people?
I invite us to think beyond that framework of exclusion. We may hate to admit it, but complete and collective liberation cannot exist in the midst of intentional white suffering… or else it may be just be a spin on white supremacy.
If we are excluding them because we are afraid of or uncomfortable with expressing our true feelings about white supremacy and capitalism in front of white people, then we need to actively challenge the white supremacist and capitalist frameworks that erase and silence us by speaking about oppression unapologetically. I’d also ask us to consider whether or not that sentiment contradicts the demand we have of white people to embrace discomfort as we dissect oppression in society.
Should they self-educate to some degree before entering the space? Absolutely. Should they enter the space from a place of humility and receptivity? Absolutely.
And, just as with the rest of us, I feel as though they should be present and engaged.
I mentioned one day that a lot of my activism includes frameworks, ideologies, tools, and outlooks that are informed & inspired by my Black feminist activism— which far predated my vegan activism. So, I admit that I have a praxis for veganism that is informed by Black feminist liberation theories. (I’m gonna write a spinoff article how assuming that we all have the same level of knowledge in terms of liberation theory, vegan practice or decolonization is seriously flawed, capitalist and also exclusionary.)
I also recognize that becoming vegan does not guarantee that you’ll become well-versed on Black feminist liberation theory…Just as becoming Black feminist does not assure exposure to nonhuman animal liberation theory… (most don’t even see how the two are related which is ok)
but in a way, that should be the case.
Which is why I ask for your support of my work.
I think, if anything, let’s welcome them into a space that centers Black and Brown vegan voices. If we want veganism to be identified as a liberation movement, then I think it’s best that we welcome everyone who come to the space to reinforce our work. This way, we actively give strength to our narratives and our liberation theories.
For example, the large platform big name white vegans who quit their day jobs in pursuit of animal rights should be offering their speaking spots at panels and conferences, news articles, instagram features, and the like, to the Black/Brown vegans advocating for complete and collective liberation. They can only do this, though, if they know about us. And truly know about us… not just the face we put on for donors.
Let them see the real.
For us, activism is a part of our fabric— meaning many of us still work, go to school, or otherwise sustain ourselves under the current capitalist system while also dedicating our lives to changing the vegan narrative and being a resource for Black/Brown people throughout their vegan journey. Meaning we do this for our own liberation just as much as everyone else’s. Meaning there is no off switch for activism within a Black or Brown body.
It is a facet of our livelihood.
It is constant state of being.
We do this because we know what oppression is and how it functions. And because we know how it feels to be oppressed, our voices should be centered in speaking about oppression and liberation. We speak from a place of identification and experience.
And it is really important for them to be exposed to that.
Let us clearly acknowledge the difference between white saviorism and activism, for the sake of a stronger movement altogether. With one goal and several means of actualizing and achieving it.
Exclusion, tho… It’s just not the way we do things. Ancestrally speaking.
It’s time we rechannel our (rightfully acquired, but unproductively harbored) resentment into intentional and considerate action.
No white tears allowed, ever. And I mean that.
But white humility,
and informed utilization of white privilege
are intentional actions that are
always welcome in my activist spaces.
I truly hope that this resource is helpful to you in some way on your vegan journey as a Black/Brown person! In my journey as a young Black vegan, I have definitely learned that it is most helpful to our end goal support activists that are alleviating the issues that we recognize prevent access to veganism in Black/Brown communities instead of working over ourselves, we can get in where we fit in to help the movement expand and progress in the direction of complete and collective liberation.