Quotes and Image reposted from an article in Thrillest. <– Read the whole thing there.
You gotta be kidding yourselves if you think yt people invented cruelty free living. Like with almost everything else [the good stuff anyway], they co-opted it from people of color, with little due credit or return but exploitation instead. Fellow POC Vegans: let’s take it back & continue to support each other as we protect ourselves from the poisonous industries of abuse and power that run this country. Meat & dairy production, low-wage migrant labor, colonization, the prison system — it’s all connected. We’re resisting it today, like we have been for centuries now.
Mainstream veganism, which advocacy sites like Vegan Voices of Color define as “white veganism,” tends to overlook vegans of color by excluding them from the dominant discourse.
Do a quick Google search, and it’s easy to see why mainstream veganism is largely considered to be a white movement worldwide. Lists of “25 Vegan Celebrities” typically includes only a handful of black and brown faces amongst a glut of white entertainers. Each entry of The Independent’s “9 Best Vegan Cookbooks” is written by a white author and employs a strikingly similar minimalist aesthetic that would sell well to the Goop set of people who are slender, white, and wealthy enough to afford $30 plates of kelp noodle cacio e pepe to go with their $13 turmeric elixirs. Spoon University’s list of “10 Vegans to Follow on Instagram” compiles image after image of healthy bowls made by white vegans specifically to play well on Instagram. The majority of high-profile vegan restaurants — ones that land in the pages of publications like Food & Wine and Bon Appétit — are also run by white chefs.
Due to this misrepresentation about the true scope of veganism, it’s not unusual for many vegans of color to think that they are alone. “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me at events and tell me that it’s so good to see someone who looks like me speaking,” says Lauren Ornelas, the founder of the Food Empowerment Project, and a self-described “proud Mexican-American.” Emiko Badillo, the founder of Portland’s first all-vegan grocery store, credits the same acute visibility problem to why she decided to start the Portland Vegans of Color group. “I started becoming disenfranchised with the vegan community in Portland when I realized how white-dominated veganism was,” Badillo explains. “I put a call out to see who might be interested in forming a vegans of color group, and the responses showed me how much of a need there was for [one].”
Even with that much star power, mainstream veganism still manages to elbow out vegans of color as it’s convenient. In the most striking example, foods most associated with vegan meals — crumbly blocks of tofu, fluffy quinoa, pots of chia pudding, “wraps” made from collard greens instead of tortillas, pulled-pork sandwiches made from jackfruit — originated in communities of color who have been eating these items for hundreds of years before they were plucked and reclothed as “superfoods” or clever meat alternatives, stripping of them of their identities. “They borrow from so many different cultures, for sure,” says Claiborne with an exasperated laugh. When anything gets sucked up into the current of what’s trendy, the price goes up, making it harder for the communities that have long depended on these ingredients to afford them. “When a thin, white vegan lady says something is cool, tons of people listen,” says Badillo.
In addition to lifting ingredients from cultures of color and calling them their own, mainstream vegans are frequently “veganizing” cuisines that never needed it. “It’s as if they think that communities of color are unable to turn their own food into something that’s vegan,” says Claiborne. It was something that she feared as she was writing her upcoming soul food cookbook — one that is inspired by her grandmother’s cooking and her upbringing in the American South. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Please don’t let any white people come in and make a vegan soul food cookbook before I get around to it because that is just going to be crazy,’” Claiborne admits. Her fears are well-founded: There are cookbooks presenting vegan Mexican, Chinese, and Thai food out there written by white authors.
Perhaps the most egregious example of appropriation is Thug Kitchen, the ultra-popular vegan cooking blog that eventually spun off multiple New York Times best-selling cookbooks that have sold millions of copies collectively. Thug Kitchen built a name for itself writing voicey, expletive-laced directions for its vegan recipes. The tongue-in-cheek style borrowed heavily from African-American culture (the name alone suggests as much), leading most people to believe that the anonymous author was someone like “a calorie-conscious, gangly young black man who’s particularly vehement about clean eating,” as writer Akeya Dickson described in The Root. Instead, it came out that the blog was actually run by a white man and white woman, both in their late 20s. “It’s deceptive and feels a lot like the latest iteration of nouveau blackface,” Dickson continued in the same post. Claiborne, Ornelas, and Badillo all shared the same negative, indignant reaction to the question of Thug Kitchen. “That’s not the kind of veganism I choose to follow,” says Ornelas.