Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Amie Breeze Harper, Ph.D.

was recently featured on the Black Vegans Rock website. The feature notes that her work: "...focuses on how systems of oppression-namely racist and normative whiteness-operate within the USA." Please read the complete article. She's a phenomenal human being.

I've been following Dr. Harper's online writings and videos for a number of years now and have found her work to be incredibly useful and informative. Her book Sistah Vegan occupies an important position in my small library of writings about veganism and oppression. 

Dr Harper's website and blog, The Sistah Vegan Project, is a great resource and more information can be found there.

I was really happy to see a feature devoted to Dr. Harper on the Black Vegans Rock site because she has been and continues to be an inspiration as I grapple with that culturally conditioned obliviousness which Charles W. Mills  aptly termed "White Ignorance".

I recently read something by bell hooks that made me think of Dr. Harper. The book is titled "Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black". She wrote:
Surely, the absence of a humane critical response has tremendous impact on the writer from any oppressed, colonized group who endeavors to speak. For us, true speaking is not solely an expression of creative power; it is an act of resistance, a political gesture that challenges politics of domination that would render us nameless and voiceless. As such, it is a courageous act -- as such, it represents a threat. To those who wield oppressive power, that which is threatening must necessarily be wiped out, annihilated, silenced. p. 8
The reason this passage brought Dr. Harper's efforts to mind is because of a blog post on The Sistah Vegan Project about recent silencing efforts that have been directed at her. It is an inspiring and uplifting bit of writing and I urge you to read it completely...maybe even several times...because it is both powerful and thought provoking.

Part of the writing in that post says: "We are all racialized subjects with racialized consciousnesses that have been born out of a white supremacist racial caste system; the way we are socially and geographically located in that system affects how we frame, perceive, experience, everything. This includes ethical consumption."

I would have not had the same understanding of those words two years ago that I do now. I would have read it...thought I understood it...sort of...and simply gone right on. Being able to grapple with the reality that my life experience based on being socially positioned as a white cisgendered male ill-equipped me to grasp the meaning of those words simply was not where I was then. I likely don't fully apprehend them now...however my current understanding is much richer and deeper than it was earlier. And I'll keep struggling...

I recently ran across this graphic featuring a quote from Angela Davis. It seemed to provide a good summary of some of the reasons that Dr. Harper is such an inspirational treasure for everyone.

It is the case that most (not all, but most...ok?) of the transforming comprehensions that have impacted me over the past couple of years have been stimulated by the writings of some black women and also by my being able to dialogue face to face with other remarkable black women.

I've never met Dr. Harper in person (nor have I ever met Dr. Davis, who also lives vegan) but her writings, and the examples provided by her lived life, as a scholar, as a resister of oppression, and as a vegan has immeasurably enriched my comprehensions and understandings.  Thank you Dr. Aime Breeze Harper.

(Note: If anywhere in this post I've been tripped up by my 'white ignorance' and written something goofy, please call me out and I will endeavor to become less oblivious and do any correcting that is required. I would ask that you do the calling out gently since I'm pretty elderly and more frail than I used to be. Thanks. :-) )

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