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. :-) )

Friday, January 22, 2016

Faces

Bunny faces are pretty nifty.

Cutie.

This pretty female is Cutie. She's been at Heartland for several years now and owns a big chunk of my heart. Most days when I go to Heartland I check to see if she's in a mood to let me have a head rubbing session with her...and if she is I sit her on my chest and pleasure myself by stroking her head...she seems to enjoy the contact too.

The little dynamo pictured below is named Fiona. She's gifted with enough attitude for 4 or 5 bunnies and recently was adopted by one of the terrific folks who volunteer and support Heartland. She and Fiona are a perfect match. I was really happy for Fiona when she was presented with her very own pink house.

Fiona and her house.
She's a very small beauty...and...as is often the case with bunnies...her attitude is much bigger than her physical size. She generally greets most humans with a growl and a slap...but then often sort of melts into enjoying a head rub if it is offered.

Earthlings who happen to be bunnies...wow...they are simply terrific.

This graphic knocked me out because I suspect that the message is true.


You can contribute to the battle against evil in this dimension by opposing oppression every time you can. Living vegan is one part of that battle.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.

The third Monday in January is a federal holiday marking the birth of Martin Luther King Jr....he was actually born on January 15th, 1929.
The Wikipedia entry that I linked to above notes that only two other individuals have U.S. national holidays that honor them. What the entry doesn't do is point out that one of those individuals, George Washington, was an "owner" of enslaved African American humans and the other individual honored with a national holiday, Christopher Columbus, murdered and enslaved Native American humans.

I don't have any coherent way to wrap my mind around the fact that here in the "land of the free" we honor only three individuals with a national holiday and two of those individuals enslaved human beings. That sort of makes a pretty telling statement about the dominant group (white people) in the U.S.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the only one of the three who didn't enslave anyone. He is also the only one of the three who was murdered...and he was murdered because of his efforts to increase freedom for people.

That makes me shake my head. It also makes me a little disgusted with myself because I didn't start to more thoroughly comprehend many things until a year or two ago. I am a prime example of someone floating in the ignorant obliviousness of the white racial frame. Jeez. 

Dr. King was a serious thinker who wrote and gave voice to many thoughts that were profound and provocative. Abagond's blog post has a number of quotes by Dr. King that are excellent. I especially like this one:
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Dr. King was not only one of the best humans that ever lived in this nation...he was one of the best that ever lived anywhere.

Here's another quote from Dr. King that comes from a beautiful bit of writing that he did while he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
You can read the full text of the letter here...I urge you to do so...it is a profound and important document.

One sentence from the excerpt above stuns me with its insight: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."

Just wow.

For one example of "shallow understanding from people of good will" you can read this.

I was a young man when he was murdered...and I knew we all had been diminished. Shame on us...and the "us" I mean is we white people.

To honor him on this holiday you can watch some of his speeches here. You also can read this entry on the Vine Sanctuary Blog for some thoughtful suggestions.

He's the only human that this nation honors with a holiday who was a genuine friend of and advocate for "freedom for all". That's scary and sad...but a little hopeful too. At least there's one. Happy Birthday Dr. King.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that it isn't terribly unfair to characterize Christopher Columbus and George Washington as being strongly motivated by trying to make money and Martin Luther King Jr. as being strongly motivated by the pursuit of justice. Good grief. Like I said, scary and sad.



Friday, January 15, 2016

Images and ...

thoughts.

Some combinations of words and images are wonderful at being able to provoke thought and/or comprehension. Here's one that is quite powerful.


The second poem in this previous post presents a variation of the above message.

When we "otherize"...we create invisibility and distortions in our ability to accurately and comprehensively experience reality. 


Notice...it is more accurate and inclusive to modify the second sentence of Dr. Einstein's quote to this form. "They experience themselves, their thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a - kind of optical delusion of their consciousness."

Dr. Einstein, like most of us, couldn't escape the conditioning (in this instance...patriarchal propaganda) that permeates European human culture. Even really really really smart humans get flim-flammed by that stuff. It's pervasive and insidious.

So suck it up and get to work decolonizing your mind. In general...the more powerful and influential the group(s) is/are that you were assigned to...the more distorted is your comprehension of yourself and the world around you and the more work you have to do to correct the optical delusions of your consciousness.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Black Vegans Rock

website is now live. Go visit.



Read the mission statement which says, in part, that:
Black Vegans Rock is a digital space that seeks to spotlight everyday Black vegans who are looking to get their work, art, music, restaurant, book or other projects in front of other vegans. We seek to specifically cater to Black vegans considering we are regularly excluded or erased from mainstream spaces that deal with animal rights, food justice, feminism, and anti-racism...
On their blog they feature profiles of different black vegans. The first feature was about a young woman by the name of Seba Johnson who made history as the first Black female to ever ski in the Olympics. Wow!

Robin DiAngelo wrote: "Most whites live, grow, play, learn, love, work and die primarily in social and geographic racial segregation. Yet, our society does not teach us to see this as a loss."

The first time I encountered that thought it resonated with me...over time it has evolved to be so much more meaningful to me...and tragic. This loss is one that I'm committed to struggling against and...with terrific spaces on the internet like Black Vegans Rock (among others)...there are resources that are easily accessible that can serve to interrupt and remediate some of that loss. I'm grateful that such spaces exist and am happy to share them.  My deep thanks to the creators of the Black Vegans Rock website.
 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ruby Hamad writes truth.

You can access more writings by Ruby Hamad here or on twitter or facebook.

The quote above contains a perspective I've thought about often in the past few years...for instance I can recast it into consideration of families. There is the human family and the cow family and the dog family and the woodchuck family...and so on. Being complicit in practicing oppression (whether knowingly or "unknowingly") in your own family (the human one) while spending effort and time advocating against oppression toward the woodchuck family (and other families) seems a little, well, warped, when you think about it.

For more clarity...let's imagine my family. We'll pretend I'm a young man (actually I'm way past young) who's married and has a wife and two children (this is imaginary). I am a tyrant at home (whether a nice one or a jerky one) and dominate and oppress my wife and the two children but...I'm vegan and advocate against oppressing living beings who do not belong to the human family.

See the problem? I'm not resisting oppression or domination or the horrible treatment of living beings...I'm just being against the bad treatment of certain groups of living beings. I'm not objecting to a**holey behavior...I'm just against it when certain beings are targeted by it. I'm not seeking to interrupt the oppressive framework itself...I'm just saying be selective in picking those who are targeted by oppression.

Which is pretty sad when you think about it. I'm saying to my family (humans)...hey...I don't really much care about you...and that is...when you consider it...probably a pretty poor way to get humans to join in the cause of ethical veganism.

All I've written sounds reasonable and true, at least it does to me, but there's a problem...a big problem. And that problem is, in a way, exemplified by the graphic I shared in my last post. It's a recognition problem. It's the problem of "good" intentions. It's the problem of obliviousness. Way too many of us who advocate for veganism attempt to avoid complicity in human oppression by believing that all we have to do is not wear white sheets and pointy hats and we're good to go. I can assure you, especially for we white identified people, that it is much more difficult than that.

I'm struggling to write something that's been much more eloquently written in many places by many authors....here's one:

"It is virtually impossible to view one oppression, such as sexism or homophobia, in isolation because they are all connected: sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism, ageism. They are linked by a common origin-economic power and control-and by common methods of limiting, controlling and destroying lives. There is no hierarchy of oppressions. Each is terrible and destructive. To eliminate one oppression successfully, a movement has to include work to eliminate them all or else success will always be limited and incomplete."

Those words were written by Suzanne Pharr who has spent her life struggling against oppression. Anyone notice an "ism" she neglected to include? This past year has taught me one thing for sure...and that's that this oppression or "ism" stuff is insidious and smart and slippery and able to morph into invisible forms almost instantly. It can be right in front of you (me too) and not be comprehended. Read what this excellent human writes about it.

To be continued...