to be frank, in any form of oppression black women and people exist as the socially constructed "animal."
this is why thousands of people - unfortunately black folx included - find it acceptable to treat us as items of consumption or mules that provide a means to an end. oftentimes we are expected to labor emotionally, physically, and intellectually for the benefit of another without receiving any form of compensation.
though the severity of this depends on your appearance, class, ability, and sexuality, we are treated as inherently inferior; distinctly… different.
in other words, an animal.
animals are thought to be the opposite of human - another social invention. in the eyes of the oppressor, those imposed differences justifies said abuse. whether we're speaking in terms of racism, sexism, or cissexism, that same power dynamic exists within every system of domination.
let's backtrack for a second.
during the chattel enslavement of African people, our ancestors did an incredible job of turning literal scraps into meals. the sheer creativity it took to transform the waste from the (barbaric) slave masters into cuisine is astonishing.
fast forward to 2017 and those same meals have grown to be a cultural tradition; soul food.
i grew up in the midwest of Ameriakkka, where no family gathering was complete without greens, deep fried chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese, ham, sometimes duck, and whatever else the elders felt like cooking. get-togethers where a time to rejoice and escape the trauma of existing while black in this country. the preparation of food was just as much of an outlet as eating it.
here's the problem, excess consumption of foods like meat, dairy, and eggs wreak havoc on the body mind and spirit. especially for those of us dealing with an unhealthy amount of stress due to our intersecting oppressions. i don't know about you, but neither me or the other women/femmes in my family were given space to decompress, recharge, and rebuild ourselves once broken down from the pressures of the world. contrarily, most of the elderly femmes in my family were expected to manage the housework, parenting, cooking, and their baby ass husbands in addition to working full-time jobs. shit, they had to sit quietly while their husbands used them figuratively (and sometimes not) as punching bags to process the trauma of racism. they themselves were granted absolutely no time to breathe.
this, to me, sounds a whole lot like the denial of someone's personhood. not to mention the perfect environment for disease to flourish.
in case you were wondering, this is where veganism comes into play.
transitioning into a whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds will improve one's health. in fact, many people who transition from a traditional American diet - where meat, dairy, and eggs are the main components - to a vegan lifestyle describe experiencing immediate mental clarity. when i first became a vegan, i couldn't believe how my diet affected my thought process and overall mood. i'm a person who struggles with chronic depression and while veganism did not "cure" me of this, it most definitely alleviated certain symptoms such as extreme sluggishness. now when i'm experiencing a depressive low, i at least have the energy to cook for myself. this may seem small to neurotypical folx, but for people like me? it's huge. *btw, i am not suggesting the effects veganism has had on my depression is universal. this is simply my experience.*
you may be thinking to yourself, "this is nice and all, but veganism is white people shit; it ain't for us."
let's unpack why veganism is thought to be a "white" thing. whether you've been told bluntly or shown indirectly, people with access to money and wealth are typically white. with the unearned advantages white folx have acquired from the enslavement of our people, linked with the continued racialized law enforcement - from the school-to-prison pipeline to the war on drugs - things that are thought to be expensive aren't seen as accessible to us. especially when you tack on the additional obstacles from being both black and woman/person in this country. it's...a lot.
learning to navigate a system that literally separates you from health with the design of food deserts can be daunting. according to this article, "food deserts are defined as neighborhoods that are considered high-poverty, where at least a third of the resident live a mile or greater from the nearest grocery store.” the article goes on to say, "people who live in these food deserts are more likely to have diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, along with other health conditions.”
yeah, that's not a coincidence.
this is why as soon as you get to the hood, grocery stores are replaced with mcdonald's, kfc, burger king, pizza hut, and a plethora of other fast food chains. restricted access to health is one of the most obvious forms of systematic racism.
so, why should you consider veganism? in short, to combat this racist tradition of weaponizing illness to keep us in a state of lethargy.
plus, in regards to our bodies being commodified, enslaved, and itemized (think the prison industrial complex), we have a hell of a lot in common with the mistreatment of nonhuman animals. i'm not suggesting that the responsibility of disrupting this system that justifies the mass exploitation that is factory farming falls solely on our shoulders, but i am imploring you to see the similarities between our abuse and theirs. not that commonality is a requirement to condemn oppression, but i think it is a starting point.
let's say you're now contemplating the transition to a vegan lifestyle, where do you start?
first, yay you! for most people, that's a huge step that shows a massive shift in mindset, so that deserves some recognition. second, before you even think about food, get clear on your reasons.
once you are clear on your why, make it a point to gradually eliminate meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet. if you can go vegan cold turkey, big ups to you! but don't feel bad if you need to transition little by little. start by simply adding more fruits, veggies, beans, and grains to your plate. periodically increase the size of each, until eventually you crowd out everything else.
ultimately, people of all colors, shapes, and sizes go vegan for a multitude of reasons. for me, it was the progression of my politics as an intersectional feminist. i needed my diet to match the mindset that every living person - human and non - deserves a life without domination. your reasons may be completely different from mine, and that's fine! veganism doesn't have to be a cult where everyone thinks and acts exactly the same. do whatever works best for you and remember to challenge yourself daily.
also, don't judge others who aren't vegan; all of us got our start somewhere.
hopefully, yours is here.
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