Identity, Food, Life

Why is veganism still a “white person thing?”

As far as mainstream vegans go, representation is about as white as the poultry they refuse to eat.

Growing up, like a lot of kids in mainstream America, I was told that you have to eat meat because it has protein and drink milk for the calcium. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned the truth about how animal products affect our bodies. According to the U.S. FDA, foods such as meat, poultry and seafood are frequently involved in food-borne illness outbreaks. Still wondering about whether you should drink milk to get your calcium? Studies have shown that not only is there no evidence that dairy is good for your bones. Ironically enough, the animal protein in dairy has actually been shown to cause bone loss!

When I started doing research and getting involved in the vegan community online, I learned so much about both myself and the world around me. Not only did I learn about how to give back to both the environment, but I also learned about how to take care of myself and my body. The only thing I didn’t like learning about? Just how similar this community is to so many others.

As far as mainstream vegans go, representation is about as white as the poultry they refuse to eat. Not surprising, I suppose. But if people of color can’t see people who look like them living that lifestyle, then why would they want to join in?

There’s a lot to be said about racial and economic privilege in developing healthy diets, as the bloggers at Vegans of Color have dissected. And there’s a frustrating amount of unfiltered racism in the vegan community that’s alienating to people of color who are interested in the ethical consumption, health and animal advocacy issues that draw people toward veganism. Sometimes it’s simply annoying, as in the exoticization and appropriation of “ethnic foods.”

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Other times it’s harder to ignore: “The routine comparisons of animal abuse to the enslavement of Black people shows exactly how little value white members of the vegan community, generally considered a liberal breed, place on Black life,” Claire Heuchen writes. “Vegan activists take to Twitter, questioning whether Black lives – Black, human lives – are as significant as the lives of cows and chickens.”

The cultures many people of color are brought up in feed into this lack of diversity, too. There are so many ways that we have become personally attached to the foods we have come to enjoy for so long. Let’s face it, those fried chicken drumsticks and sweet potato pies sure taste good, but their lack of nutritional value? Not so much.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but if I told my grandma that I didn’t want to eat her famous cornbread or collard greens because I was trying to save the planet she would probably hit me with the spoon she used to stir the batter with.

Now, listen. I’m not saying we all have to go drop everything and start soaking almonds to make our own almond milk as newfound hippie nomads on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere. What I am saying is that you don’t have to be a skinny white it girl to take on this lifestyle that is so good for your body.

So, maybe vegetarianism or veganism is something you have been wanting to embrace but are reluctant to because of your family ties or long-lasting relationship with your Grandpa’s famous pulled pork barbecue. Take this opportunity to push past those traditions and expectations and try something new.

Livi Burke

Livi Burke is a staff writer for The Tempest. She is a blogger, a student, and a long time coffee lover. Some of her biggest passions are writing,photography, and blogging. When she isn't working on a new article or blog post, she is either rewatching Gilmore Girls or obsessing over her favorite Subway sandwich.

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