Veganism and Racism: "It’s a FILL IN THE BLANK thing!"

Being biracial, the conversation around race is always an interesting one. Whenever a “heightened” racial incident occurs in the media, it brings forth some great discussion, but it also can get tense and anxious for me. In the past, I’ve been asked to pick a side, or even told “Well, your mom’s black. So, I know how you feel.” Silly, right?  

With the recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, it got me thinking about veganism of all things. What does veganism have to do with a teenager being killed? It has nothing directly to do with it. But there’s a common root in stereotypes and misinformation that can transcend any kind of -ism. So, the case got me to think about how a single incident could polarize folks along this supposed racial divide. How does a single choice in one’s life can impact others around him/her. 
Growing up, being a vegetarian was considered a “weird, hippie, white thing.” Oddly enough, my mom was more hippie on her days off with flowy dresses and her folk albums. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my first attempt at going vegetarian many, many moons ago had shunned me a bit. I “mistakenly (not on my part)” brought veggie burgers to a barbecue and was given rude stares. Why was I bothering in some foolish “white people thing?” Oh wait, I’m half-white. That was enough explanation for some, but not enough for me to be welcomed fully into the fold. However, when I went back to eating meat, all the niceties returned, and no one seemed to see color when they looked at me.
Fast-forward years later, adulthood, marriage and illness, I gave up meat and briefly was pescatarian. Then I went vegetarian, and stuck it out a few years. One day, I turned to Artichoke (who’s white – in case you didn’t know) and I said “I want to go vegan for a week.” A week turned into almost a couple of years, and still going. Most family members were accepting of it, even though we didn’t seek it. However, some on my side were not so nice about it, as if they were offended. Being vegetarian wasn’t so bad for them, but being vegan seemed to be a slight. And the line was drawn in the sand.
Slowly, we weren’t included in family gatherings. Invitations were going to my mom with a “see if they want to come” as the extension to Artie and me. After a while, there were no more extensions. One day, my mom was saying how some relatives were asking how I was doing. I thought that was interesting because we weren’t welcomed to parties or holiday meals any longer. So, I asked “Mom, why do they care when they don’t want us around? WHY don’t they want us around?” She sighed and said “Well, it’s because you’re vegan. They don’t understand why you won’t eat meat. They don’t your veganism. They’re ignornant. They’d (being one in particular) rather not have you there to make them uncomfortable.” I made them uncomfortable for as long as I could remember. 
It hurt my mom’s feelings more than it hurt mine. I remembered the whole “white people thing” nonsense whenever I did something that wasn’t “normal” to these particular folks. I grew up with my grandma saying “You can’t hate your family.” True, I don’t hate my family. I feel sorry for some of them.
Through veganism, I’ve learned a lot about compassion and forgiveness through our friends, some family and yes, our cats! But I am still baffled why some choose not to open themselves up to that same compassion. Why does “veganism” have to be seen as a “white people thing?” Why can’t it be a “humane” thing for everyone, like it is for me? I’ll never fully understand.
Hopefully, I can share the knowledge I’ve gained from those in the vegan community who’ve embraced me and Artie, and don’t see any color. They just see human animals who share the same world as other species. I live everyday to have that same worldview.
Veganism = It’s a REAL thing. It’s a NORMAL thing. It’s NOT a thing. It’s a LIFE!
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One Reply to “Veganism and Racism: "It’s a FILL IN THE BLANK thing!"”

  1. I am so sorry that you have to deal with this, and with your family at that! I am not vegan but I stopped eating pork and beef when I was 16. I cannot tell you how many times I have brought roasted garlic hummus and middle eastern wheat flatbread or turkeyburgers to bbqs so I would have something to eat. Now people understand my dietary requirements. They know to prepare the chicken and turkeyburgers first or to change the foil and clean the utensils before putting my food on the grill. I will admit that I overhear people cussing under their breath when they hear about my special needs , especially in the south where some have grown up eating pork. Regardless of the health factor, they just don't understand my preferences.

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