Give people of color space to care for themselves, deal with the hurdles life provides, and to generally live their goddamn lives compared to exerting the constant pressure of joining a movement that, so far, doesn’t seem to care about them.
By Gloria Oladipo
Brace yourself: I am proud vegan. But, not that proud. While I recognize and appreciate the value of veganism in a world rampant with increased health ailments and environmental crises, veganism remains a fairly inaccessible and ‘white’ movement.
An introspective veganism movement, one with a more inclusive focus, is critical. It will be hard to reform veganism, but it can be done. Many tangible efforts can be made to create a more encompassing veganism movement for all:
Cooking “cultural” vegan food
For many cultures, meat tends to be a prominent ingredient. This can make efforts to reduce people’s reliance on meat seem an appropriation of ethnic recipes. To counteract this, it’s important that trying to “veganize” ethnic recipes comes from people of that ethnicity compared to white vegans trying to “spread the good word”.
For example, there are clear differences between a white-owned vegan soul food restaurant opening up in Harlem compared to a black-owned version opening up in Chicago’s Southside: one is a classic case of “culture vultures” while the other is a move towards a more sustainable and healthy way of eating supported by community members.
Additionally, it is key to remind people who talk about the cultural centricity of meat that non-meat eating cultures do exist. Jainism, an ancient religion from India focused on harmlessness as a means of liberation, Hinduism, and Buddhism are just a few groups that don’t eat meat and instead promote plant-based diets.
Making produce more accessible
A major tenet of veganism is a renewed focus on a plant-based. However, for those who live in a food desert, an occurrence that happens in mostly minority communities, constantly buying fruits and vegetables can be near impossible. It is important that vegans take an active interest in trying to make produce more accessible by supporting community gardens and encouraging similar initiatives.
Groups such as Growing Power, a nonprofit based in Milwaukee, WI with an active Chicago office, has started many programs in Chicago that bring gardening into vulnerable communities and engage residents in the growing and buying process. Growing Power and groups like it are always looking for volunteers and funding — needs that vegans can and should meet.
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