Last Call to Check Your Privilege!

Posted: June 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

Please, PLEASE stop pretending there’s no class privilege in veganism!!!
(I’m seriously begging you.)

You may be tired of hearing me talk about this. I wrote about it here and here. But based on a very disappointing conversation I just had, from which I had to walk away for the sake of self-care, I feel compelled to try this one.last.time.

There IS— unequivocally, unmistakably— class privilege inherent in veganism. That does NOT mean poor people get a pass and don’t have to do it. But if we can’t be honest about the challenges inherent in this lifestyle, then we will neither overcome them ourselves nor empower anyone else to overcome them.

 I was talking to a good friend of mine who is also a white vegan activist. I’ll call her Whitney (W), and refer to myself as Me (M). It went like this:

 

W: Most intersectional vegans are speciesist, throwing animal rights under the bus in favor of social justice. We make it all about us.

M: See, a true intersectional advocate knows that AR is imperative to social justice, so the people you’re talking about I wouldn’t call “intersectional.” You can’t throw any issue under the bus if you believe they are all linked and all important.

W: We criticize animal rights groups for being oppressive but rarely criticize social justice groups for being speciesist.

M: Are you kidding? I don’t know who “we” is specifically but human justice groups get called out for not being vegan all the time. And again, you’re listing AR and social justice as two separate things. That’s like me saying, “My arm and my body.”

W: Anti-racism is home to all those folks who think veganism is class privilege.

M: Well, living vegan IS. Thinking or feeling vegan isn’t.

(Here it comes…Wait for iiiiiittt….)

W: Everyone can live vegan. 

M (after taking several VERY deep breaths): But the class necessary to live a 100 percent vegan lifestyle is obvious. Ex: Neither of us can afford to buy or rent from a building made with exclusively vegan products. And… (here I stated another example from her own existence, which I’ll edit out here so as not to risk someone knowing who she is.) People are afraid of examining the class privilege in veganism because they think it’ll give poor people a pass. It doesn’t. To say as a white vegan that everyone can live vegan is shockingly classist of you, actually.

W: Eating a vegan diet is accessible to everyone.

Me (after another DEEEEEP breath): Eating ANYTHING is not accessible to everyone. FOOD is not accessible to everyone. This is part of what’s holding the movement back— rather than being honest about the challenges and working to overcome them, some white vegans pretend those challenges don’t exist.

W: Everyone has access to rice, beans and bananas unless they’re starving.

 

At this point, I excused myself from the conversation because…Well, you read it, didn’t you?

I didn’t even have the strength or energy left to go into the fact that “unless they’re starving” is a LARGE group of people, and even if it were only five people, or even just one person, it still immediately invalidates the argument that “Eating a vegan diet is accessible to everyone.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Don’t feed the trolls, Saryta! Unfortunately, this wasn’t a troll. This was one of my best friends, with whom I’ve had many conversations about various social justice issues— including poverty— and who has never, EVER demonstrated this skewed, classist, indirectly racist way of thinking to me before. So it hurts a lot more than if this was just some stranger on a vegan Facebook page.

Never mind the fact that even people who aren’t literally “starving” may not have access to those things because of their climate, because they’re in a hospital, because they’re in prison, etc. etc. etc.

And never mind the fact that a diet of exclusively rice, beans and bananas would send any human to an early grave because it’s missing roughly a bajillion nutrients.

We’ve GOT to stop saying naïve sh*t like this and have REAL TALK about global veganism, or else this “movement” ain’t goin’ anywhere.

 

All content © Saryta Rodriguez, 2016

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