I feel compelled and qualified to to say something to my (vegan) network about the growing unrest over the continual police shootings of black men. You may not know that it was my interest, research, and work, since adolescence, in anti-racism and social justice activism along with my degree in American Studies (history through the lens of race, class, gender, and sexuality), that eventually led me to go vegan.
As people with the practiced ability to change our habits for a cause, we vegans have a role to play in the trajectory of civil rights and race relations everywhere. But while there's been a spike in outrage, sadness, and demand for change with all the recent shootings, I also see that people have no any idea of what to actually do, besides hashtag #blacklivesmatter and pressure political leaders for something, unsure of what.
Anything we ask of the government will surely be metered, imperfect, and lengthy to institute. So like every other historical social justice movement, change must occur by conscious individuals modifying their own behavior—sacrificing time for education, gatherings, brainstorming, discussion and debate, implementing change, embodying change, influencing others. Legislation and policy follow the people, not vice versa.
While our community leaders and local governments improve their policies, protocols, use-of-force training, and whatever else might one day create more equality in the public sphere, we can work on our hearts and minds, laying the foundation for a widespread, fundamental, permanent shift toward justice for all.
PLEASE NOTE: By no means is the following a comprehensive list of solutions to heal America's racism, but a start for people who want to help, but don't know where to begin. And by no means am I claiming to speak on behalf of any community, but rather from my experience and learnings as an anti-racism activist. And finally, by no means am I focusing on black history because I think any one else's history is less important, but since the current events have specifically to do with police racism and black men, I focused on resources about African American history.
5 THINGS EVERYONE CAN DO TO HEAL AMERICA'S RACISM
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE GAP
Admit, at least to yourself, that you probably don't know too much about the experience of people of color—unless you have, over great lengths of time, repeatedly put yourself in environments where you are the racial minority, away from the watchful eye of white society. Admission is the first step to recovery.
2. READ & WATCH
Educate yourself on African American history. If you don't intentionally seek out the history of all peoples of color, in fact, you can not possibly know American history at all, nor the real context and implications of race today. To get you started, these are just a few of my most beloved, mind-blowing, life-changing resources that cover a great span of time.
• The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
• Race Rebels: Culture Politics, and the Black Working Class by Robin D.G. Kelley
• Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Narrative of Sojourner Truth; The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader: Ida B. Wells
• Watch documentation of anti-racism activist Jane Elliot's "Blue-Eyed Brown-Eyed" workshops—they are some of the most powerful demonstrations of the insidious nature of racism on both the "superior" and oppressed sides. See what happens when she discriminates against a group of people based on eye color, lowers her expectations of them, and breaks their confidence as they live down to those expectations:
• How Racist Are You? Part I (11 min)
• The Angry Eye (51 min)
Purchase the "Blue-Eyed" documentary on Jane Elliot for diversity training purposes here.
Because of the intersections of race and class, our schools have become largely segregated once again. We have to integrate ourselves if we want our generation and the next to be brothers and sisters. If you or your kids have extracurriculars, hobbies, or after school activities, for example, try doing them in a neighborhood you wouldn't normally venture to—not once or twice like you're on some exoticized safari, but for extended periods of time—to build relationships, friendships, networks, and communities. If this sounds scary to you, the problem of racism and its effect on your life should be appearing clearer. See #1 again.
4. STOP SUGAR-COATING
Stop telling kids that "everyone is equal" and start explaining America's history of inequality, what's going on in the news, and—outrightly and clearly—why racism is sick and wrong. Teach your kids to identify and stand in solidarity with just causes, collectives, ideas, and people.
5. CHOOSE YOUR ACTIVISM THOUGHTFULLY
Don't toss around trendy hashtags nor assume you know what any community needs or wants, or what is good for them. Some of the most useless activism I've seen happens when outsiders come into a neighborhood and start offering services that have nothing to do with the real needs of the community. Listen, read, and find out what the many different voices in the community are saying, and only then become a soldier for what you find fair and just.
Comments? Please leave a note below:
How freaking cute is this?! Hoppy the Helper has gone overseas!
The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids (AKA Il Piccolo Cucchiaio or "The Little Green Spoon") is coming soon in Italian, so super exciting.
Tell your Italian friends, family, and cousins they can order here and get cookin' in the cucina with their bambinis, yay!
Let’s call it love—the indestructible pulse that remains even when you’re burned out, at the end of your rope; the thing that drives your tolerance of heartbreak, anger, ridicule, discomfort, frustration, static—even attempts at public humiliation; it is the same force that, in other moments, will have you knowing and feeling the greatest, most profound potential in anyone and of any thing.
Earth Day can be a melancholy day for activists—it’s such a lowly gesture, mostly devoid of any real recognition that we are in fact solar/lunar/water/oxygen beings, dependent on the wellbeing of the earth. Yesterday I found myself at a “green" expo, surrounded by some awesome companies doing effective and meaningful work, and others that were, for example, handing out plastic promotional items—wrapped in plastic bags, no less—and serving dairy ice cream. I had a great time sharing Help Yourself and feeding a non-vegan crowd samples of my superfood trail mix and kale salad recipes, but it was spiked with moments where I felt an oppressive mundanity, the lack of a spiritual dimension in the work being done, supposedly in the name of the earth.
If you’re working for the vegan movement, you constantly have to hold a death force right along with the life force you’re trying to infuse into everything you do. The culture of death is an undercurrent in our society, one we're simultaneously working against and alongside of. I think women, especially, are the most capable of tolerating this task. We are both the receptacles of everyone’s energy and the nurturers of everyone’s energy, constantly internalizing and externalizing the flow. After the green expo, I felt two opposing things—the confidence and high of meaningful activism as well as the culture of death that persists through peoples’ destructive and unconscious habits. A green expo is the last place you want to feel the latter.
So on my way home, I cried. It may have had some to do with unrelated grief, but what’s not related when it’s happening inside you?
This is the moment where, if we want to go on—being an artist, an activist, a parent, a business owner, whatever we are—we have to effectively transmute the energies we hold. For me, transmutation feels like a a torrent, a tidal wave, a wash of all the things I’ve absorbed rising to the surface to seek oxygen, out of my skin and veins and eyes and lungs and mouth. I’ve made a practice of letting it come, because I’ve learned again and again that the only relief is to head through it, not around.
It’s quiet after, and anything is possible again. You know you can hold all the energies, everyone’s energies—life energies and death forces. We continue to exist—full, holding, acting, waiting, and being patient…because love keeps trying.
Earth Day, every day.
'Ya hear? Leave me a comment below...