The Queer Black Vegan Guide to Self-Care for People Who Might Not Be Queer or Black But Still Don’t Know What in the Entire Hell White Women Are Talking About

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Fuck off, Meredith. I don’t have the spoons for your shit.

I’m coming off of a long weekend that required me to do a lot of work interacting with people. Much as I love what I do, I also suffer from social anxiety disorder (more on that in another post). Thing is, I get asked all the time what I do for self care, and I honestly have no idea what that even means. I mean, I have a vague concept of it. But from what I can glean between the pages of Cosmo and Prevention, it has a lot do with idyllic-looking slim white women doing mindful meditation, whispering affirmations, and practicing yoga. I think the last straw was reading a magazine article on self care in a doctor’s office that suggested wearing a funny hat at a jaunty angle all day or go to work wearing a plastic mustache and offer no explanation. That was pretty much the point at which I decided that although black people suffer from the types of emotional trauma that white people could not even conceive, this [thoroughly middle class] culture of self care is not for us. It is liable to get us fired from our jobs (as if underemployment doesn’t already disproportionately affect us) or get us killed. Mind you, I’m not here to hate on white lady self care. If going to the symphony and buying balloons is your lane, do it.

But here’s what I do for self care. And please disabuse yourself in advance of any notion whatsoever that what I do for self care is in the least bit healthy. In fact, these things are downright self destructive. Why? Because being black and queer is messy. Like everything about my fucking life. And not everything I do has to be designed to rehabilitate my soul or make me one with the universe. Most of the time, everything I do is about keeping the lights on for a few more weeks. This isn’t about my long-term health and well-being. It’s about my fucking survival and being able to make it the next five minutes without inconsolably sobbing. And when that five minutes is over, then we worry about the next five minutes. Because my life is divided into moments when I’m inconsolably sobbing and moments when I’m trying to disguise how puffy my eyes are from inconsolably sobbing. So here’s my tips:

  1. fuckboy
    I’m sure you think very highly of yourself, Joel from GRINDr. But today you’s a fuckboy.

    Fuck somebody bad for you. Do you have an ex that’s been trying to get in your panties? Let them. But if you set your life on fire and change cities as frequently as I do, then an ex might not be accessible. In which case, find somebody fuckable on the internet and arrange a casual hookup. Bottom line, just get the hell out there and throw yer goddamn cat at somebody you couldn’t care less about. Don’t try to be too cute. You won’t see this person again. Just wash out your bits and brush your teeth. Believe me, they’ll be doing the same. Is this going to solve all your problems? No. But if you’re anything like me, you spend about 90% of your time feeling like you’re not pretty enough or attractive enough or athletic enough. And it doesn’t matter how many times your friends tell you otherwise, you’re just NEVER GOING TO BELIEVE IT. This is about getting the validation that somebody thinks you’re good enough to bang. At least in this moment. Just use protection. The last thing you want or need is an STD. They’re annoying and expensive. And your broke ass does NOT have time to take off from work and go to the fucking clap clinic.

  1. Masturbate. Can’t find somebody to fuck you? Don’t have time to look? Already have a committed monogamous partner (in which case, lucky you!)? Fine. Take care of your goddamn self. You don’t even have to get your depressed ass out of bed for this one. Just handle your business and keep it moving. You just need to take the edge off. And half your nasty asses are doing it at work anyway.
  1. ramen
    Let’s be real. Statistics indicate that I am DEFINITELY going to have a stroke. The trajectory of my life is about minimizing the severity of it. Nothing more.

    Eat until you feel sick. Doctor Oz will probably ask you if you really NEED that seitanburger…or how will you FEEL after you eat all those Oreos…or maybe did that container of frosting REALLY make you happy. But that charlatan is not paying your ever-increasing pile of fucking bills. Are you concerned with the amount of palm oil in your processed foods? Yes. Does chocolate obtained as the product of West African child slaves concern you? Also yes. But are you in the middle of a full-blown emotional crisis and incapable of making ethical decisions about your consumption habits? Definitely yes. So it doesn’t matter in this moment what the long-term health consequences are of these ramen noodles. And you’re not in the mood to be shamed for not following a whole foods diet. You can solve the world’s problems tomorrow when you’re back in one of those non-inconsolable crying moments. Oreos and bacon Pringles are vegan. And today, that’s enough.

  1. Sleep. Yes, you are experiencing a wave of depression that is sapping your energy and making it impossible to move. Might as well use it to catch up on your rest because you otherwise work 75-hour weeks for what is never enough money.
  1. Be petty. Period.
  1. Say no…and nothing else. Because no is a complete fucking sentence and it’s not nobody’s goddamn business why you choose it. So no explanation is necessary and anyone who doesn’t like it can go to hell.
  1. Be ignorant and belligerent. When you’re black, everyone thinks you’re angry anyway. Give them a reason. It’s not incumbent upon you to be poised and elegant and composed and professional all the time. Trust me. Your eloquence is wasted on people who are not looking for a rational explanation. Save your energy for the people who you can tell want and deserve loving education. You can see the pricks who are trying to be a pain in the ass from a mile away. So give them hell. You don’t have to respond with patience and understanding every time someone commits a racial or homophobic transgression against you. Sometimes the answer isn’t a link to a study or a detailed explanation to coolly explain why they’re wrong. Sometimes the answer is “Your fucking mother…that’s why.” And that’s okay. You deserve to have a bad day.
  1. Spend money you know goddamn well you don’t have. Is that $400 student loan payment due tomorrow? Yup. Do you have $400 to pay it? Nope. Do you have $20 to spend on this top that was probably made in a Chinese sweat shop? You do? Well look at gawd! Guess who just got themselves a new fucking top. Let’s face it. That $20 was not going to get that bill paid one way or the other. So you might as well be able to spend money on SOMETHING that makes you feel slightly less crummy in this shitty-ass capitalist society that is burning everything and everyone you love to dust.
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Why are White Vegans SHOOK When You Talk About White Supremacy and Capitalism? (btw they should be)

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The animalization of blackness is nothing new. Authors Che Gossett and Aph Ko explore it in their respective works.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to have been interviewed by Marla Rose in the Vegan Rock Star feature on her site Vegan Feminist Agitator. In response to one of her questions I gave the following answer:

“Animal exploitation is the bedrock of imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy. You want to abolish oppression, you gotta include other species.”

Apparently that phrase is a trigger for a lot of white readers, including this one:FullSizeRender (2)

My question is—what is it about acknowledging the role of white supremacy in animal exploitation that strikes discomfort and (in some cases) outright rage in those white vegans? The history of white supremacy and western imperialism is the history of animal oppression. The shared traumas of black bodies and animal bodies make our liberation inseparable. Let’s examine the above comment in parts.

“Animal exploitation is the result of speciesism.”

Yeah but…nobody ever denied that. However, speciesism is also entangled with so much more. It’s the love affair with the prison industrial complex and a fetish for wrongful incarceration. It’s coupled with male domination and gendered violence. It’s encroachment on the lands of native lives and colonization of them. All these things have overlap between oppressed human communities and those of other species. A failure to see that is unsophisticated at best and willfully ignorant at worst.

“All ethnicities and cultures are complicit in the exploitation of nonhuman animals.”

All women are complicit in the exploitation of nonhuman animals too. Does that then mean women cannot examine speciesism through a feminist lens and the influence that patriarchal domination and toxic masculinity have on animal oppression? If so, then ecofeminist Carol Adams will be disappointed to hear that her seminal work The Sexual Politics of Meat has been rendered obsolete!

“Declaring that animal exploitation is endemic to whites absolves non-whites of any responsibility.”

This person is arguing a point that was never made. No one said it was endemic to whites. Nor did anyone absolve black and brown people of complicity. We can observe speciesism and how it is exacerbated by white supremacist institutions at the same time. But ignoring the role white supremacy plays in perpetuating animal oppression creates an incomplete picture of it. The industrial revolution was, for example, a critical moment in history for animals. Without the western industrialization of animal agriculture, we would not be exploiting them on so grand a scale. Without aggressive campaigns of advertising, our consumption of animal bodies would not have skyrocketed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Even the rising consumption of animal bodies in China is linked to the emergence of the Chinese middle class as they mimic specifically western habits of consumption. And don’t forget that milk is (unsurprisingly?) regarded as a symbol of white supremacy.

“Speciesism doe not only flourish under capitalism, it is sanctioned by any other method of organizing the economy. Marxists or socialists, for example, have long considered nonhuman animals to [be] undeserving of moral consideration.”

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Showcasing the spoils of colonization in zoos is a leftover relic of imperialism; Ota Benga in the Bronx Zoo c. 1906.

I’m not sure what the purpose is for this statement. Is the author trying to justify late capitalism by pointing out that other economic systems exploit animals too? I mean, we know that no social system is perfect. But it’s specifically capitalism that doesn’t just have an underclass that is exploited, it demands an underclass to intentionally exploit. The acquisition of wealth is the driving force of capitalism. And the monetization/commodification of individuals of ALL species is key.

Besides, it’s time we look outside of what western imperialism has taught us are the ONLY social systems worth examining. Many cultures exist outside western imperialist constructs and hold rich histories of valuing community. Does it mean that they are free from using animal bodies? No. But we should recognize the world of difference between what someone may do as an act of survival and our own callous western consumption that masks the enslavement of all species communities. And frankly, greater access to necessary resources incentivizes people to avoid violence; therefore, moving to a resource-based economy would minimize such instances.

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Acts of genocide were committed against buffalo in order to starve out American Indians and further colonize the US in the mid-1870s; pictured above, two white men posed with thousands of buffalo skulls.

Furthermore, it’s inaccurate to state unequivocally that socialism sanctions speciesism. Emerging research indicates that socialist and direct democrat theory were at least in part based on human observations of animal societies. Laura Schleifer offers more insight on that in her presentation at VegFestUK 2017 in Brighton, and she recommends the Peter Kropotkin classic Mutual Aid and The Ecology of Freedom by Murray Bookchin for additional reading.

Make no mistake. Critique of capitalism, and particularly late capitalism, should not just be included in our animal liberation framework, it should be central to it. How do we propose to remove animals from the chain of exploitation without abolishing exploitation itself? To preserve the structure but remove animals from the bottom of it suggests that there’s nothing wrong with hierarchical oppression.

And deconstructing hierarchical oppression frankly scares a lot of white people, even vegan ones. Because if there’s no longer a hierarchy, whiteness can no longer be at the top of it.  And that’s going to trigger an awful lot of white fragility.

If white allies mean to engage speciesism critically, they need to acknowledge the historical and current role of white supremacy in animal oppression. And if they don’t, do they really want to engage speciesism…or are they just hobbyists who think animals are nice?