why veganism isn't always about health

Papaya, my favorite breakfast meal.

Papaya, my favorite breakfast meal.

with the amount of documentaries using "health" scare tactics to promote a plant-based diet - i use quotations because most are really promoting fatphobia *upside-down face emoji* - it's hard out here for an ethical black vegan when it comes time to explain your reasons for passing on the chicken. 

for me, the convo usually goes like this:

omni: "so b (*pauses to chew rib*), i really admire your self-restraint. i need to get serious about my health like you!"

me: "thanks babe! honestly, i care a lot about my health, but that's not the reason i'm vegan." *sprinkles nutritional yeast on avocado toast*

omni: "really? why are you vegan?"

me: "well, my veganism is lead by a desire to abolish this system that itemizes nonhuman animals. it's an extension of my black feminism that argues that no one deserves a life of domination and exploitation."


admittedly, i can be a bit extra with my explanations, but truthfully this is not an exaggerated scenario, lol. 

it's important to make the distinction between vegan and healthy, because the former does not guarantee the latter.

before i continue, i want to make it clear that harbanistic is not here for shaming those who are not healthy - even other vegans. as mentioned all over the blog, my purpose is to promote an ethical lifestyle. removing someone's autonomy by suggesting they must be vegan the "right" way is a subset of domination; not too ethical if you ask me. 

during my earlier years of pescetarianism, you couldn't tell me shit. i thought i was superior to others because i had chosen to put my health first (LOL). i had absolutely no understanding of health - seriously, during my freshman year of college all i ate was fries and oranges - yet i walked around as if i was on a pedestal. my limited understanding of vegetariansim and health (not to mention systems of oppression and how that affects access to food, knowledge, money, and other resources) had me thinking that i was guarenteed a long life because i didn't eat (most) meats; and that i was better than others because of it.

today, i understand how problematic it was to base someone else's worth off of my personal beliefs and i recognize the superiority complex that resulted from it. also, i realize how inherently classist, ableist (more on this later), and fatphobic it is to set the standard of vegetarian/veganism at something only attainable by a few. 

not only is this unfair, it's unjust.

i believe this is where the mistrust of veganism comes into play. no one likes a stuck-up heaux.

as mentioned, my veganism is a protest against the enslavement of nonhuman animals. if it makes you uncomfortable to hear speciesism described as a form of slavery, good. it's incredibly important to step outside of your comfort zone when examining your privilege in a system that oppresses others. 

a common sentiment i hear from other racially marginalized folx is that "i'm already dealing with racism, i don't have time to care about the animals." as fucked up as it sounds, i appreciate people's honesty when they admit this. it's far better to tell the truth than use financially disadvantaged folx as your rhetorical device. you know how people deflect from the issue of speciesism by saying, "well, poor people can't afford to be vegan. what do you have to say about that?"

fuck you. i say fuck you.

my problem with this is that vast majority of the people who respond this way are not living in poverty. i'm not overlooking the obstacles racism/classism creates when it comes to accessing fresh produce - assuming this hypothetical vegan eats mainly fruits and vegetables - but to evoke the lives of millions when you don't actually give a damn just to prove a point is trash. 

plus, poor and vegan are not mutually exclusive. not to suggest that my situation is the norm, but during the first year of my child's life i made $7,000; i was vegan the latter six months.

returning to the point of racialized folx not being able to go vegan because they are dealing with so much: i get it. i do. this shit is suffocating as is, so to add another layer of concern can seem daunting. the thing is, this argument doesn't work when black men use it as an excuse to be misogynoiristic; it doesn't work when cis black women use it to be cissexist and exclusionary to black trans women; it doesn't work when we try to justify our erasure and overall ignorance concerning differently-abled people; and it doesn't work here. again, i want it to be clear that i'm not suggesting you must be vegan; no, that's an ineffective argument to make. i'm pointing out how that particular rationalization is flawed. 

earlier i mentioned how presenting veganism as an end all be all cure for health problems is ableist. according to the site FWD/Forward: Feminists With Disabilities for a Way Forward, the definition of ableism is as follows, "Ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities, including the expression of hate for people with disabilities, denial of accessibility, rejection of disabled applicants for housing and jobs, institutionalised discrimination in the form of systems designed to keep people with disabilities in poverty, etc." ableism and the overall disregard for people living with disabilities - physical, mental, and emotional - makes it possible to suggest a plant-based diet can cure any and all ailments regardless of pre-existing condition.

now obviously, consuming majority fruits and vegetables will have a drastic improvement on your health when compared to a diet mostly composed of meats, diary, eggs, refined sugar, oils and fat - there is no refuting this fact. what eye am saying is this idea that all you must do is give up swine and bovine breastmilk to achieve optimal health completely overlooks those living with chronic diseases. the argument can be made that "optimal health" looks different on different people, but we'd be dishonest if we said health isn't portrayed as a label only accessible to able-bodied people. again, a plant-based diet can do wonders on the body, mind, and soul (if you're in to that kind of thing), but let's stop postulating veganism as a remedy to all conditions. 

lastly, let's quickly address the rampant fatphobia in the vegan community. for context, i am a thin person. the reason i will not be going too far into detail is because this is not my lane and i refuse to take up space when there are plenty of vegans of size (and color) who will offer insight i never could.  

to start, thinness does not guarentee health no more than fatness guarantees sickness.

again; fatness. is. not. synonymous. with. sickness. these ideals definitely exist outside of the vegan community, but y'all niggas within it are trifling. 

this obsessive focus on health within our culture is more so a focus on weight. people position thinness as the pennacle of health when that simply is not true. a thin person's eating habits are never called into question when they enjoy a greasy meal. yet, if a person of size were to do the same, they'd be bombarded with "concerning" remarks. look, concern trolling does nothing to help the person you claim to care about. in fact, fat-shaming (because let's be real, that's what you're doing) has adverse effects on the targeted individual's health because you're essentially bullying them. when has making someone feel terrible about themselve ever resulted in positive change? 

even if fatness absolutely equated to unhealthiness, question why you feel entitled to comment on someone's body when their appearance has absolutely nothing to do with you. seriously, it's none of ya damn business whether someone is healthy or not; especially when your basis of health starts and stops at their weight.

most y'all who concern troll drink water every 9 days but feel justified in telling someone they need to prioritize their health anyway.

ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to be vegan; just do ya damn best and challenge yourself daily. 

that's all i got.

- b

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