When you hear the label “vegan” or “vegetarian”, what image comes to mind? Often, the most common stereotype in the media is that of a yoga-pants-wearing, salad-eating, wealthy white woman.
While salads can be delightful, white people are not the only demographic who eat plant-based. In fact, Black and brown people in America are much more likely to be vegetarian or vegan, and the history of plant-based eating is rooted in global traditions dating back millennia.
The “White Vegan” myth – is veganism a white thing?
Americans eat less meat today than they did a year ago: but veganism isn’t just “a white thing.” A Gallup poll found white people eat 19% less meat, while non-white people eat 31% less meat than they did last year.
Plant-based eating isn’t an American trend, either. Other countries lead when it comes to vegetarian eating: India (20%, ~ 305 million people), China (3.6%, ~50 million people), Brazil (14%, ~29 million ), and Mexico (19%, ~23 million) have the most plant-based eaters.
Black veganism is rooted in social justice
Folks adopt plant-based diets for many reasons. When it comes to Black veganism specifically, many of these reasons have a deeper socio-political context, including:
Counteracting chronic illnesses linked to food deserts (areas systemically deprived of healthful diet options) which disproportionately affect communities of color.
An act of decolonization; a way to reconnect with traditional, plant-centered African and Afro-Caribbean diets.
A means of acknowledging the parallels between racism, slavery, and other civil injustices and the use and abuse of animals for food.
Plants are good for people and the planet
At scale, veganism could have a massive impact on climate change. That’s because animal products generally have far higher carbon footprints than plant-based foods. In fact, if cattle were a country, they would rank third in global greenhouse gas emissions.
The 2018 UN Report on 1.5C Warming stated that shifting to a plant-based diet is one of the most effective actions people can take to reduce emissions. If we all cut our consumption of meat and animal products in half, we’d reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 7.5%.
Diversify your feed to decolonize your dinner plate
If you want to eat more plants, make decolonizing veganism part of your personal journey. When you look up recipes, challenge yourself to go to the second page of Google to discover new chefs, especially people of color and people from cultures different from your own.
We’re sharing some of our favorite vegan chefs and plant-based influencers. Each has their own unique story at the intersection of racial justice, queer justice, and food justice. Follow each to expand your horizons (and your recipe file!)
1. Tracye McQuirter
"Bringing awareness to the health benefits - and deliciousness - of a plant-based diet, especially for women of color"
Tracye first went vegetarian in 1986 when she listened to a lecture on the “Plate of Black America;” the lecture outlined the lifecycle of a burger and highlighted how poor food decisions lead to health issues later in life.
Emani’s journey to Black veganism began when she cut out red meat; after watching What the Health, she went completely plant-based. Emani’s motto is “being vegan isn’t boring” and she proves that with every recipe she shares.
Although Christopher doesn’t share recipes, he talks about topics like Black veganism, white nationalism, racial justice, queer rights, and how each intersects with plant-based eating and animal rights.
5. Pax Ahimsa Gethen
“Dismantle the stereotype that veganism was a “white person’s” thing” via Black Vegans Rock
Location: San Francisco, CA, US
Pax is a Black, queer, trans, vegan advocate and their name literally means “peace” and “non-harming.” Pax was vegetarian for most of their life but decided to go vegan when they were 44. Like Christopher, Pax educates people on the intersection of race, LQBTQ+, and veganism.
Encourages people to try new recipes, enjoy the process, and discover good vegan food
Location: Los Angeles, CA, US
Tabitha Brown is an actress and an official vegan ambassador for Whole Foods. Tabitha chose to go vegan in 2017 after watching What the Health and realizing she could combat chronic pain through her diet. Her video about the TTLA wholefoods sandwich (vegan BLT) went viral in 2018, and since then, she has been a vegan sensation with millions of followers.
“Veganizes Korean food and Koreanizes everything else”
Location: Chicago, IL, US
When Joanne went vegan in 2016, people told her “a Korean cannot be vegan!” She set out to prove to them, and herself, that she could enjoy vegan food without sacrificing her culture. Since then, she has “veganized” her favorite Korean dishes and shares her creations so more people can enjoy vegan Korean food.
“Stay as close to Mother Nature as possible. Decolonize your diet.”
Location: Miami, Philadelphia, and New York City, US
Candy is a certified Holistic Health Coach from the Dominican Republic who began her vegan journey when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her goal was to help her mother heal faster and she now helps women around the world lead a healthy lifestyle.
Candy advocates for diverse voices in the wellness industry because when she started her journey, “she didn’t see anyone who looked like herself.” She founded the Glow Wellness Tour to create a community for women of color in wellness.
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