Last week, in part 1, we talked about this historical and slightly dystopian moment we’re going through, and about the discomfort that comes with change. We discussed racial justice and why the fight against COVID and the fight for human rights and equality for people of color intersect in very big ways. We talked about how so much of the activism we do as vegans, and so many of the basic principles we practice every day, also intersect with the protection of minorities and other social justice issues. Today, we’re continuing the conversation on activism, race and equality with some of my favorite tips on how we can be better allies to marginalized groups, especially BIPOC. We’ll also round out our conversation by giving you a ton of cool resources, social media accounts, books and films so that you can keep on learning and expanding your advocacy, even when that advocacy is something as simple as those tough conversations around your kitchen table.
Tips for Being a Better Ally for BIPOC
You’ve probably read and listened to a lot of content on how to be a better ally for people of color, but I wanted to give you my two cents, some of the tips I’ve seen work for our fight for animal rights and from my personal experience coming from a country (Venezuela) where we’ve had to fight tooth and nail for basic human rights. This is of course not a perfect or comprehensive list, it is one to be added to, as we grow and learn.
Act from a place of wanting to help, of empathy, of love
Advocate for people of color and minorities asking yourself what you can do today to help, because you love and want to help people who can benefit from your privilege, platform and resources. Choose empathy rather than guilt as your motivator. Guilt is loosy goosy, it’s frail and we tend to leave it behind with time. Empathy is strong. It can withstand mistakes made, being called out for them, and tough emotions, burnout, and it perseveres. It’s also like a well with no bottom, there’s not a limited amount to go around and the more you practice it, the easier you can pull it up and out.
Start wherever you can start
At the conversations at your kitchen table, teaching loved ones the importance of language and not replaying old patterns, of using your privilege, of understanding that privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered, it means that while you were going through the difficult moments of your life you were also standing on a stool that others didn’t have, giving you an advantage. It means that precisely because your life might have been hard, empathy for the struggles and suffering of others is right at your reach, so reach it.
Don’t make it all about you and don’t make it just about a current moment
Social justice issues require so much persistence and years of work. Let’s prove everyone who thinks this wave of posts, conversations and content will pass, wrong. Let’s show people that just how we continue fighting for animals and our environment always and consistently, long after the oil spills are gone from our news segments, and long after the last factory farm undercover video is released and gone from people’s minds, we can do the same for people of color in that we continue to fight and be allies consistently. Don’t “go back to ‘normal’” in your feeds and conversations, instead, fight for this social justice issue within your work, just as we remind people for years that protein can be found in plants, that an animal based diet is bad for the environment, continue advocating as part of your work, not as a temporary short break from your work. Make it seamlessly join in all your other posts, content and conversations (remember this isn’t just about what you post on social media it so often starts with the in person conversations you have within your own circles and communities), keep it there for people to see, hear and remember.
Support with money and without money
Give money to organizations that need funds to do the work that we perhaps aren’t as equipped to do, especially legal defence teams, financial support for families of color to make rent during COVID, support for BIPOC communities and schools, scholarship funds, organizations dedicated to educate about social justice and inequality (I’ll share some organizations below).
There are also so many things you can do to help support people of color that don’t require money if your situation makes that impossible or hard right now: Buy the things you’re already purchasing from black owned businesses as well as from where you already like to shop. Follow people of color on social media and comment, like and share their content, you have no idea how quickly that transforms itself into work and earning opportunities for content creators. Leave reviews for podcasts, books, courses and other pieces of content for people who are BIPOC or who are allies and are keeping the conversation under the spotlight. Reviews are worth gold and can mean so many opportunities in the future, as well as keep the conversation going.
Don't engage in cancel culture as we’re experiencing it right now
I’m all for cancelling out people in power who have caused harm to others and committed criminal acts, but we’ve taken cancel culture to such an extreme that when we threaten to “unfollow” “unfriend” “not engage with” “not talk to” people who are using problematic phrases or language like “all lives matter” or who want to talk about “reverse racism” or who haven’t made a post on social media to fight for racism, what we’re doing is taking away a fantastic learning opportunity.
As a vegan, or soon to be vegan, or almost vegan, you are probably already open to wanting to help change the status quo and fight for those who don’t have a voice or as loud of a voice. Use this. Use those opportunities to teach and re-educate with kindness. It won’t take anything away from your experience to keep people who aren’t as woke as you in your life (although believe me I know hearing some comments is hard and makes you angry), but it might be the only chance they have to learn about why these phrases and these perspectives are harmful. Use that power, these are exactly the kinds of people we want to reach, don’t preach to the choir.
Made a Mistake? We are ALL Going to Make Mistakes when Speaking about Social and Racial Justice if we are White
As someone who has been creating content and talking about veganism, animal rights and a different way of eating for YEARS now, I can tell you that there is no way you won’t make mistakes in any attempt to advocate for any group, but this is especially true if we are white and are advocating for people of color. Some of us are only now learning about the incredible difficulties people of color experience, and we are in the process of learning how to be better allies. The best way to learn is to start, to make mistakes and then do a little autocorrect. Someone pointing out something that is problematic even within your efforts to help BIPOC, doesn’t mean “you can’t win”, “nothing you can say is right”, or “I might as well not even try”. It means we’re learning, someone has to teach us and that means we’re going to make mistakes along the way. It’s a very humbling experience to apologize and say you’re learning and that you’ll do better. We can all use a bit more of that. Reading books or checking out some of the resources I’ll recommend below on how to be a better ally will also help us be wonderful advocates.
Check in with the People of Color in your Life
This is a scary and very triggering time for people of color. Check in with your friends and relatives who are BIPOC and ask them how they’re doing, if they need to vent, rant, talk. Be a good listener, let them express how they feel without the need to give your two cents on the matter. Let them have a safe space with you where they can be honest and vulnerable. To all our readers, listeners and friends who are people of color, how are you doing? I know this time is carrying a heavy toll, we are here for you, always.
Books and Stories = Empathy
When I first went vegan I spent the first couple of years reading nothing but non-fiction books on advocacy, animal rights, the environment, human rights and our food consumption. I was very immersed in learning about this new world I was walking into. Once I found my stride, I re-discovered a little something we all know well as children and then forget. The thing that stays with us, the thing we keep in our hearts for years, the thing that makes us change our minds and our hearts, are stories. Reading non-fiction books on race and allyship is amazing and important, but don’t forget to curl up on your couch with some fun fiction that includes the stories and daily lives of people of color (some recommendations below).
Nothing builds empathy faster than reading about the lives and stories of people we are advocating for. Understanding what a head scarf is, what a weave is, the daily lives of people in BIPOC communities, the wealth inequality people of color face. The tough conversations BIPOC parents need to have with very young children to protect them and explain that the world they live in has difficulties that are present for them every day and somehow invisible to others. Reading about how people of color, live, love, go through heartbreak, fall in love. You will see your own stories reflected in theirs and experience, with the turning of those pages and the life of a character, just how unfair, prevalent and tough inequality is. Fiction is one of the straightest road to empathy, it’s a journey created by a writer precisely to make you feel and connect, and nothing explains it better than this wonderful TED Talk by critically acclaimed writer Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie:
There are many more tips I could go on and on about, but I wanted to leave it here, at the danger of a single story as Chimamanda says, and the importance of amplifying the stories and lives of people of color. Here are some great books and resources that will help you keep learning and growing, becoming part of this change that desperately needs to occur, so that no one is left behind, so that no one feels that their rights and lives and experiences don’t matter. We can be a part of this change, with our actions and words every day, and by actively maintaining this conversation under the spotlight.
Some great resources, social media accounts and books to be better allies to BIPOC
Great accounts on advocacy for BIPOC and learning how to be anti-racist
Layla Saad @laylafsaad
Rachel Cargle @rachel.cargle
The Great Unlearn @thegreatunlearn
Ibram X Kendi @ibramxk
The Conscious Kid @theconsciouskid
Dee Poku (founder of great organizations to help empower and scale businesses and entrepreneurship among women of color) @deepoku
Great accounts by BIPOC on art, poetry, inspirational quotes and stories to help change the narrative and inspire
Alison A. Malee (beautiful poetry) @alison.malee
Cleo Wade (beautiful prints, quotes and poetry) @cleowade
Marie Beech aka Waste Free Marie (great posts with actionable steps on how to be antiracist, how to respond to racist comments, how to autocorrect when we’ve made a mistake and more) @mariebeech
So you Want to Talk About (great graphic slideshows on many social justice issues) @soyouwanttotalkabout
Wander and Wonder Studio (beautifully visual and on raising awareness and empowering parents to raise little allies) and their free “Raising Little Allies to Be” Guide, Activity and Coloring Book @wanderandwonder.studio
Great accounts by BIPOC on Veganism, Anti-Diet Dieticians and Body Image
Vegan Voices of Color @veganvoicesofcolor
Iye Loves Life (anti racism and veganism) @iye-loves.life
Vegano da Periferia (helping people go vegan no matter their income or where they live) @veganodaperiferia
Shana Minei Spence (on an anti-diet, intuitive approach to eating and health) @thenutritiontea
Chrissy King (on body image, body appreciation and fitness regardless of your size) @iamchrissyking
Great TV Shows and Documentaries to watch
When they See Us
Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap
The Hate U gIve
If Beale Street Could Talk
Dear White People
Great Organizations to Donate to
Equal Justice Initiative (helping end mass incarceration, excessive punishment and racial inequality)
The Conscious Kid (helping create educational resources for children and parents, as well as currently providing rent relief for BIPOC families during COVID)
Families Belong Together (working on ending family separation and detention)
The NAACP and the NAACP legal defense fund (one of the largest grassroots civil rights law organizations)
Non-Fiction Books on Social Justice and AntiRacism
So you Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay
How to be an Anti Racist by Ibram X Kendi
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
The New Jim Crowe: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherrie Moraga
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Great Fiction to Build Empathy and read about the stories of BIPOC
Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The Vanishing Half and The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Clap When you Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
The Wedding Date, The Wedding Party and Party of Two among other fun romance books by Jasmine Guillory
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I could add books, accounts and resources to this list for ages, but just so you don’t have to look back, we’ve created a story highlight titled “Be an Ally” in our instagram page so you can easily find and follow many of these content creators and messages and share.
To close this post off I’d love to read this wonderful quote by poet Allison Malee
If you are waiting
for someone else
to end injustice-
and I am waiting,
and she is waiting,
and he is waiting,
It will never end.
Use your voice.
I would dare say that as vegans or almost vegans or soon to be vegans, our hearts are already open to empathy. Our hearts are already primed and ready to fight for fellow beings who are robbed of their rights. If that door is already open, all we need to do is keep walking through it. Let’s use this privilege of already knowing how to fight for justice, to help fight for equality for people of color. Empathy and advocacy don’t take anything away from us, in fact they are the gifts that keep on giving, especially when we start to notice that what hurts others should also hurt us.
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