Elliot Lyons is a copywriter and editor, as well as a contributor for VEGAN magazine. He is originally from the U.S. but currently lives in the Netherlands. We are sharing an excerpt from his article "Veganism's Race Problem" and below that, you can find our exclusive interview with him.
Veganism's Race Problem
by: Elliot Lyons
*The Dutch translation for this story in Vegan Magazine can be found here.
When I was asked to write about veganism within the black community as the new columnist for Vegan Magazine, I was both excited and apprehensive. It’s nice to talk about veganism in black communities, but the magazine’s mostly white readership gave me pause. Understanding veganism and black communities has a prerequisite of understanding the racial politics of white privilege, legacies of slavery, and oppression.
Since an article like this might be easily misunderstood by an audience unfamiliar with these topics, I decided to focus on giving accounts of these issues and mechanisms using my background and experiences as an American, middle class, college-educated black male to illuminate why mainstream veganism isn’t as accessible to black communities as it could be. Having said that, I do not intend to speak for all black communities; rather, illustrate some of the forces that play roles in our relationships to veganism.
You can read the FULL article HERE.
Black vegans rock interview with Elliot:
BVR: What has your vegan journey been like so far?
E: Pretty anticlimactic, actually. I was a vegetarian for nine years, but when I went on my first date with my current girlfriend she mentioned she was a vegan. Although I never thought I would become a vegan - because it always seemed too extreme - something "clicked": the same reasons I had for becoming a vegetarian were the exact same as why I should be a vegan. I was a vegetarian for environmental reasons - raising animals for meat was a huge waste of resources and an enormous burden on our planet. But so was consuming dairy. She didn't say much during our conversation - I usually talk a lot - and we didn't talk about it on any of our other dates. But two or so weeks after we first met, I decided I'd stop thinking about it and just do it.
BVR: How did your friends and family react when you decided to become vegan?
E: My mom wasn't too happy with the vegetarian thing at first - for, like, a real quick minute - but then she came around and she's a Jedi with cooking vegetarian now. She wasn't surprised by me being a vegan, and she totally got it. My dad took the vegetarian thing pretty well - the same with veganism. Both were pretty interested - in a good way - with how I substituted stuff. The rest of the fam was mad cool about it too - I have an aunt who's tried to become vegan a bunch of times - she's awesome! Shout out Aunt Cookie! I'm blessed up.
All of my friends were all cool with it, save a couple of people, even if they didn't quite get it. I'm pretty blessed-up here as well.
BVR: What advice do you have for black people who say that veganism is a "white" thing?
E; You mean, besides reading stuff on your website?! It isn't a white thing, but the focus is on white people. We black vegans, though, are out here and becoming vegan doesn't mean you need to exclusively shop at Whole Foods and drink wheatgrass smoothies. I'd also say look up famous black vegans like Angela Davis, Coretta Scott King, Venus Williams, Waka Flocka, Erykah Badu, Mike Tyson, and RZA.