Can all vegans (and vegetarians) please stand up?

Photo Submitted by Naja Hardmon.

We’ve all heard of their holier-than-thou attitude, or their critical comments about how others must eat. Maybe you’ve also heard the muffled whispers of family members during the Thanksgiving meal wondering why that one cousin turned out this way.

The judgments placed upon black vegetarians and vegans are not news, but the turning tides are. In recent years, there has been a popular shift of acceptance for black vegans and vegetarians among pop culture that I can’t say was common 10 years ago.

As a fellow vegetarian, the amount of options for support of my diet and the increasing nonchalance in creation to my declaration as a “no meat eater” have increased to a point of almost normality, which has been a pleasant surprise.

The history of meat consumption within the black community is riddled with poverty, survival and desperation that have left a permanent cultural impression. So, the expected response of “How could you not eat bacon?” or “I could never give up chicken,” is an understandable reaction to my choice of diet and hasn’t changed since the beginning of the black vegan movement in the 1970s.

What has not been expected is the rise of others who agree with my lifestyle choice and the support of restaurants, doctors and pop culture.

As stated by Kim Severson in her New York Times article “Black Vegans Step Out, for Their Health and Other Causes,” “Vegan cooking and eating are having a renaissance among black Americans,” said Severson.

“In part by movements like Black Lives Matter, documentaries like ‘What the Health,’ and a growing cadre of people who connect personal health, animal welfare and social justice with the fight for racial equality.”

The rise of black vegans and vegetarians have also become prominent among celebrities including Kyrie Irving, Angela Bassett, the Williams sisters, Beyoncé and more who have spoken about their preferences and the overall reported health benefits.

With this rise in celebrity status, it comes as no surprise that in a 2015 national survey conducted by the Vegetarian Resource group that black Americans are more than twice as likely to identify as vegan than the general American population.

Black vegans and vegetarians are a growing community that for some reason has been overlooked. From popular vegan-based food chains like Soul-Veg, located in Tallahassee and Atlanta, which deliver black-oriented vegan dishes, to the many popular cookbooks that have helped in revitalizing interest, it’s time for more of those who have made the switch to embrace their choice and no longer hold an ounce of doubt if they’re the only one.

Because clearly, we’re not.