I started with this recipe for Weeknight Tortilla Soup, found at Delicious Knowledge, but I made some adjustments. I added more veggies, which led to more broth, which led to more spices. The extra veggies mean more chopping, so it’s more involved. With more ingredients, more labor, and more time, it might be the weekend version of the weeknight soup that inspired me. Although, I just used tortilla chips instead of frying soft tortillas, as was done in the original, so that evens things out a little.
It ended being quite spicy, comparable to a medium-hot salsa, so you might prefer to cut back on the heat by scaling back the spices or eliminating a jalapeno, unless you really like spicy food. You can always spice it up if you decide it’s too mild. We really liked the result though. The avocado, cilantro and non-dairy sour cream nicely temper the heat.
2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons minced garlic 1 large onion, diced 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced 2 carrots, peeled and sliced 2 celery stalks, sliced 3 tomatillos, diced 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped 2 tablespoons cumin 2 teaspoons coriander 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 15-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes 1 28-oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes 2 16-oz bags frozen corn 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
Garnishes Tortilla chips Avocado, diced Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped Non-dairy sour cream (*see note) Non-dairy cheese (Daiya pepperjack shreds are perfect for this recipe)
1. In large soup pot, on medium heat, saute onion, garlic, poblano, and jalapenos in oil until onion is translucent. 2. Add carrots, celery, tomatillos, bell peppers, and spices. Cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally. 3. Add canned tomatoes, corn, beans, and broth. Stir, bring to a boil. 4. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
This past week, I found a recipe for Lemon & Dill Vegan Chicken Salad on the blog, Meet the Shannons. I immediately bookmarked it with the intention of finally using the package of Beyond Meat I had stashed in the freezer last month. I tend to tinker with recipes, but I decided to make the recipe as instructed, and then if I wanted to make it again at another time, I could try doctoring it up in one way or another.
That plan quickly unraveled as I pulled out the ingredients, and got started. My compulsion to tinker with recipes seems to always get the best of me. Sometimes that works, sometimes not, but I’m very happy to report that it turned out wonderfully this time. I can’t comment on how it would be with Gardein, which is what the original called for, because I’ve yet to experiment with Gardein. Beyond Meat was perfect though, a very convincing chicken substitute that could easily win over any fan of chicken salad. The dressing is fabulous, so next time I think I’ll make extra to use on green salads or for a veggie dip. Seriously, if I had used a wider bowl to mix it instead of a glass measuring cup, I would have stuck my face in to lick up the extra.
Whether you make the original recipe, or try mine, I hope you enjoy it, and don’t waste a drop of that delicious dressing!
Vegan Chicken Salad
1 package Beyond Meat (I used the Lightly Seasoned variety), or other vegan chicken 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 dashes liquid smoke 1/2 red onion, diced 3 stalks celery, diced 1 apple, diced 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped 3 tablespoon sunflower seeds
Dressing 2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Earth Balance, but any brand should be fine) Juice from 1 lemon Zest from 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons) 1 teaspoon lemon pepper 3 teaspoons nutritional yeast 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon celery seed 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Chop vegan chicken (see photo below to see how coarsely I chopped it). Whisk olive oil and liquid smoke. Add chopped began chicken to to baking dish, stir in oil-liquid smoke mixture. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes. Chicken will be lightly browned when done. Set aside, and allow to cool.
Combine onion, celery, apple, dill, parsley, and sunflower seeds in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together vegan mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon pepper, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, celery seed, and black pepper until combined.
Combine cooled vegan chicken with onion-celery-apple mix. Pour dressing over salad, and stir to combine.
I ate a sandwich, before putting the leftovers away. The leftovers completely filled a quart-sized container. I’m guessing the recipe makes enough to 6-7 sandwiches.
My birthday was yesterday. I love my birthday, and I’m always eager to celebrate, but this year, Hubs and I kept it low-key because he’s been under the weather. Happily, my birthday fell on a Friday, which meant I had painting class in the morning. Doing something artsy-fartsy was the perfect creative beginning for my 41st year, and for me, serves as a metaphor for all that I hope to create for myself and the animals this coming year as I fully embrace veganism.
Painting was followed by lunch with a friend at Chipotle. I sampled their new sofritas in a salad, and thought it was quite good – a slight spicy kick and meaty texture without being overtly tofu-y. I think sofritas could be appealing to people who might otherwise turn their nose up at tofu. Coincidentally, late last night, I saw several posts on FB that Chipotle is introducing sofritas nationwide. I loathe restaurants where my choices are reduced to fries and a house salad, minus half the listed ingredients. I don’t want bacon, cheese or questionable croutons, but if I’m hungry, which is normally the case when I end up in a restaurant, I can’t say that a bowl of iceberg lettuce with random carrot shreds and, if I’m lucky, a couple of grape tomatoes, is my first choice either. Compared to that, I’m grateful that it’s so easy to order vegan fare at Chipotle.
After Chipotle, I hit Whole Foods for dinner and cake ingredients. As I’ve become more aware of vegan businesses in my area, part of me wanted to support a local vegan bakery I recently discovered, but the other part of me didn’t want to pay $30 or $40 for a cake when I can make one myself. Historically, I usually make my own cake anyway because it’s fun. For the first time this year, I was not only going to have a vegan cake, but I was going to make a cake from scratch instead of a box mix (even though I know there are vegan box mixes). After perusing various recipes, I honed in on Post Punk Kitchen‘s Just Chocolate Cake. Instead of the accompanying chocolate ganache, I opted for The Cake Merchant‘s vegan vanilla frosting. As a side note, instead of 8″ springform pans, I used well-greased 9″ regular cake pans, and the cakes came out without any issues. The frosting recipe made way too much frosting. If I use that recipe for a double layer cake recipe again, I’ll halve the recipe. (See photos of the cake below.)
Dinner and cake ingredients in hand, I stopped at a regular supermarket to pick up candles, and had planned to get something to decorate the cake, but using the handy ‘Is It Vegan?‘ app, discovered that none of the cake decorating items were vegan. So my homemade, slightly lopsides non-bakery cake ended up looking quite rustic. Maybe next year, I’ll more thoughtfully source simple vegan cake decorating options.
Dinner was a stir-fry with rice noodles. I made chicken salad last weekend, but Hubs isn’t a fan of chicken salad, so he had yet to try Beyond Meat, so I decided to use that in my stir fry to see what he thought. There are challenges to figuring out how to eat together in a way that honors each of our dietary preferences, but to his credit, he’s been willing to try most anything I make as long as it doesn’t contain ingredients he doesn’t like. Overall, we’ve had more successes than not, and the sriracha ginger stir fry was no exception. When I asked him what he thought of the vegan chicken, it seemed that he didn’t even notice that it was vegan, so as I said when I shared the chicken salad recipe, Beyond Meat is a great compromise that is likely to please mixed herbivore-omnivore homes like ours.
After dinner, we created a considerable fire hazard with my birthday candles, but I’m a traditionalist who prefers the exact number of candles. Hubs ate his cake with dairy ice cream, while I tried vanilla almond milk ice cream for the first time. I’m not sure I’d want a plain bowl of it, but that’s more because I prefer more exotic ice cream with swirls and chunks of stuff in it. That being said, with a slice of cake, the simplicity of it with its subtle nuttiness worked. We topped our cake and ice cream with dollops of Soyatoo soy whip. I don’t usually eat whipped cream, but hubs is a big fan, so I was happy that he liked it. He really liked the cake and the frosting too – another small, but meaningful plant-based success!
Sriracha Ginger Stir Fry
2 tablespoons dark sesame seed oil 1 tablespoon garlic, minced or crushed 2 tablespoons ginger, minced 1/2 sliced red onion 1/2 cup soy sauce 2-3 tablespoons sriracha (to taste) 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth Black pepper to taste 1 package Beyond Meat or other vegan chicken ( I used the lightly seasoned variety) 3 pounds stir fry vegetables (I used broccoli, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and bok choy) 1 bunch scallions, chopped Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1. Heat oil on medium heat in wide skillet or wok, and cook garlic, ginger, and onion until onion is softened. 2. Add soy sauce, sriracha, broth and black pepper. Stir to combine. 3. Add vegan chicken and vegetables. Cook until vegetables are almost to desired tenderness, stirring frequently. 4. Add scallions, stir to heat through, and remove from heat. 5. Serve stir fry atop rice or noodles, and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.
My quest to find or create vegan recipes that Husband likes, and could potentially take to work for weekday lunches in lieu of conventional frozen meals continues. The last recipe I shared, Southwestern Spaghetti, was intended to be a casserole, but it was delicious without the final baking step I initially envisioned. For whatever inexplicable reason, I had casserole on the brain though, so in order to satisfy this admittedly peculiar desire, I turned to the familiar favorites of broccoli, rice and cheese.
I scoped out several different recipes, and then developed my own version. The final verdict is that we both liked it. It ended up being very cheesy, more than I expected, but I love cheese, so I was pleased. Husband was less enthusiastic about the extra cheesiness, but he’s never been a fan of too much cheese, regardless of the dish. His feedback was essentially that he liked it, but it was too cheesy to be a main dish. He has been eating it as a side dish for the last couple of days. I’m happy with it as a main dish though, and have been eating it as such.
Vegan Broccoli Rice Cheese Casserole
Casserole 2 tablespoons evoo 1 large onion, chopped 2 tablespoons garlic, minced or crushed 1 green pepper, chopped 2 celery stalks, chopped 1 small zucchini, diced 2 broccoli bunches, chopped into bite-sized pieces 3 ounces sundried tomatoes, diced 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste) 1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste) 3 cups cooked brown rice 1/2-1 cup breadcrumbs
1. Saute onion, garlic and green pepper, stirring occasionally, until softened. 2. Add celery, zucchini, broccoli, sundried tomatoes, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Saute on low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened. Make cheese sauce while vegetables are cooking. 3. Melt margarine in separate saucepan. Whisk in flour. Add milk, tamari, black pepper, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine. 4. Add Daiya shreds to milk, and stir until thoroughly combined on medium heat. Mixture should be smooth, so increase heat if shreds aren’t melting into sauce. 5. Add rice to vegetables, stir to combine. 5. Add cheese sauce to vegetables and rice. Stir to combine. 6. Pour vegetable-rice-cheese mixture into large 3-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top. 7. Bake for 25-35 minutes. Casserole should be bubbly, and breadcrumbs lightly toasted.
I didn’t used to think much of smoothies, mostly because I imagined they were loaded with carbs from fruit and dairy. That’s not to say that I’m anti-carb. I’m decidedly pro-carb, but because I have type 1 diabetes, I’m mindful about emphasizing “higher quality” carbs, and balancing carbs with other nutrients, like plant-based proteins and fats. I felt like smoothies were essentially glasses of thick juice, and I only drink fruit juice to treat low blood sugar. As such, I thought they were more trouble than they were worth since they would presumably destroy my blood sugar.
Once I became vegan, and and started looking at recipes, I came across a number of smoothie recipes, so I began rethinking my reluctance towards them. As it turns out, there are all kinds of healthful ingredients that can be included in smoothies to enhance the flavor and texture without making it a big glorified glass of juice.
Admittedly, my smoothie recipe has a lot of ingredients, but on the mornings I have time, I enjoy the ritual of making them. I usually make enough for two or three, so I have them for consecutive mornings. This recipe is for a single serving though. I’ll add that I am a fan of food scales, so instead of dirtying a bunch of measuring spoons and cups – we don’t have an automatic dishwasher – I set the blender container on the scale, and weigh ingredients. This is especially great when baking, but I find it’s efficient for other recipes too.
I’m not fastidious about getting the weights exact, but for the sake of offering this recipe, I decided to be precise. I tend to vary the fruit, depending on what I have on hand that’s seasonal and ready to use, and I’m loose with quantities – a handful of that, one of those. Depending on the fruit(s) and the quantity, you might want to add a date for sweetness. I suggest tasting it prior to adding any dates. Sometimes I’ll add soft tofu, and/or chia seeds. After all, one of the great things about smoothies is their variability.
Favorite Breakfast Smoothie
13 g or 2 T flax meal 60 g or 1 celery, chunked 15 g or small handful of greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc.) 28 g or 1/4 walnuts 60 g or 1/2 avocado 100 g or 1 mango (frozen or fresh) 80 g or 1 small ripe banana (frozen or fresh) 180 g or 3/4 c plant milk 1 date (optional)
I’m afraid to post this. Even as I was writing it, I was deliberating about whether or not I would share it. I can’t decide if I’m more fearful of a lack of response, especially in light of the time and care I have invested in writing this, or if I’m fearful of antagonistic responses. After all, white people are resistant to discussions about racial justice… I say as a white person who is working to overcome my own white fragility, which DiAngelo (2011) defines as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.” I don’t want to maintain white racial equilibrium though, so here goes…
I think about privilege a lot lately. I’m fascinated by how we are each differently positioned, privileged in some ways, perhaps less so in other ways. A linear model is one way to imagine privilege, each person situated somewhere on a spectrum. I’m not convinced that captures the complexity of privilege though, so I imagine something 3-dimensional, vaguely reminiscent of a solar system, never static, with intersecting shifting orbits of race, age, ability, sexual identity, gender, class, size, species, geography, and everything that makes each of us who we are.
I think about my privilege a lot lately. I’m a middle aged, middle class white woman. I have a mostly invisible disability – type 1 diabetes (T1D) – so I appear able-bodied, even though I don’t always feel able-bodied, and managing my health consumes considerable effort and financial resources. I’m bisexual, but married to a man. I’m taller and thinner than the average American woman. I have a history of mental illness, but thankfully, I had access to treatment with a positive outcome. I have an advanced degree, and I’m pursuing a doctorate. I live in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, so I have access to services and resources. All of this is to say that I’m considerably privileged. This affects the choices available to me, how others perceive me, and how I perceive and function in the world. These are my filters through which I have thought about the discussion that follows.
My recognition and appreciation of privilege is heightened now, but I have long been sensitive to the vast inequities in the world. To me, “life isn’t fair,” is a cheap platitude intended to dismiss our responsibility to examine why inequity exists, and do something tangible about it. In my late teens, I came to see myself as an anti-racist feminist, without knowing anything substantial about the theories behind race and feminism. More recently, I’ve had opportunities to learn about forms of systemic oppression, and how they are inextricably linked. I’m now aware of a multitude of ways that beings are marginalized based on race, nationality, age, size, sexual identity, gender identity, ability, class, geography, religion (or lack thereof), and species. This learning process has been – and continues to be – transformative in the most surprising ways.
Although I’ve identified as anti-racist since my youth, I now see that my understanding of racism was shallow and fundamentally flawed. As a liberal anti-racist, I proclaimed myself “colorblind” because that’s what white liberals living in the post-Civil Rights, supposedly post-racism era did. Without anyone to challenge me, and without pursuing information that would have contradicted my perception, I felt like I knew all there was to know about racism. I mean, where does one go after post-racism, right? I never stopped to consider how incoherent it was for racism to exist in a supposedly post-racist society. I didn’t have to think about it though. My whiteness afforded me that privilege.
A few events transpired that shook me loose from that stagnation. I began my doctoral program (more privilege…), where I worked with colleagues of different nationalities and different races, and had reading assignments specifically about race and culture. I was exposed to the idea of “otherization,” the process of regarding someone(s) as different which creates an us/them dichotomy, and enables us to treat them differently. My understanding of otherization of humans opened my eyes to otherizaion and exploitation of animals, which compelled me to adopt veganism. Once divorced from my investment in rationalizing exploitation of animals, and with greater sensitivity to the enculturated ways animals are oppressed, I circled back to re-examine the enculturated ways that humans oppress other humans who are less privileged.
In the midst of these realizations, #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) was gaining traction. Initially, I didn’t know what to make of it, but I wanted to understand it. I was fortunate to have a friend who has been actively involved in BLM though, and he shared a lot of BLM content that intrigued and challenged me. I also discovered vegan activists whose work was intersectional, examining the connections between animal rights and human rights (problematic terminology since humans are animals, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion). I’ve most notably been influenced by the Sistah Vegan Project, its founder, Dr. Amie Breeze Harper, whose revelatory work is grounded in critical race, feminist, and food justice theory, and the many people who participate in discussion in the Sistah Vegan community.
These influences transformed my perception of BLM. Black people engaging in BLM are compelled because the racially-influenced violence against them is a crisis. As my perception shifted to comprehend racism as a crisis, I began to feel the urgency of creating a society that isn’t killing and otherwise harming people based on their blackness or brownness. I came to recognize that it was my white privilege that allowed me to be a casual observer, a phenomenon most hilariously captured in this satirical piece from Reductress, End Your Summer on a Relaxing Note by Ignoring Systemic Racism, which includes suggestions like meditation: “It’s good to start by reciting a mantra over and over, such as ‘I am a good person’ or ‘I am not a racist.’ You’ll emerge feeling refreshed and validated, to the delight of your all-white social circle!” It’s a stretch to even call this satire because I’m convinced this is happening all around me.
Increasingly, each incident of a POC dying at the hands of police affects me more deeply. That’s not to say that I wasn’t shocked and saddened by earlier deaths, but I recognize each death as part of a larger crisis now, rather than isolated, unrelated events. Of note, Sandra Bland’s death really shook me, perhaps because I’ve been in a similar position – a woman driving in Texas getting pulled over for a minor driving offense. Only, I’m white, so when I was pulled over for a minor driving offense in rural Texas, my worst fear was getting a ticket. Not getting pulled out of the car. Not getting slammed to the ground. Not getting taken to jail. And sure as shit, not dying in a jail cell.
Last week, news of Michael Robinson’s death emerged. Michael Robinson was arrested and jailed for not keeping up with child support payments. He had T1D, managed with MDI (multiple daily injections), and was denied medical treatment. According to reports, he repeatedly demanded medical treatment, but was ignored. A PWD (person with diabetes), typically has a fasting BG (blood glucose) goal of 80-120, give or take. The complexity of balancing food, activity and insulin in order to be forever aiming for that narrow BG range means that BG levels drift out of range frequently. That’s not to mention the almost countless variables that are generally outside of a PWD’s control that can also affect BG, such as stress hormones, and insulin absorption at any given injection/infusion site. Having a “high” BG in the 200’s is annoying business-as-usual for people with T1D, in which case, we take extra insulin to bring down BG level. Higher BG’s are less frequent and more dangerous. If it gets ~500+, there is an immediate medical danger, which can require emergency treatment if BG isn’t responding to home intervention, and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or loss of consciousness develop. All of this information is to provide some context so those unfamiliar with BG management will understand the horror I felt when I read that Michael’s BG was 2500 when he finally received medical intervention.
To my knowledge, the DOC (diabetes online community) has not had significant dialogue about the relationship between BLM and diabetes. In my experience, the DOC culture dictates that diabetes is our thing, and everything else is your thing. Historically, the them in the us/them dichotomy is another disease, for instance, cancer, which manifests itself as frustration that one disease generates more media attention, more donation, more research funding, more sympathy, etc. than diabetes, which is par for the course in our capitalistic society. Many people with T1D don’t even want to be associated with type 2 diabetes, and won’t fund raise or donate to the American Diabetes Association because ADA also supports people with T2D. This same us/them framework is now at play with BLM, and the aversion to “mixing” issues informs the response to the assertion that Robinson died from ableism compounded by racism.
One could dispute my observation that most of the DOC has disregarded BLM, but consider the following. It is ironic that the DOC will occasionally collude in rage when someone or some entity misrepresents diabetes, and it’s not unusual for people to express frustration that others don’t know or care about diabetes, but how is the DOC building bridges to other causes that are worthy of outrage? The DOC wants everyone to care and be knowledgeable about diabetes, but suggest they learn about something like racial justice, and how that specifically relates to living with diabetes, and they scoff. To add to the irony, T2D is a scourge among people of color, so diabetes advocacy should be inextricably linked to BLM. In fact, if diabetes advocates and BLM activists collaborated with vegan activists, we could be a model for dismantling racism, ableism, and carnism (the ideology that animals exist for humans to use). For those people whose diabetes advocacy is solely focused on T1D, I encourage you to consider that such a collaborative effort would also benefit people with T1D since the larger conversation about diabetes could shift, and with a decrease in T2D incidence, resources for treatment and research could be redistributed.
Collaborative aspirations aside, the current reality is that the response to Michael Robinson’s death has gone far to reinforce my impression that the DOC perceives BLM as irrelevant. The difficulty of discussing comments that were offered in these discussions is that some of the commenters are my friends, or friends of friends – great people with huge hearts whose friendships I value. That being the case, I’ve tried to capture the essence of the comments without direct quotes to preserve anonymity.
I want to preface by saying that the conversation was not one-sided. Some people expressed committment to the idea that Robinson’s death was a result of diabetes discrimination compounded by racism. There were also a number of tempered responses, recognizing that one can’t definitively know either way how race impacted his treatment in jail, but that it probably played a role. However others vehemently denied that race had anything to do with Robinson’s death. It was suggested that the only cause of Robinson’s death was jailers’ lack of knowledge about diabetes, nothing more, nothing less. To reinforce this position, a list of names of individuals with diabetes, who were mostly white, and had suffered injury or death in police custody was offered. Others agreed, emphasizing that PWD of all races are harmed in police custody, invalidating that Robinson’s blackness was a contributing factor to his death. Of course, this is the equivalent of claiming #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter, a critique of which is offered here, here, here, and manyotherplaces. My position was that this is not a zero-sum game in which Robinson’s death earns 100 attention tokens that have to be divided, or not, between diabetes and racism. People can recognize both, without denying or diminishing the effort to address one or the other. The final outcome of that conversation was essentially, “agree to disagree,” falling short of advancing justice, which is why I was compelled to examine this issue here.
What some people do not know, or are disregarding is that the family, who created Facebook and GoFundMe pages, is committed to the idea that Robinson’s blackness contributed to his death, and this is a #BlackLivesMatter issue. Isn’t it likely that Robinson almost certainly experienced his mistreatment in jail as a manifestation of racism? If he could magically send us a signed affidavit from beyond, stating as much, I’m certain that not only would many white people still deny that race was a factor, since black people have consistently been denied the authority to interpret and narrate their own experience, but I assert that they would likely call Robinson a racist for claiming race contributed to his death!
To emphasize the point that white people are denying black people’s interpretations of their own experience, in another online discussion, a friend shared that she had participated in a conversation in which people questioned whether the details of the story were even true. She suggested that had it been a young white woman who had died, the details wouldn’t even be doubted. After all, white people are experts on interpreting history, right? We can look no further than Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and the continued whitewashing of US history textbooks to see what experts we are. A couple of days later, I asked this friend for a link to the discussion because I wanted to read it in its entirety for the sake of offering more comprehensive analysis here. She told me the discussion had been deleted by the group admin, presumably because it became heated. Whatever the motive for deleting the discussion, the end result is maintaining the comfort of white people who become defensive when faced with questions about racism, and preserving the white narrative that there’s no racism to see here.
I also have to thank another friend for her astute observation that the DOC failed to respond to Robinson’s death in the same way it responds when anyone else with T!D dies. Normally, my Facebook feed will be filled with images of lighted blue candles to honor the loss of someone with T1D. Many people will change their profile pictures to blue candles, and many people will share the person’s story in an effort to raise awareness among their friends and family about the dangers of T1D. I have to credit one more friend who created and shared a meme to honor Robinson. It’s significant that this friend’s family is mixed race though. As far as I could tell, almost no one shared the meme. For a community in which shit goes viral when people care (remember the Crossfit nonsense?), why should I not conclude that no one cares about Robinson? Even people who deny race was a factor, and insisted his cause of death as discrimination against diabetes, didn’t write blog posts, didn’t share memes, didn’t do much of anything other than argue that race was irrelevant.
It is important to note that the discussion participants were almost all white. Would it have been valuable to hear the perspectives of more people of color, especially black people? Absolutely. Am I going to solicit the black people I know in the DOC to get those perspectives? Hell, no. It’s not their responsibility to call out every racial microaggression on the internet. By listening/reading, and judiciously participating in predominantly black online spaces, my intention is to take what I’ve learned back to white spaces, and try to decenter the white perspective, challenge white fragility, and disrupt white privilege, in as much as I’m able as a white person. It might not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s something positive I can do to support #BlackLivesMatter.
My primary intention here was to examine DOC conversations, as I experienced them, or as they were described to me, to expose how racism, specifically anti-blackness emerged in the white-centered commentary on Michael Robinson’s death. I thought it valuable to explore my privilege, and evolution from unquestioning, “colorblind,” self-perceived anti-racist, to more critical, reflective anti-racist who has more questions than answers, and is quick to look for black-centered perspectives on issues since black people are the authority on their experiences. This is a work in progress for me. The greatest obstacle to being a supportive ally to #BlackLivesMatter is thinking I have it figured it out. After all, how can I be an expert on something I haven’t lived? I share this post as a way of inviting white friends to start listening and questioning, and to seek out black-centered perspectives rather than imposing white-centered interpretations.
One of the ideas that it seems some white people struggle to comprehend is the insidious nature of systemic racism, and systemic oppression in general. Our privilege informs our perspective, and we can learn to recognize when that filter is distorting our view. Americans live in a country that was literally built on the backs of people of color, but since it’s all we know, we fail to recognize its influence. We can’t see the forest for the trees. Racism is not just scary white men in white hoods burning crosses, or Confederate flag bumper stickers. Its less obvious manifestations are vague, and sometimes difficult to extract from complicated real world situations, but that doesn’t relieve white people of the responsibility to at least try to identify it. If we don’t, racism will persist. If we balk at the very notion that we, the white liberals, might be saying and doing racist things, racism will persist. If we insist on dictating to black people what is and is not racism, racism will persist. Our black and brown family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues’ lives are in the balance, so it’s time to stop denying, start looking in the mirror, and maybe start by acknowledging that Michael Robinson was a victim of diabetes discrimination compounded by racism.
The DOC’s racial bias is a reflection of the larger healthcare culture, which emerged from a jaw-dropping history of racism in healthcare, and exists within a society that is characterized by racial bias. In my experience, the DOC is not racist in an epithet-slinging way, but until we begin to identify, discuss and call out the less overt manifestations of racism, we will be perpetuating it. I believe the DOC is capable of this too based on the outstanding work of highly regarded Hispanic diabetes advocates who have created community spaces for those who speak Spanish. In this regard, the DOC has demonstrated a commitment to inclusivity. That being said, creating separate spaces for people who speak Spanish is different from creating spaces that feel accessible to black people.
Earlier I said that I have more questions than answers about race. Would it be useful to have designated spaces for people who are black and have diabetes? Why does there appear to be a persistent shortage of black voices in the DOC? Is it only the responsibility of black diabetes advocates to address racism in the DOC? If black people are under-represented in the DOC – as they seem to be – are white people absolved of addressing racism? Isn’t it a vicious cycle – lack of black voices to address racism perpetuates racism which discourages black voices? How do we extract ourselves from that vicious cycle? What is it about the DOC that it has become a space with so few black voices? What would it be like to have a diabetes advocacy event (IRL or online) that was focused on the black experience, but all advocates were encouraged to join to learn from and celebrate black voices on diabetes? In regards to #BlackLivesMatter, other questions emerge. What would it look like for diabetes advocates to collectively support BLM? What would it be like for diabetes advocates to engage with BLM protests? How could diabetes advocacy be enhanced by engaging with BLM?
I am not suggesting there are obvious or easy answers to these questions. I am suggesting that these are important questions though, and the difficulty of addressing them is not an excuse to ignore them. As long as there is denial that racism is a problem for black people with diabetes, as long as there is denial that racism is a problem in healthcare, and thus, a problem in the DOC, then racism will continue, in the DOC, in healthcare, and everywhere.
Disclaimer: I have made generalizations here. I have discussed a community made of individuals, so naturally, there are outliers. Not everyone in the DOC is 100% diabetes, 100% of the time. Many friends have been inspiring supporters of LGBTQ rights, some identify as feminists, and a few have shared BLM content. My overall impression though, is that the DOC is not connecting to BLM, with the acknowledgement that I can’t possibly keep track of everyone’s social media activity. It’s also relevant that most of my DOC friends are white.