The trend of African Americans outdoing other demographics in the USA in the race towards leaving meat behind is continuing. A 2016 study conducted by Pew Research Center showed that 8% of African Americans identify as vegan or vegetarian, while only 3% of the general population did. That was consistent with a 2015 poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group that found 8% of black people were vegetarian, compared to 3% Hispanics and 3.4% overall. And it seems this fast-growing trend has not slowed down in recent years.
A 2020 Gallup Survey of changes in meat-eating habits showed that 23% of Americans reported eating less meat in the past year than they had previously, but 19% of white people reported eating less meat compared with 31% of black people.
Part of this difference may be explained by people trying to address the health disparities afflicting Black Americans. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 60-80% of African Americans are lactose intolerant. By choosing a vegan diet people of marginalised groups can avoid the effects of systemic bias in the medical industry, giving them better control of their health.
Another part may be the recognition of the similarities between systems of oppression, as is the case of violence against farmed animals and the violence against people of colour. Decolonial theorist Aph Ko said: “The position that non-human animals occupy in our cultural imagination is proof for how easy it is to accept the lower status of some beings without even a second thought.”
Some African Americans are starting to realise that meat is not an important part of their roots. Bryant Terry and Jenne Claiborne are authors of vegan cookbooks which show how plant-based cuisine was rooted in the African diaspora and Black American culinary traditions. Ethiopian food has become very popular, and many Ethiopian restaurants are fully vegan.
Another factor may be African American celebrities turning vegan. JAY-Z, Beyoncé, Cardi B, Jaden Smith, A$AP Rocky, and most of the Wu-Tang Clan have been helping to promote veganism, vegan products, or plant-based food.
And finally, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the African American community has heightened the importance of a healthy diet to combat obesity and diabetes.
Thanks to the intersectional approach, voices representing marginalised communities are beginning to be listened to more within the vegan movement —although they had been always there. Tracye McQuirter, nutritionist and author of “Ageless Vegan” and “By Any Greens Necessary”, said: “There’s always been this river of Black folks who have been pioneers in veganism next to the wider ocean of folks who are omnivores.”