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Lions Roar : September 2018
REEZE HARPER LIKES TO JOKE that whoever came up with the idea of medi- tating every morning didn’t have kids. Harper has four, so it’s only in the evenings while she’s nursing that she has time to practice. In the darkness, she pulls her baby close and takes a mindful breath. The fact is that Harper has a lot more on her plate besides motherhood. With a master’s from Harvard and a doctorate from the University of California, she’s a scholar, author, speaker, and diversity and inclusion consultant. Her focus is on ethical consumption and sustainability—on making veganism a tool for simultaneously resisting institutional rac- ism and environmental degradation. Harper moves her hands a lot when she talks, speaking bluntly but without losing her compassion. She regularly uses the high-voltage term “white supremacy,” which, she clari- fies, she uses to define societal systems, not individuals. Racism, animal rights, Buddhism: for her, these issues are intimately connected. “I don’t consider myself a vegan; I consider myself a practitioner of veganism,” says Harper. Similarly, “I don’t consider myself a Buddhist; I consider myself a practitioner of Buddhism. For me, I’m always going to be on that continuum toward trying to alleviate suffering and pain.” HARPER GREW UP in a small rural community in Connecticut. Her family had an orchard and a chicken coop, and across the street there was a sheep farm. As she puts it, hers was “the only other Black family” in the area. Racism was something she endured per- sonally and—worse, in her opinion—she endured seeing her twin brother targeted. “I remember some kids saying that I had the same color skin as dog shit,” says Harper. In this environment, the N-word floated around, but it was never directed at her person- ally—not until her first day of middle school when she was twelve years old. “The first greeting I heard was, ‘Look at that skinny little n——. Run, skinny little n——, run,’” Harper has written. “From that point on in my consciousness, I became very The Right Speech of Race Racism festers when we don’t talk about it, says scholar Breeze Harper—even in vegan and Buddhist communities. ANDREA MILLER reports. PHOTOBYDR.OLIVERZAHN B LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 67