How can you address both racism and economic inequality across race and class in the food system?

In his book Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Jeopardizing the Future of America, writer and activist Tim Wise points to how racism can explain a lot about the class divide in this country and cruelty towards/apathy about those who live in poverty. As he writes, “The development of the class structure in the United States has been, from the beginning, interwoven with the development of white supremacy,” and shoring up class division has had a role in preserving power and privilege of ruling elites. Race historically was used to divide rural White farmers and Black farmers in the days of the populist movement. Professor Ian Haney Lopez observes in this audio segment about “dog whistle politics,” that politicians continue to use language that plays to underlying racial fears of working and middle class whites. For this reason, The Center for Social Inclusion advocates for building rural-urban partnerships to create a more just food system (see Building the Case for Racial Equity in the Food System). Consider how race and class interact in your food systems work/volunteerism/ studies. How are you currently building, or could you imagine building, connections and power across race and class to transform the food system?

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6 thoughts on “How can you address both racism and economic inequality across race and class in the food system?”

  1. Should be required reading for all, much like “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” along with ongoing discussions, action plans, and so on. This clear, concise exploration and analysis of the roles race has played and continues to play in American labor unions and politics will continue to undermine any progress toward effective dismantling of our racist policies, embedded and emboldened by miserable language, misunderstanding and “self-interest” by so many. We must do better than we have, even if doing so seems overwhelming and confusing in the face of entrenched racism and other “isms.”

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    1. Thanks, Leslie. Certainly being a student of history is crucial to understanding how there have been repeated and ongoing efforts to undermine a more massive popular movement to address fundamental injustices through the use of “dog whistles” of various kinds. Keep reading, keep learning, keep talking with others!

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  2. Seems like we’re culminating the challenge with the toughest questions! Well I think CSI’s potential solutions from this report are a start. I think an intersectional approach is one way. Alongside a racial equity assessment we should be considering the effect of projects, initiatives, and policies on economic inequality and aiming for double and triple wins. I’ve read accounts of times in history when we’ve been able to tie these together. How and why that didn’t last is complicated but we can all learn from this history to create a strategy for the future.

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    1. Thanks, Taisy. Yes, we are certainly getting into deep and complex territory here. And I do think that the CSI report helps by pointing the importance of creating more rural-urban alliances. And certainly keeping an intersectional view! Curious to hear what you think we might learn from any historical accounts that might hold promise for our collective future. Appreciating your continued engagement!

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  3. In general, in today’s society there is a vast amount of racism. Where many people look down on certain groups of people. Or in some way can decided who “needs” help and who doesn’t. But aide should just go to those who need it. In that sense, racial equity needs to a large component of this, something I feel is currently lacking in today’s food system.

    The article highlights how even things like housing can make a difference. Accessibility is important, if you are in a bad neighborhood with limited access, how are you supposed to get ahead?
    Like the article suggests, policies should be more clear and just, not taking location, class, race or gender into consideration. Unfortunately, this is something that happens all too often, and often happens to individuals subconsciously, so may be hard to fix.

    I think the best solution at this point is to help build up the areas that need it most, the ones that have been overlooked. And little by little, offer aide to places, where the people feel nobody wants to help them.

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