What do you need in order to take some new, innovative/experimental steps towards operationalizing racial equity in the food system? What resources, tools, strategies, and supports do you need to help take some next steps with your colleagues?
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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?
Intersectionality refers to the ways race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, status, and other markers of difference intersect and interact to create individual realities and lived experiences. Read this article “Get Intersectional! (Or, Why Your Movement Can’t Go It Alone),” and this blog post by Yasmin Gunaratnam – Intersectional pain: What I’ve learned from hospices and feminism of colour. Consider how you are addressing, or how you might address, intersectionality in your food systems work/volunteerism/studies.
Racial inequities are not random; they have been created and recreated over time, including through legislation, public policy, and ongoing governance mechanisms. Inequities will not disappear on their own. A growing field is emerging to support local and regional government in working to eliminate inequities and increase success for all. Watch this video about the King County Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan. Are there similar conversations/efforts happening in your community? How might you bring this to the attention of your town/city/campus/state/region, especially around conversations and decisions pertaining to food systems? Look at the list of tools and resources on the Government Alliance for Racial Equity (GARE) website (including guides to creating racial equity action plans and resources to transform government).
In order to make the case for engaging in racial justice work, it can be helpful to point to and quantify the very real social and economic costs to communities and our country. Read the summary PolicyLink report on equity as a key to economic development and this short article Racism and public health: How environment shapes wellbeing. You might also consider skimming this report – “The Business Case for Racial Equity.” How might you begin to quantify and convey the costs of racism (exclusion, inequity, health impacts) in your food systems work/volunteerism/studies? How might you be more explicit in making the case for full inclusion and equity as being key to economic development, public health, and shared prosperity related to the food system?
Committing to racial justice is also an “inside job.” That is, groups, organizations, and schools are called to get their own houses in order and move from being exclusive and exclusionary, or simply compliant and saying they are committed to justice, towards being fully committed in action, embodying the practices of “anti-racist, multicultural” organizations. Check out this resource on “Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Institution” from Crossroads Ministry in Chicago. Where would you put your organization/school/group on the continuum? Where would you like it to be and by when? What are three steps you can take to begin to move your organization/school/group?