The [Vegan] Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter– Deadline Extended to November 15 2016

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For Screen readers:

In 2010, Lantern Books published the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan, edited by Dr. A. Breeze Harper. This is an anthology of Black women identified vegans who reflect on food, identity, health, and society.

Dr. A. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project and Aph Ko of Black Vegans Rock will be organizing and co-editing a sequel to Sistah Vegan called ‘The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter’ (working title). For this volume, we envision deeply critical engagements by Black identified vegans, who are doing social justice, food Justice, environmental justice, etc. from an intersectional framework. The volume will centralize the significance of living during the era of Black Lives Matter. How are you, as a Black identified vegan, engaged in the continuum of dismantling systemic racism (and other ‘isms’) that affect Black people throughout the world?

Who we are seeking: Black identified vegans who employ the tenets of ethical veganism through intersectional justice (i.e. anti-racism, anti-ableism, anti-speciesism, LGBTQ rights, Black Liberation); someone who does not frame veganism or Black Liberation within the often mainstream and confining narrative that is almost always cissexist, heteronormative, fat shaming, ableist, and classist to name a few.

What we are accepting: (1) Critical essays, poems, or narratives of no more than 6000 words; (2) Artwork/design ideas for the cover.

Deadline for abstracts: November 15, 2016.

Deadline for final submissions: April 15, 2017.

Email questions and abstracts to: Dr. A. Breeze Harper – sistahvegan@gmail.com


(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist forCritical Diversity Solutions, a seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best known as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked offFoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives MatterIn tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

SUPPORT THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT'S LATEST BOOK

Vegan Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter (Deadline Extended)

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For Screen Readers:

In 2010, Lantern Books published the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan, edited by Dr. A. Breeze Harper. This is an anthology of Black women identified vegans who reflect on food, identity, health, and society.

Dr. A. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project and Aph Ko of Black Vegans Rock will be organizing and co-editing a sequel to Sistah Vegan called ‘The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter’ (working title). For this volume, we envision deeply critical engagements by Black identified vegans, who are doing social justice, food Justice, environmental justice, etc. from an intersectional framework. The volume will centralize the significance of living during the era of Black Lives Matter. How are you, as a Black identified vegan, engaged in the continuum of dismantling systemic racism (and other ‘isms’) that affect Black people throughout the world?

Who we are seeking: Black identified vegans who employ the tenets of ahimsa-based veganism through intersectional justice (i.e. anti-racism, anti-ableism, anti-speciesism, LGBTQ rights, Black Liberation); someone who does not frame veganism or Black Liberation within the often mainstream and confining narrative that is almost always cissexist, heteronormative, fat shaming, ableist, and classist to name a few.

What we are accepting: (1) Critical essays, poems, or narratives of no more than 6000 words; (2) Artwork/design ideas for the cover.

Deadline for abstracts: October 15, 2016.

Deadline for final submissions: March 15, 2017.

Email questions and abstracts to: Dr. A. Breeze Harper – sistahvegan@gmail.com


 

[VIDEO] Uprooting White Fragility: Intersectional Anti-Racism in the ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape

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March 2016, some of us from Black Vegans Rock attended the Intersectional Justice Conference in Clinton WA at the Whidbey Institute (see photo above). It was an amazing event that you can learn more about here at Pax’s Funcrunch blog recap. Thanks Pax. Below is the professionally recorded video of Dr. A. Breeze Harper giving a talk at conference. The talk is called “Uprooting White Fragility. ”

Video Credit : Photon Factory


 

NOTE: I have given many talks with the same or similar titles but the content is always unique; I do not give the same talks over and over again.

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her bookScars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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Uprooting White Fragility: Intersectional Anti-Racism Within the Ethical Foodscape

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Ruminating on Perpetually Being Labeled as a “White Hating Racist” and Other Thoughts

Bigot

UPDATED January 21, 2016 22:05 PM PDT

Over the duration of my scholarly endeavors (12 years), I have experienced increased hostility towards my critical race feminist engagement with ethical consumption , as well as Buddhism,  by primarily white identified people.

There is a difference between mindfully disagreeing with a person and being cruel , a bully, and violent because that person doesn’t agree with you.

So, here are some questions/thoughts…

What is the strategy  in gathering an army of white-identified people and teaching each other that the scholarship and other writings/work by A. Breeze Harper are”racist” and “bigoted”?  There has been 450+ years of racism/whiteness in operation in the USA (institutionally, legally, structurally, systemically). It has changed throughout time…and it is going to take a lot of work to understand and dismantle it, using various methods, including critical theory, legal studies, and grassroots activism.  I have found that these racialized systems of oppression have deeply affected ethical consumption in the USA; it’s inevitable, as ethical consumption was not developed in a vacuum. 

When I suggest how this white supremacist racial caste system has affected nearly everyone in the USA, I am intrigued by the amount of uproar and pure vitriol that comes from mostly white identified people. We are all racialized subjects with racialized consciousnesses that have been born out of a white supremacist racial caste system; the way we are socially and geographically located in that system affects how we frame, perceive, experience, everything. This includes ethical consumption. This isn’t about me saying individuals are bad vs. good. I’m more or less pointing out the damages/consequences of such a system… and that it affects most of us at a deeply somatic and unconscious level. 

It would seem that many of you have made it your full time job to intimidate me by immediately joining this army. Here is a gentle reminder: “white identified” people are ‘damaged’ by such systems as well, in the long run, despite the many privileges that come along with it. (And no, I didn’t make this up. I would love to send you a long list of citations that show these damages).

I consider myself on the continuum of many Black anti-racism activists and scholars that have come before. And during this continuum, various scare and intimidation tactics have been used to dissuade folk like me from doing the work that we are doing. I am not sure if you realize this, but thus far, these tactics have not worked throughout the centuries. It’s not going to work on me, so you may want to stop putting so much time into it; furthermore, even though many of you spent a lot of time trying to be cruel, verbally abusive, etc, I don’t ever react the same way towards you. I’m not an eye for an eye type of person. It’s just not going to happen.

I’m not going to dedicate my life to trying to destroy you or spend countless hours trying to gather an army of people to hatefully bully or troll you. Right now, I just accept that bullying, threats, etc towards me is coming from a place of fear, insecurity, anguish, etc.

Perhaps some of you can explain what the point is in gathering such armies and then trolling my social media sites and intimidating me by calling me things like a “white hating racist”…? Or making comments like beating me to death with a crow bar because I critique the ways well known leaders of mainstream food and sustainability movement frame their ethics through normative whiteness? I’d like to hear more concretely what those fears, insecurities, etc are– especially when I make it a point to not attack individuals but rather, understand racism and whiteness from the systemic and unconscious levels….and how we are affected by that machinery of whiteness as racialized subjects within that system. I cannot count enough , how many times I have been called a white hating racist when I simply give a talk about the work I’ve been doing.

Recently, I went to University of Oregon to talk about my new book Scars. I recorded the talk with my camera. Someone who watched a video of the recorded talk on my YouTube channel, posted that I was must hate white people and blame them for everything. They concluded this after spending 3 minutes watching the 60+ minute video of me reading from my new fiction novel and talking about how whiteness impacts the ways 2 characters practice plant based diets. The book had nothing to do with hate and everything to do with unconditional love and working through the collateral damages of racism together. These intensely hateful reactions to my writing and talks happen all the time and really only through social media and similar online platforms.

I’m curious about this tactic. As someone who wrote an award-winning Masters Thesis at Harvard focusing on, ‘But I’m not racist’ White vegans who used cyber space to ‘bully’ POC who wanted to engage in critical race interrogations of normative whiteness within AR and veganism, I’m not really surprised these reactions are coming my way, 12 years later, but still, if you could share what’s on your mind, I’d love to hear.

Perhaps I can share something with you that can help you leave the realm of spite, vitriol, and bullying…. When I was being critiqued for my ableist framing of my Sistah Vegan project’s early years (because I have able-bodied privilege it affected how I made assumptions about ability and health) , I chose to not gather an army. I chose not to bully those who are doing disability studies work and activism and/or living with disabilities. What did I do? I picked up some training materials and educated myself about how, even though I’m not “overtly” an ableist, I am still framing health and veganism from an “ableist” angle and need to STOP doing that. That as a visibly able-bodied woman, I have benefited from systemic ableism my entire life. I did not bully or harass those who call me out. Instead, I realized they are not attacking “me” but critiquing how I “frame” veganism and health (believe it or not, these are two different things) and that even though I may not agree with everything they say, I could learn a lot from them that can only strengthen my activism towards creating a world with less suffering and violence. I learned from those who have developed knowledge from the embodied experience of being systemically oppressed… and without saying they know everything, but without saying I know everything either.

I’m also interested in what the strategy is of ‘hiding’ behind social media to intimidate me. Feel free to respond on the social media you are using or on my blog, because I’m curious. Many of you block me, after you intimidate me and that makes it difficult to have an open dialogue (or perhaps your ultimate goal is just to intimidate me?) If you are so confident that I’m a “racist” or “hate white people”, then why immediately block me? Shouldn’t you have the confidence to believe in what you have said without needing to “Block” me?

When someone such as myself spends years using social science methods to TRACK themes/patterns , analyze them, and come to the conclusion that, “This is the new way in which [type in systemic oppressive patterns of white supremacist racism] operates” , this is not simply “making up new definitions” for racism. Many have implied I and other women of color doing critical race studies scholarship are ‘redefining’ racism to achieve some ‘hidden white hating agenda’. When many of you write me that I need to only use the Webster dictionary definition of “racism” from 70 years ago, you’re basically saying this dictionary definition should “trump” the complex definitions of ‘racism’ developed by the more recent critical race studies scholar. Those scholars developing that canon weren’t invited to write up the dictionary at that time, for obvious [racist] reasons.  What is the strategy in explaining to me that you are sending me the Merriam-Webster definition to “educate” me on how I am “incorrectly” using the word “racism” ?

I think you probably don’t understand this or how academic disciplines work, such as critical race studies. Critical race studies scholars don’t just ‘make up’ and randomly define the way new forms of racism and normative whiteness operate. We collectively go through a rigorous process to develop these theories through various methods that are usually “approved” by the disciplines we are working within. That’s how new theories/knowledge about systemic oppression are developed; we don’t refer to the dictionary definition via Merriam-Webster…

Just because you don’t like the results of what decades of critical race studies scholarship reveals, doesn’t mean the collectivity of people of color engaged in this scholarship are “racist” or “hate white people.” It means that we know something is very “wrong” within the moral fabric of the USA…. and has been for centuries. We are developing the tools to create a literacy and action plans around this. Even though at first, it makes many white people ‘mad’ and ‘uncomfortable’, this is what the results of this canon reveals: systemic racism/normative whiteness exists to a degree that significantly impedes people of color’s ability to thrive and be in safer environments, have the resources we need, etc. I can’t change or lie about those results (and why would I?). Some tips:

  • Consider taking time off from intimidating me and instead, explore the canon of critical studies of race and whiteness so you can develop a critical literacy skill set and a plan to dismantle these systems.
  • Get out of the Jim Crow era of simply using Webster dictionary definition of “racism”.
  • Be gentle to us and yourself by admitting you just didn’t know how new systems of racism and white supremacy operate…and that the anger and vitriol you have is a symptom of terror.
  • Consider the fact that maybe you are terrified about what this could all mean to your points of security and what you know as ‘normal’ and comfortable.
  • Let’s we work together, and like I said, it took 450+ years to create this, so why don’t we understand it’s going to probably take just as long to understand it and unravel it?

Again, I won’t engage in an eye for an eye. No matter what. The more hostility I receive, the more I want to understand it and find new ways of using mindfulness, unconditional love, my Engaged Buddhist practice, to break through it and enter a new sphere of possibilities.  The anger, vitriol, spite are symptoms of the collateral damage– the emotional and spiritual damage– that this systemic racial caste system has caused to the very white people who want to [un]consciously hold onto it.

For those of you interested in the spiritual poverty that systemic racism and white supremacy have created within the collectivity of white people living in the USA, I think the Starr King School of Ministry says it best for their Educating to Counter Oppressions core values. (*Please note that even though the below excerpt is within the context of religious education, this school of ministry promotes using spirituality and anti-oppression as their core values; fighting white supremacy is listed as part of their values. As an agnostic, I am still able to appreciate the use of ‘religious task’ for what I could interpret as ‘moral/spiritual task’ for myself):

People of color have resisted white supremacy in many ways. Communities of color teach patterns of resistance. Each person who survives oppression has found and moved along a path of resistance.

Those who ‘were never meant to survive’ but have survived, extend to the larger human community the wisdom and ways, options and opportunities, sounds and rhythms of resistance and survival. Such people make their lives a gift of authentic presence and witness.

Members of the dominant society often miss the opportunity for fuller human meeting. To become more fully present and engaged, we must all engage in the work of seeing how white identity has been constructed in narcissistic ways. An embrace of fuller humanness relinquishes self-centered needs, arrogance, and self-serving patterns, and contributes to fresh possibilities for just and sustainable community.

Members of the dominant society must accept responsibility for this religious task, without depending on people of color to be ‘the mirror that talks back’ and makes whites visible in their ignorance, thoughtlessness, or denial. At the same time, genuine and transformative human encounter happens when people are willing to speak the truth in love to one another and are open to being confronted.

White supremacy reveals a spiritual crisis at the heart of the dominant culture. Overconsumption and exploitation are hidden and tolerated for the sake of a quality of life that is neither abundant nor sustainable. Engaging white supremacy involves discovering a deeper experience of abundant life. This discovery, in turn, means confronting and changing social systems, including economic systems, that perpetuate too banal a sense of ‘the good life’, making it available to too few and causing harm to too many and to the earth.

Starr School for the Ministry, Educating to Counter Oppressions 

Fanon knew it.

DuBois knew it.

hooks knows it.

Yancy knows it.

Powell knows it.

The collectivity of us doing this work have always known it…. and that is what keeps many of us on this path, despite the threats and intimidation.


sistahvegan06

Dr. A. Breeze Harper Giving a Talk about Scars at Pomona College in 2015

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.

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(UPDATED) The [White Savior] Elephant in the Room: Ally Theater, Savior Complex, and Speaking for ‘The Other’

[THIS POST IS UPDATED FROM YESTERDAY. I DIDN’T KNOW I HAD PUBLISHED AN EARLIER VERSION WHICH LEFT OUT PATTRICE JONES’ WORK]

Ally Theater (2)

[Note: Christopher Sebastian McJetters is a Black and vegan man who approaches non-human animal compassion activism with anti-racist and decolonial frameworks.]

Years ago (but post-2000), my friend, a person from Africa ( I won’t be too specific to protect their identity) was studying at UC Berkeley as an Anthropology doctoral student. They told me that they saw a disturbing poster in their Anthropology department. The poster had the images of indigenous African people and gorillas, with the question, “Who will speak for them?”

They were appalled, but certainly not surprised; the traditional discipline of Anthropology in the USA was fundamentally a white colonialist/imperialist project: on many levels, that poster reflected that continuing tradition, whether intentional or not (because it’s all about impact and not intentions). My friend wrote on a public forum about the experience:

The now infamous Gorilla poster is wrong on so many levels; however, my initial views concerning the poster’s phrases and imagery straddled the line between applauding the conservationism and masking my embarrassment over the overt paternalism inherent in the question: “Who will speak for them?”

Did it occur to the creators of the poster that they (meaning the “Indigenous people”) could speak for themselves? That rather than speaking for someone they could act as allies transmitting their message to areas they cannot reach, if in fact they are incapable of reaching such areas on their own?

Despite being bothered by the line, I wasn’t the least bit shocked by the poster. I’m kinda used to encountering that line of thinking, even at Cal. This type of conditioning results from a life time of hearing, seeing, and reading others act as if they can speak on my “Indigenous” behalf in the way that parents do for their children.

P.D.
It didn’t occur to me that the poster’s content could be interpreted as comparing Sub-Saharan Africans to Gorillas. The notion that some groups of people are “monkey-like” is not universal and certainly not an a priori form of perception and understanding. Sadly, some of the people making such comparisons will do so regardless of reason and truth. We can just work to ensure that that crowd becomes (or remains) a minute minority that doesn’t perpetuate its perspective

(Source: http://savageminds.org/2012/03/04/a-plea-for-anthropology/)

Though savior complex and ally theater are not limited to white people, I am focusing more or less on white savior complex within the USA. This is because a significant number of POC (vegan and non-vegan) experience ‘post-racial’ white people involved in animal rights (and other spaces) as being on a mission[ary] to be their allies save them. But, these “saviors'” are collectively ignorant about a centuries old history of [white] savior complex and have not engaged in any self-interrogation about its impact on how they both relate to non-white people and non-human animals…and how that, in turn, racializes and socializes them into whiteness.

And by ‘save them’, I mean the goal is to save the collectivity of POC from their perspectives that are so centered on anti-racism (which is read as “irrational and distracting” by the collectivity of white animal rights/vegans). POC must be saved and taught that non-human animals come first while issues around race and whiteness are not only secondary, but divisive and distracting.

However, veganism and animal rights are not the only spaces in which [white] savior complex and speaking for the ‘other’ can happen. White anti-racist and vegan activist pattrice jones’ recent book Oxen at the Intersection, critically analyzes the impact of white supremacist and ableist logic in terms of speaking for ‘the animals’. The book narrates the story of two oxen at a Vermont College, Bill and Lou, that focuses on locavorism and ‘traditional’ pre-industrial use of non-human animals. Even though there is a lot going on in her brilliant book, I can’t emphasize enough how students, staff, and faculty at Green Mountain College felt compelled to speak for the oxen through their white supremacist and speciesist imagination of how the oxen can ‘best’ serve the mostly white bodied campus. They ‘saved’ the oxen from having ‘meaningless’ lives by forcing them into a life of servitude and being part of a nostalgic white pre-industrial agricultural narrative…nothing short of the ‘noble savage’ narrative applied to the non-human animals who cannot speak for themselves or have their own agency to determine if they even want to be part of this white bygone-era farming narrative.

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but get the sense that collectively, these people who wanted to decide the fate of Lou and Bill considered themselves non-human animal allies. These ‘good allies’ were teaching Bill, Lou, and other non-human animals how to make a mostly white campus look ‘ethical’ and ‘holier than thou’ when it comes to sustainability and creating a better food system.  The ‘white innocence’ agricultural narrative and image, depended on how this pro-locavore white Green Mountain College community spoke for these animals as both their ‘allies’ and their saviors– whether Bill and Lou truly benefited or not (which isn’t really the point; branding a white dominated college in white dominated Vermont as the symbol of white ethical practices around farming and food is the point).   (Click on title below for more info)

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So, now that you’ve read this post, here are some questions below (but don’t feel limited by them).

  1. What was your initial reaction after reading the quotes?
  2. Have you ever engaged in ally theater or savior complex?
  3. Were you ever called out because you were engaging in ally theater or savior complex behavior, and if so, how did you respond?
  4. If you identify as white, have you every leveraged ‘being an ally’ or savior  for non-white folk and/or non-human animals to show how you are ‘one of the good whites’? (You may not even be conscious of having done so)

Thanks Christopher Sebastian McJetters for starting this conversation and giving me permission to post. Thanks pattrice jones for your amazing book.


About the Author and The Sistah Vegan Project

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. Harper currently manages the Staff Diversity Initiative’s Multicultural Education Program at UC Berkeley and is the founder of the Critical Diversity Solutions. Check her profile out on LinkedIn. Inquire about Dr. A. Breeze Harper lecturing or giving a workshop at your organization, school, or business.

[EVENT] Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: Critical Race Feminist Activism in the ‘Post-Racial’ USA Ethical Foodscape

foodscape

Response to Whitesplaining Black Lives Matter (“Black men do not get shot if they beat up their girlfriends”)

-there's no elevator to success. you have to take the stairs.- (1)

Yesterday, yet another white identified woman responded, on Facebook, to my Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter spring 2015 conference. Having never attended the event,  she wrote how “ridiculous” the event idea was, that “All Lives Matter”, and then whitesplained that “Black men do not get shot if they beat up their girlfriends” (a random ‘connection’ she was making after reading that a Black man who abused his girlfriend didn’t end up getting shot by the police).

She makes this comment the same day my twin brother contacts me about Fay Wells in Santa Monica, CA, whose neighbor thought she was breaking into her own home (19 cops showed up to take down this ‘scary’ Black Dartmouth College graduate who was VP of a firm…[I guess she shouldn’t have been wearing a ‘hoodie’, should have gone to college, and made something of herself because , duh, only Black people can prove their humanity by working hard and looking professional to earn the approval of White people that their lives matter Black.] )

My brother said he had to take a triple take on Fay Wells’ image in the newspaper because, “Wow Amie, I  thought she was you.” (Because nothing says ‘good morning’ like waking up to the possibility that your twin sister was racially profiled and could have been shot and killed by the police while chillin’ out in her own house…. I don’t think she looks like me, but for those of us who are sight -abled, remember we don’t just ‘see’ with our eyes but our worries, fears, conscious or unconscious, help us ‘see’ and interpret– we often see what we expect to see based on those fears, worries, assumptions….)

Raise your hand if you’re like me and my twin and check in with your Black or brown dad, mom, your best friends and siblings every other f*cking day to make sure they aren’t dead because apparently, not everyone realizes that Black Lives Matter.

Raise your hand if you send out those emails, make those phone calls, etc. to make sure your parents, best friend sibling, child is not the next Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, etc

A few days before my brother contacted me, one of my dearest friends who is a Black Muslim, informed me that several Muslim women have been beaten up by anti-Muslim people in her neighborhood and one woman was pushed onto train tracks of a commute rail. My dear friend told me that she must be careful now when she leaves and must adjust her head wear (wearing hijab) to be safe. A few weeks before that, I had been worried that I had not heard from her because we always chat and 2 or 3 weeks had gone by and no response. But, she was okay, just busy…But I didn’t know of course. I just thought… “What if….?” 

My concerns are real and not ‘ridiculous’. We witness Donald Trump (and his followers who hold onto his every word) that plants seeds of violence and normalize it as legal and acceptable forms of terrorism (except when you are white, it’s not terrorism). He is a cultivator of terrorism. How do we know that the people who shot 5 Black Lives Matter protesters  didn’t have seeds of hate that were planted because they may listen to Trump and similar cultivators of terrorism? (See: Trump’s statement the other week that “Black Lives Matter activists need to be roughed and  similar)

Remember the dream I had about my twin brother? They are re-occurring nightmares and I have similar about him and my own children.

Just wondering how it can all be “ridiculous”

And if it is all ‘ridiculous’ and ‘All Lives Matter’….were you ever that [white] person who called the cops on that ‘suspicious’ Black or brown person?

If you have done that, just wondering if you ever gave a f*ck about the repercussions?

Do you ever wonder what happened to the ‘suspicious’ person you called the cops on?

Did you follow up to make sure they are okay?

That they were treated as if ‘All Lives Matter’? …

Or, did it just simply never occur to you to do anything, beyond calling the cops? (Because that is what privileged bubbles tend to do.)

Here is a little suggestion. A White man wrote it (Because maybe this Black feminist scholar with a PhD, who doesn’t wear a hoodie, went to Dartmouth College, Harvard, ‘talks like an oreo’, and graduated summa cum laude from UC with her doctorate in Social science isn’t enough to convince you). Maybe he can explain why “Black Lives Matter” isn’t ‘ridiculous’.

And maybe my conference I organized that is downloadable for $25 (16 hours all with Powerpoints and Audio) can help. Discounts are offered if you can’t afford the $25, just email me at breezeharper at gmail dot com).

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About the Author and The Sistah Vegan Project

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. Harper currently manages the Staff Diversity Initiative’s Multicultural Education Program at UC Berkeley and is the founder of the Critical Diversity Solutions. Check her profile out on LinkedIn. Inquire about Dr. A. Breeze Harper lecturing or giving a workshop at your organization, school, or business.

 

From Seed to Table[t]: Can Foodie-Tech Startups Change a Neoliberal, Racist, and Capitalist [Food] System?

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On CNN.com, I watched this video: Will Blue Apron Kill your Grocery Store?.

Since watching it, so many questions and comments have popped into my head. Basically, what is up with this boom in the food-techie startup world and the lack of critical race and critical whiteness scholarship around it within the mainstream media and academic publications? Actually, I have been thinking about writing about food-tech businesses for the last few years. It’s kind of hard not to, living in the San Francisco Bay area and living less than 90 minutes away from Silicon Valley. We are the foodie and techie capitals of the USA. As a food justice, racial justice, and environmental justice scholar and activist, I have been overwhelmed by the amazing surge in ‘foodie’ culture in the Bay area that continues to function as a microcosm of the USA.

And by microcosm, I mean that foodie-tech culture represents how resources as well as systems of power and privilege are organized along racial, class, and gender lines in a current era of neoliberal capitalism.

Food and technology, of course, are not untouched by these. I’m not just interested in foodie-tech businesses… I’m interested in how ‘foodie’ culture meets tech companies that are creating social media apps and other smartphone and tablet technology for a’foodie’ culture that loves ‘healthy’, ‘local’, ‘organic’, and/or ‘good’ food.

So, here are my thoughts as a critical race feminist researcher within the disciplines of critical food studies and critical pedagogies of consumption… who is living in the SF Bay area.

…What role do foodie-tech app companies worth tens of millions of dollars have in dismantling (or colluding with) a neoliberal racist capitalist [food] system? Like all these foodie-tech startups, yes, foodie-tech startups like Blue Apron and similarly highly successful foodie-tech start-ups will change the way of eating and ‘your’ relationship to your grocery store-

-But wait, who is ‘you’ and ‘your’?

Unpacking ‘You’ and ‘Your’ in a Neoliberal Era

What is neoliberalism and how do racism and other forms of oppression operate within its logic?

Neoliberal practices pull into its orbit a market of ideas about a lot of things including the family, gender, and racial ideology. It is, as Lisa Duggan (2003) notes, “saturated with race” (xvi) using capitalism to hide racial (and other) inequalities by relocating racially coded economic disadvantage and reassigning identity-based biases to the private and personal spheres…
Specifically, it has meant the establishment of a market orientation to this relationship. Ideally, within a neoliberal theorization of society, the success of the individual is directly related to his/her work output. Modalities of difference, such as race, do not predetermine one’s success as each individual is evaluated solely in terms of his or her economic contribution to society.What becomes clear is that this ideal relationship is not equally realized by all members in society.
(Source: David J. Roberts and Minelle Mahtani of “Neoliberalizing Race, Racing Neoliberalism: Placing ‘Race’ in Neoliberal Discourse.” Antipode Vol 42 No. 2. Pp 248-257. Pages 252-253.)

Within the context of neoliberalism, I’d like to know who ‘you’ and ‘your’ are when so many foodie-tech startups promote their products and services to you.

Does ‘you’ and ‘your’ include those living in spaces of environmental racism?  Are we talking about the nearly enslaved and abused mostly Latino migrant workers who pick the very produce they are paid too low to have easy access to make the items on online menu and delivery services available for the privileged who can afford your services??

True to ‘foodie’ culture, Blue Apron company is focused on ‘locally’ sourced ingredients. However, I would like to know what hands have made these ingredients possible. On their website, there is no transparency about this, other than the fact that we are shown the partners they have (small family farms); however small family farms don’t mean that those working there are treated ethically. Blue Apron answers the question about food being organic or not. I know this is not necessarily their goal, but it is interesting to note that  I do not see an open commitment or dialogue about farm-worker rights; nor do I see a commitment to making sure racial-sexual-class hierarchies of power are not maintained through how their supply chain is made possible.

I often wonder what foodie-tech startups would look like (or how profitable they could be) if not just ‘organic’ and ‘local’ were central, but also if the ideologies of folks like Dolores Huerta and Cezar Chavez were central. Once again, I know it is not Blue Apron’s goal, but the absence is quite telling and also has me thinking about the limits to what one can ask for, from venture capitalists that don’t seem ‘too political’. Concerns about farmworker rights and exploitation, restaurant worker rights, racial or sexual abuse of workers, etc., would most likely not be mentioned in the business plans of foodie-tech startups searching for funding.

Most people who are into mainstream ‘foodie’ culture care more about their food being ‘local’, ‘fresh’, and ‘organic’ than if the food came to them through the abuse and exploitation of farm workers and other marginalized human workers in the food system.

This makes sense because that is what is marketed to and narrated to the general foodie population. Many foodies actually think organic and sustainable mean the treatment of human beings and non-human animals is ‘humane,’ which is false. What would be great to have from Blue Apron is a statement that acknowledges the need to be more critical about horrible treatment of human workers. So far, such statements are no where on their site, however, once again, it could very well be that investors do not want to appear to be ‘too political’ and prefer to be ‘post-racial’ and ‘post-class’. Yes, their focus is not farm-workers or other food industry workers’ rights. However, the silence around this is quite compelling because the fact is, foodie-tech start-ups could not exist without the human laborers in the food system.

What could all this mean?

Let’s face it: Foodie+Tech start-up folk live in an isolated utopian world in which their technology will only ‘solve’ the problems of the privileged neoliberal [white] socio-economically stable demographic. Notable in the video link above from the CNN interview with Blue Apron, is that the co-founder Salzberg states that their model isn’t for the entire world’s population, just a specific demographics [who seem to find going to a grocery story to get local and organic fresh foods a ‘burden’ (?)]. He does say that there is a place for the grocery store and doesn’t think that the companies like Blue Apron will ‘kill’ the grocery store.  However….

…analyze websites such as Blue Apron, Plated, Instacart that are THRIVING and you’ll find their rhetoric to be the following: food+tech+’post-racial’+buying power with our dollars will ‘change the world’+ being socio-economically privileged is the optimal approach to creating a ‘better’ food system (Well, maybe just a better ‘foodie’ experience). I will give the benefit of the doubt that the founders aren’t directly conscious about their approach or the consequences….I will just assume that they really had ‘good intentions’ (though often, the road to hell is paved that way, no?). However, I’m still always fascinated by the fact that millions of dollars can be poured into foodie-tech apps by venture capitalists when food justice activists working in/for the poor and communities of color, with hardly any resources, struggle like hell to create food security and/or sovereignty for themselves.

Would venture capitalists for foodie+tech startups ever consider investing in structural and systemic change to dismantle not just an unequal food system, but the entire corrupt neoliberal racist capitalist system itself? You know, a system that makes food insecurity and the loss of land a reality for most of the world’s people? Let’s remember that most of the people of the world do not include the Silicon Valley elite and alike. Let’s remember that Santa Clara region, where Silicon Valley is born out of, feeds the tech elite in a disturbing way:

A majority of the exploited non-white immigrant farm labor force cannot even afford access to the produce they grow and harvest that end up on the plates of the tech elite (You can read more about this through Food Empowerment Project’s latest reports).

This leads me to conclude that subscribers of foodie+ neoliberal racism + technocracy create the illusion that they are invested in making the food system ‘better’ and ‘easier for all to access’… but it seems that they really just want to be the 1%. (Some people refer to neoliberal racism as racial neoliberalism. I like the term ‘neoliberal racism’  and am using it in the way Goldberg defines it and write about it. Goldberg uses the term racial neoliberalism but I decided to just be upfront and write ‘racism’ versus ‘racial’ to not hide that fact that what is going on is racism at the systemic level. ‘Racial’ seems a little to sanitized for me.)

And please understand, when I speak of neoliberal racism, I am speaking about processes of racial inequality and racial injustice that are systemic and often promoted and maintained in very unconscious ways by individuals. Many people with good intentions, but are ignorant about how racial, gender, and class injustice/inequality operate at the systemic level, end up engaging in food entrepreneurship that may unknowingly have negatively racialized, gendered, and classed outcomes.

Tens of millions of dollars are invested in foodie+tech each month so folk can do things like click on a button to have someone deliver to them something from Whole Foods; or to have a gourmet food chef make you a meal out of organic chard and artisanal cheese. Speaking of Whole Foods, did you know that Whole Foods benefits from the Prison Industrial Complex? In “From Our Prison to Your Dinner Table”, readers learn that Whole Foods actually contracts with Colorado Correctional Industries for food products such as tilapia; Whole Foods is one of their biggest clients!  Essentially, if one uses apps like Instacart, they could order tilapia from Whole Foods produced by inmates! (Check out Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: An Era of Mass Incarceration to learn more about labor exploitation of inmates.)  

The site Food + Tech Connect reports the weekly trends in food-tech business world. Food + Tech Connect constantly remind readers the endless amounts of wealth and resources are available for foodie-tech startup businesses (and don’t get me wrong. I love Food + Tech Connect as a rich source for my own work in food justice and racial justice. It’s a comprehensive– though unintentional– map that shows me the ‘gaps’ in systemic justice and how neoliberalism works).

Recently, I learned that Munchery, a company similar to Blue Apron ($58 million in funding), just ended their funding round with $85 million dollars valuing them at $300 million dollars. Instatcart ($274.8 million in funding), Sprig ($56.7 millions in funding), SpoonRocket ($13.5 million in funding), and DoorDash ($59.7 million in funding) are also ‘good food’ delivery services similar to Blue Apron worth tens of millions of dollars as well. It is remarkable that the same type of capital is not put back into the marginalized communities that have no food security, live under racialized police surveillance, are prey to the Prison Industrial Complex as ‘free labor’ , and/or who have lost land and community space due to gentrification from Silicon Valley and alike, or land grabbing etc.

Venture capitalists invest a huge amount of money into foodie-tech start-ups. However, I wonder if the same investors would ever consider providing political, legal, and monetary resources for example, the Black folk like those fighting to keep Afrika Town community garden alive in Oakland CA. Probably not. Why? It’s simply not lucrative to create food and land sovereignty for non-white and working class USA population. It is better to not fund those endeavors because it doesn’t keep neoliberal capitalism and [mostly white] class privileged access to ‘good food’ alive through cool smartphone apps that deliver food right to your door and masks how systemic racism, sexism, poverty, neocolonialism have made that ‘option’ available for the beneficiaries of Silicon Valley and alike. Food and Geography scholar Nick Heynen writes

The power relations that manifest under the tyranny of hunger relate explicitly to how capitalist societies, and the proliferation of free market forces, rely on access to food as a negotiating chip to maintain domination and coercion. As Engels (1881) suggested, “The Capitalist, if he cannot agree with the Labourer, can afford to wait, and live upon his capital. . . . The workman has no fair start. He is fearfully handicapped by hunger. Yet, according to the political economy of the Capitalist class, that is the very pink of fairness.” This contradictory notion of capitalist fairness, that is, that so many should go hungry amidst such material abundance, is hard to imagine as a result of its brutality. The spatial contradictions within this notion of fairness and justice are vital for articulating the interrelated and interconnected processes inherent in urban poverty and hunger, and how both impede social reproduction.
(Source: 409-410. “Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: The Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale” in Annal of the Association of American Geographers, 99 (2) 2009,pp. 406-422.)

I would argue that the lack of investment into food security projects like Afrika Town, is violence; the collateral damage of neoliberal capitalist oriented investments focused on spaces such as the [mostly white] elite of Silicon Valley. It also resonates with the very real fact that Oakland’s Afrika Town’s struggle echoes the food security politics of the Black Panther Party’s Breakfast Program for Children from over 40 years ago (also Oakland based). There is a reason why the U.S. government and white business elite saw the BPP’s morning breakfast programs as the central threat to their white supremacist state and subjugation of Black communities. Food justice initiatives such as the BPP Breakfast Party and Afrika Town continue to be direct threats to the notion of empire. Why? Empire— even the new ‘post-empire’ neoliberal [empire] era– rely on hunger and food insecurity of the planet’s majority.

Henry Giroux talks about the limits and violence of neoliberalism. Notable is how he places emphasis on the big wigs, including Silicon Valley elite in unveiling what is really occurring in the larger scheme of things:

Moreover, in the face of massive inequality, increasing poverty, the rise of the punishing state, and the attack on all public spheres, neoliberalism can no longer pass itself off as synonymous with democracy. The capitalist elite, whether they are hedge fund managers, the new billionaires from Silicon Valley, or the heads of banks and corporations, is no longer interested in ideology as their chief mode of legitimation. Force is now the arbiter of their power and ability to maintain control over the commanding institutions of American society. Finally, I think it is fair to say that they are too arrogant and indifferent to how the public feels.Neoliberal capitalism has nothing to do with democracy and this has become more and more evident among people, especially youth all over the globe. As Zizek has observed, “the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken.” The important question of justice has been subordinated to the violence of unreason, to a market logic that divorces itself from social costs, and a ruling elite that has an allegiance to nothing but profit and will do anything to protect their interests.
Source: Truth Dig http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_militarization_of_racism_and_neoliberal_violence_20140821

Also, see below the interesting comment from Glassdoor. Of course, it’s just one out of 3 reviews on that Glassdoor site about working at Blue Apron. However, the reference to whiteness of management in terms of food spaces and institutionalized racism is nothing new in the world of food. The groundbreaking book Behind the Kitchen Door explores this power dynamic.

glassdoorblueapron

The social science research book Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape also deeply analyzes the limits of neoliberalism and the popularity of being ‘non-political’ when it comes to ‘the good food movement’ supporters (i.e., “Let’s not talk about class or race because it means we are being racist and classist…and anyway, ‘good food’ is neutral and has nothing to do with racial or class politics”).

Blue Apron’s neoliberal approach to making ‘good food’ more ‘accessible’ and ‘affordable’ (which the founders talk about as reasons why the company was created) aligns with this interview below with Salzberg, the founder of Blue Apron. Salzberg gives advice on how to find entrepreneurial success the way he did with Blue Apron:

Do it at the right time
Changing careers or starting a company is a stressful experience. Your professional life will be chaos. Your future role will be uncertain and so will your compensation. Who knows if you will even be good at what you’ve set out to do? And I’ve always believed that you can only have chaos in one sphere of your life at a time. So, if you’re thinking about a professional transition, try to do it during a time when your personal life is stable. Making a career change right as you’re about to have your first child, breakup from a serious relationship, or move to a different city can make the transition even tougher. When I started Blue Apron, I was based in New York City, had a strong network of friends and family, and I was in a long-term committed relationship. This secure environment gave me the confidence to take the professional risk I needed to successfully start a business.
Seek out experts and mentors
When you change careers you’ll have a lot to learn – and quickly. The best way to ease this transition is to seek out people who can advise and coach you along the way with perspectives that are different than your own. One of the reasons I went into venture capital before starting a company was because I wanted to build a network of other CEOs and start-up experts who I could lean on for different perspectives and advice when necessary. Similarly, when starting Blue Apron, I deliberately sought to work with people who had come from different backgrounds and could bring another level of expertise to the table. As a result, my co-founding team members all had skills that complemented one another, which have played an important role in the success of Blue Apron.
Be humble
When you’re making a career transition, you should focus on what really matters—how to set yourself up for long-term success. In most cases this means getting your foot in the door, so you can be in a position where you can learn and grow. However, I’ve seen too many people coming from success in a different industry fixate on getting the perfect role, compensation, or an important title. If you can find a position at a great company, or with a great boss who will help you grow — ultimately positioning yourself for future success — jump at it and don’t sweat the details. When I left private equity, I took a pay cut to get the experience I needed in venture capitaland I’m glad I did. The experience I got was critical to successfully starting a company, which was a long-standing career goal for me.Before starting Blue Apron I had no previous CEO experience, and it hasn’t been easy growing the company to over 1,200 employees in just two and a half years. We deliver recipes and ingredients for millions of meals across the country, and making that happen at scale requires us to reinvent the way things are done every day. The ability to embrace new challenges has been critical not only for myself, but also for business.
(Source: http://fortune.com/2015/03/31/matthew-salzberg-changing-career-paths/)

Though well intentioned, I’m always intrigued by the numerous articles and books in the mainstream that take this sanitized approach to business success. It’s as if it assumes that everyone starts off as a a highly educated (in the formal sense) white man with no impediments from systemic racism or systemic sexism. Salzberg’s advice is post-racial and post-sexist. There is no mention that those who are most likely to get venture funds to invest in a big career change to starting their own company are white men (due to implicit bias of most venture capitalists and supporters of neoliberalism who are cultured and mis-educated in the USA to accept [white] men as ‘naturally’ successful in any business venture or leadership role they want to pursue). One can argue that it’s ‘normal’ not to need to mention these things to make the message ‘universal’. However, the logic of universal has the implicit bias that the audience are white able-bodied heteronormative cisgender men. (Hey, maybe Salzberg did mention impediments based on racial and gender inequality but it was edited out?) Perhaps Salzberg is aware of these, but when you’re doing an interview with Fortune magazine and your investors may be reading it, perhaps it’s safe to not mention impediments to career changes that implicate systems of racism, white supremacy, sexism, and even nepotism; such a bold move would jeopardize funding. Basically, we may never know what was edited out during the interview.

Here is some food for thought. Silicon Valley venture capitalists were found to be overwhelmingly male and white. From Emory University Law School, Dorothy A. Brown reported on diversity in the high tech industry. She writes:

Throughout Silicon Valley, start-ups tend to have all-male boards of directors, because board members are generally the venture capitalists who invested in the start-up. According to National Venture Capital Association, 89 percent of venture capitalists are men. Regarding race and ethnicity, 87 percent are White, nine (9) percent are Asian, two (2) percent were AfricanAmerican or Latino, and two (2) percent were of mixed race. Venture capital professionals who had been in the industry less than five years were more racially and ethnically diverse – although not true for gender diversity. Seventy-seven percent were White, 17 percent were Asian, three (3) percent were African American or Latino and three (3) percent were of mixed race. 
(Source: Brown, Dorothy A., Diversity and the High Tech Industry (2014). 6 Ala. Civ. Rts. & Civ. Lib. L. Rev. (2014 ); Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-296. Available at SSRN:http://ssrn.com/abstract=2485458)

One of the biggest impediments for people of color– especially women of color, is finding a mentor who is ‘networked in’ already and as well as a mentor who has the confidence to support their life’s goals, period– and with the acknowledgment that systemic racism and sexism position us women of color very differently in terms of opportunities and how the mainstream view our purpose as human beings. There is a significant number of women of color who simply do not get the mentoring support they need to make big shifts. Beyond the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, this disparity starts within K-12 education in the USA and goes into college and graduate school. There is an obvious need of mentorship that is VERY different from the cookie-cutter [white able-bodied male] mentorship logic.

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/12/30/2014-the-year-silicon-valley-spilled-its-diversity-data/
Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/12/30/2014-the-year-silicon-valley-spilled-its-diversity-data/

Essentially, my final thoughts are that foodie-tech app companies worth millions of dollars may kill some of your grocery stores, but they certainly won’t kill the neoliberal. racist, and capitalist [food] system that creates their wealth in the first place. The mainstream image of ‘successful’ foodie-tech entrepreneurs are almost always [white] men. There is basically a non-existent consciousness around the technology they ‘created’ and how likely it would have been made possible without racialized and gendered inequality in tech industry. It must be noted that [white] men are most likely to be the ‘intellectual’ creators and owners of the start-up. However, someone has to actually put the technology devices together through the supposedly ‘not so intellectual’ (i.e. ‘unskilled manual labor’) process of manual labor:

Race is built into the tech industry[…]The industry, like the region, carries with it the inequalities of race, class, and gender of the broader social context in which it resides. The tech firms in Silicon Valley are predominantly led by White men and a few White women; yet the manual labor of assembling circuit boards is done by immigrants and outsourced labor, often women living in the global South.
(Source: Daniels Jessie. “My Brain Database Doesn’t See Skin Color”: Color-Blind Racism in the Technology Industry and in Theorizing the Web.” American Behavioral Scientist. March 31, 2015)

In addition, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and a cadre of white male technology elites, including Bill Gates, Ron conway, Reid Hoffman, and Sean Parker bank on the exploitation of non-white and female manual laborers and are highly invested in a type of immigration reform that maintains their powerful and wealthy positions as white wealthy capitalist oriented men (Daniel 2015); this is not a coincidence. Their type of immigration reform reveals an obvious collusion with a xenophobic and racist-capitalist USA system that has used white supremacist based logic to allow certain immigrants more human rights than other. Did you know that

The immigration law would change Silicon Valley forever. In 1960, Santa Clara County, which is home to Google and Apple, was 96.8 percent white.* By 2010, it was 32 percent Asian-American and 26.9 percent Latino or Hispanic.*
Under the new system, immigration policy would select immigrants on the basis of their skills or their existing family ties in the U.S. It kicked off a “brain drain” from the world’s most populous countries, India and China, which both had governments that were less than 20 years old at the time. A shaky sense of political stability combined with poor economic growth and disastrous projects like The Great Leap Forward encouraged the crème de la crème of these countries to seek better fortunes abroad.
Many of the most technically educated migrants favored by the new U.S. immigration policy ended up in Silicon Valley. Reforms and explosive economic growth have since tilted the balance back with the emergence of new tech hubs in Bangalore and Beijing.
But if the 1965 law had one effect on the Asian-American population, it had an entirely different impact on the Latino community.
Until 1965, Mexican migration had largely been channeled through a temporary worker initiative called the bracero program. The old approach was flawed; labor activists like Cesar Chavez, who lived for many years at the southern end of what is now Silicon Valley in San Jose, criticized it for allowing farm owners to take advantage of low-income migrants who worked under terrible conditions.
(Source: http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/10/east-of-palo-altos-eden/)

I would like to know more about how foodie-tech businesses worth millions of dollars, with largely male and white leadership, are actively making sure the manual labor behind their ‘intellectual property’ and the ‘good’ food on their plates, does not also come at the expense of non-whites, women, or at the expense of less human-rights oriented immigration policy. However, perhaps my interrogations are fruitless; highly successful foodie-tech startups rely on neoliberal models embedded in competitive markets within a capitalist logos; and I need to remind people that capitalism– yes, even neoliberal capitalism supposedly designed to create an even playing field in a supposed post-colonial era– cannot exist without producing and reproducing systemic racial, gender, and class oppression as well as ecocidal views of the Earth’s resources. At first glance, I would argue that a lot of foodie-tech startups give the image that they are left neoliberals which they think is a ‘good’ thing to be. However,

The differentiation between left and right neoliberalism doesn’t really undermine the way it which it is deeply unified in its commitment to competitive markets and to the state’s role in maintaining competitive markets. For me the distinction is that “left neoliberals” are people who don’t understand themselves as neoliberals. They think that their commitments to anti-racism, to anti-sexism, to anti-homophobia constitute a critique of neoliberalism. But if you look at the history of the idea of neoliberalism you can see fairly quickly that neoliberalism arises as a kind of commitment precisely to those things.
(Source: Let Them Eat Diversity: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2011/01/let-them-eat-diversity/)

Is it possible to not have a commitment ‘precisely to those things’? If so, what would it look like?

I do not expect foodie-tech companies to be perfect. In the USA (where my scholarship is focused on), we are living in and under systems of oppression that have conditioned most of us to accept that racial injustice is ‘normal’; that hetero-normativity is ‘natural’; that cis-sexism is acceptable; that ableism is ‘okay’; that neoliberal economic policies and practices are the answer to creating justice in a now post-colonial world.  What I am asking is to acknowledge that most of us are starting within a system of logic that makes exploitation and abuse of people the ‘norm’– but if you’re part of a privileged demographic (i.e. heterosexual, able-bodied, cisgender identified, middle to upper class, etc) you may never know that your privilege comes at the expense of those not in social and geographical locations of privilege. All I’m asking foodie+tech companies to do is to acknowledge these systems of oppression and to start making sure your business model (and other things) is not in collusion with these oppressive systems.

Thus far, a neoliberal, racist, and capitalist, [food] system has made it possible for foodie-tech companies to receive tens of millions of dollars in venture funding that benefit new foodie and technology projects that overall do not question or work to dismantle systemic racism, poverty, and hetero-patriarchy.  We’re not just talking about ‘from seed to table’ here; with foodie-tech startups on the rise who bank on their potential clientele’s use of iPhones, iPads, and Nexus tablets, we need to consider if it is possible for foodie+tech to operate in a way that does not maintain systemic inequality ‘from seed to table[t].’

My questions for foodie-tech companies:

  1. What is your commitment to creating a food system that acknowledges that systemic racism, whiteness, and poverty need to be dismantled?
  2. What is your action plan in creating transparency or conversations around how systems of racism, xenophobia, and sexism basically uphold the food commodity chain?
  3. How are you supporting a thriving wage for food workers? Do you actively vote for laws and support policies to ensure a living wage for food workers? (See Mark Bittman’s NYT article Can We Finally Treat Food Workers Fairly?)
  4. Did you build your space or business as a beneficiary of gentrification? What is your commitment to making sure that your foodie-oriented start-up isn’t at the expense of kicking out working class and/or marginalized communities of color that have a long history of food insecurity and being victims of gentrification?
  5. What is your commitment to not reproducing the racial and gender power dynamics found and reported in books like Behind the Kitchen Door and by organizations like Restaurant Workers United?
  6. What is your commitment to abolishing the Prison Industrial Complex? Are you aware of how the food and agricultural industries rely on the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people to create food commodities as nearly enslaved prison laborers? (Starbucks is one of them, and so are Wendy’s and McDonalds) .

These questions are a good start and I don’t expect anyone to have all the answers over night.

There also are plenty of resources out there that address how structural racism operates in the U.S. food system if you want to learn more about this. Two scholars at Michigan State University just put together an annotated bibliography about how racism in the US food system that you can access at: Structural Racism in the US Food System (2015) .

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About the author:

pomona

Contact Dr. Harper via email.

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper has 15 years of experience in Social Justice Activism and Research. Her training and award winning Masters thesis from Harvard University employed critical race feminist methodology to understand how and why women of color use educational technologies to organize, learn about, and mobilize around ethical consumption practices such as veganism. She earned a PhD in Critical Food Geographies (with an emphasis in ethical consumption and Critical Race Feminism) from the University of California-Davis. Dr. Harper recently created and organized the conference, “The Praxis of Black Lives Matter” that took place April 24-25, 2015 (www.sistahveganconference.com).  The central theme focused on how ethical consumption and Black Lives Matter are not separate

For the past eight years, she has been the senior research analyst and trainer for Critical Diversity Solutions (CDS). Founded in 2007, Critical Diversity Solutions is a social justice oriented consulting and training organization that seeks to teach people about social impact through food, technology, and wellness. CDS uses the creative platform of ethical consumption and ‘good food’ movement to address timely social justice issues.

Recently, Dr. Harper gave a book talk and workshop at University of Oregon Eugene (May 2015). She read from and analyzed her new book Scars and explained how food objects in the book can tell us about racial and socio-economic power dynamics in the U.S.A. View video of lecture here

Contact Dr. Harper via email.