Diversity, Inclusion, and Opportunities: An Interview with Animal Charity Evaluators

[Updated May 23 2017, 17:30 PST]

The Sistah Vegan Project was excited to hear about the work Animal Charity Evaluators  (ACE) is doing in the animal advocacy world in terms of implementing new diversity initiatives. We decided to ask them a few questions about their organization, their new diversity and inclusion initiative, as well as telecommuting opportunities available at ACE– which is great for those of you seeking paid opportunities that focus on animal advocacy.

The mainstream animal advocacy movement continues to be homogenous and challenged by a climate and a collective perspective that creates exclusivity. As an organization that now recognizes this homogeneity (and to some degree their own unintentional collusion with this), ACE has decided to work on solutions– first by acknowledging that there is a problem and second by taking responsibility to self-reflect and act.

What are your names and what does ACE do?

Our names are Jon Bockman (Executive Director) and Toni Adleberg (Researcher), and we are co-workers at Animal Charity Evaluators, a charity that works to find and promote the most effective ways to help animals. We do this by conducting research to identify effective animal charities and interventions, and promoting our findings as free resources for all advocates.

ACE recently made a commitment to integrating diversity and inclusion into its culture. Can you talk more about this?

At many animal advocacy events, diversity can be the elephant in the room. At the Animal Rights Conference in 2016, David Carter gave a speech in which he told the audience to look around the room and count the number of Black people that we saw. He then asked how we expect to change the world for animals if we only direct our efforts to a very limited audience.

Most animal advocates support the idea of diversity and inclusion in theory, but we think that many of them fail to appreciate how much active work we have to do to achieve diversity and inclusion in the movement in practice. Animal advocates may reluctant to do this kind of work, because they worry that it would take resources away from animal advocacy and make it harder rather than easier to do the most good we can for nonhuman animals.

Knowing that we were positioned as a meta-charity that provides advice to animal advocates and charities, we decided that we were in a unique position to promote the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the movement. However, we also knew that we had a lot of learning to do on the subject, so we started doing more research in this area, and we also partnered with Critical Diversity Solutions so that they could advise us about how to implement positive changes at ACE and encourage positive changes in the movement as a whole.

What job opportunities are offered at ACE and how does this connect to your new diversity and inclusion initiative?

We have several job opportunities at ACE right now, and each of them have a connection to our diversity and inclusion initiative.

The Digital Media Manager will oversee our social media content, and thus have an opportunity to help ACE identify and share materials from a wide range of outlets. This work will help educate animal advocates as well as ACE itself on a number of important and neglected topics.

The Media Relations Specialist will coordinate with the media, which will allow us to build relationships with new contacts and outlets and share ideas about effective animal advocacy with them.

The Research Associate will be involved with crafting our research initiatives and conducting our annual charity evaluations. We are currently integrating considerations of diversity and inclusion into our evaluation criteria while improving our evaluation process in other ways as well, and this position would assist in those efforts.

Anything else you want to add?

ACE operates as a part of the animal advocacy movement and effective altruism movement. Both of these movements have problems with diversity and inclusion, and we want that to change. We understand that simply adding new faces to these movements will not be enough. We hope to see the animal advocacy and effective altruism movements incorporate new perspectives and world-views, and we hope to see people with marginalized identities better represented at every level in animal advocacy and effective altruist organizations.

Promoting diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do. We should be supporting other social movements for their own sake, whether or not we stand to benefit from doing so. That said, we do think that supporting other social justice movements will benefit the animal advocacy and effective altruism movements. Relatively diverse charities may develop more accurate world-views than less diverse charities by integrating a wide range of perspectives and experiences. On a practical level, as our movements become more diverse and inclusive, they will expand their reach, and thus, their impact.

However, we know that—even though promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is the right thing to do—we may not be the right people to do it on our own. We are also cognizant of the fact that there are long-standing problems in this area that will not be fixed with a simple initiative. We are incredibly happy to be working with Critical Diversity Solutions to ensure that we are taking responsible measures to improve as efficiently as possible.

If people have questions about ACE and these new opportunities as well as your new diversity and inclusion initiatives, how can they reach you?

We would love to hear from you! You can find each of our emails on our team page, or you can contact Jon or Toni at their respective email addresses:

Critical Diversity Solutions is the diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting service that was founded by Dr. A. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project. CDS looks forward to seeing how ACE will develop their new commitment to integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into their culture.

From Sacramento to Penn State: Uprooting White Fragility and Other Updates



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


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.


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


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


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


[Vegan Special Edition]: A Progressive Investment in Whiteness (‘Non-Racist’ ‘Cruelty-free’ Donor Power)

vegan-dollars-and-donors4 (9)

[Updated February 11 2016 to explain “progressive” a little better]

It’s been awhile, but the above is the latest from the Snarky Fanon series by The Sistah Vegan Project. Snarky Fanon is the comic/visual representation of how I experience the USA as a Black cisgender bisexual woman (raised in a working class household)…who then discovered how to analyze the meaning of my embodied experience through critical race feminism and Frantz Fanon’s groundbreaking critical race psycho-analysis. Fanon, though not perfect (but who is?), broke it down. He showed the collateral damage of living in a white supremacist-based racial caste system. Snarky Fanon is a kind of ‘inside joke’ for like-minded folk.

Lipsitz’s mid 1990s work on the possessive investment in whiteness inspired me to update the title for this Snarky Fanon comic above, to progressive investment in whiteness. In addition, Robin DiAngelo sheds light on the white ‘backlash’ against educational programming that directly confronts systemic racism:

If and when an educational program does directly address racism and the privileging of whites, common white responses include anger, withdrawal, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation, and cognitive dissonance (all of which reinforce the pressure on facilitators to avoid directly addressing racism). So-called progressive whites may not respond with anger, but may still insulate themselves via claims that they are beyond the need for engaging with the content because they “already had a class on this” or “already know this.”

Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

If the comic, Lipstiz, and DiAngelo sum up your experience as a non-white vegan and/or animal liberation scholar or activist, I’d like to know (hey, white anti-racism vegan activists, sure, you can share too). If I had a dime for every time my critical race feminist scholarship was called ‘racist’ or ‘white-hating’, the Sistah Vegan Project would be fully funded! LOL. Interesting that an investment in “cruelty-free” for many of these major donors is only focused on non-human animals; human “cruelty” manifests through not actively divesting from  their progressive/possessive investment in whiteness. This may not be their intent but it’s certainly the power of their impact as “progressive” and “non-racist” white identified people.

Being ‘non-racist’ (and I don’t mean ‘anti-racist’ which is NOT the same) + white + having financial wealth has major impact; it’s a collective action/identity that upholds the current white supremacist based racial caste system via white ‘progressive’ politics. I am flipping this term on it’s head to imply that white progressives are not invested in changing the government/state/institutional responsibilities that would name and dismantle polices and practices that continue to make systemic racism possible (which “progressive” has been historically connected to)– even in a a post-Civil Rights age!

For example, I can’t tell you how many times the simple answer to creating a vegan world amongst racial-class privileged leading pro-vegan organization, is to vote with your dollars and buy vegan. “We can change how we eat through voting with our dollars and choice“– though seemingly innocent at first, this is a “progressive” belief embedded in using the ‘free market’ to make change.  This  is very privileged and limiting, once one breaks down the racial-class privileges of both voting and choice in a USA in which those resources (yes, voting and choice are resources!) are impacted by the white supremacist racial caste system….Not to say buying power doesn’t have power, but first you have to get to the point in which everyone is on equal playing ground to vote with their dollars… But I’d like to argue that this is difficult, if not impossible in a system of globalized exploitative capitalism that needs systemic poverty and racism in place to make vegan products possible for a privileged few to vote for (My 2013 dissertation work focuses on this and the neoliberal whiteness concept of ‘cruelty-free’). In referring back to the comic, the major donor base and board (almost always white with financial stability ) is voting with their dollars in a method that is  not divesting away from this white supremacist racial caste and capitalist system.

I also have experienced many white identified people in leaderships/donor positions at pro-vegan organizations as implying that they are ‘non-racist’. The intent is to not appear racist but:

Non-racist(a.k.a as ‘post-racial’ or the ableist term ‘colorblind’):  non-racist is an identity claim that denies any role one has  in upholding the continuation of a white-supremacist based racial caste system. Mostly used by white identified people, those who identify as “non-racist” do not take accountability nor do they take responsibility to actively dismantle the systemic racism they benefit from.  While overt racism is enacted and maintained by those who identify as overt racists (i.e. KKK members, Nazis, etc.), systemic racism is most often perpetuated by self-identified non-racists who fail to challenge racism through acts of neutrality and/or silence. Neutrality/silence is actually a form of consent.

So, are you involved with a pro-vegan organization as staff, board member, or even as a donor? Is your pro-vegan organization committed to divesting in both the white supremacist-based racial caste system and non-human animal exploitation? Or, are you not there yet? Or, do you even not know if you’re supposed to be there yet?

What is your story?

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 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.




[New Book Update] Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches by the Sistah Vegan Project

Become a Monthly Donor to Support Dr. Harper’s 3rd Book (Click Below for more details)

In 2017, Dr. Harper’s latest book Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through the ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape will be released. It is this project as well as her continuous blogging and Sistah Vegan Conference planning that Dr. Harper needs ongoing monthly support for.

Structure of the Book

Part recipe book, part critical narratives, part memoir, with a touch of humor, Recipes for Racial Tensions Headaches is an entertaining and a thought-provoking book. The idea was inspired by Dr. Harper’s 2011 food demo at the San Francisco Greens Festival . The first and only of its kind that year, her food demo showcased a recipe for a plant-based green smoothie as a tool of anti-racism and self-care against racial battle fatigue. It was a creative way to use super greens to discuss the implications of living in a racial caste system (the supposed ‘post-racial’ USA) as a non-white woman engaged in anti-racism scholarship within the fields of ethical consumption and cultural food studies. Below is a snippet from her journal in 2011:

I attended the San Francisco Green Festival on November 11, 2012 to give a food demo. I think I may have been the only person presenting that included ”racial tension” and “racism” as descriptive words for my presentation. This is my first food demo I have ever given. I was nervous.
This comes from my years of work and personal experience of not being able to deal with the years of racist micro-aggressions to the overt direct in your face “Ima call you a n*gger”. I have talked about the days I have overdosed on vegan organic jelly beans after dealing with blatant white supremacist thinkers. And I have done this even though I know intellectually that I am not supposed to do that and then expect to feel ‘in harmony.’ So, when I was asked to participate this year, I decided that I would take the ‘bold’ step to send them my title, “Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: Holistic Vegan Recipes to Combat the Stresses of Racism.” They accepted it. I was surprised since collectively, the framing of the event is ensconced in post-racialism, neoliberal whiteness, & neoliberal capitalism. LOL.
The audience was a mixed bunch but just about all the chairs were seated. I realized that people either were genuinely interested in what I had to say…. or were just staying through all food demos to get the free food at the end. Haha. So, maybe that is what I should do in the future when I talk about racism and USA’s racial caste system to a mainstream audience: offer food!

Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches will critically reflect on the past ten years of Dr. Harper’s journey as a critical race feminist through the ethical foodscape in the USA. At the end of each chapter’s narrative, Dr. Harper will share plant-based recipes that were inspired by her experiences. This book will include (but not limited to) creative and analytical narratives about her:

  • Treks to events like the Hip Hop vegan based youth dinner in Sacramento, CA that conveyed what anti-racism looks like through veganism.
  • Keynote talk at Brown Suga Youth Festival in Denver CO and speaking to the organizer DJ Cavem about fighting environmental racism and Prison Industrial Complex through veganism and eco-gardening.
  • Reflections on the racial-gender implications of traveling as a vegan Black woman to many keynote talks with her newborn daughters in tow, and nursing them on demand (even on stage at places like University of Oregon while discussing her new book Scars).
  • Frustrations and strategies for being called a ‘racist’ when employing social science methods to critique ideologies of whiteness in the ‘post-racial’ American ethical foodscape.
  • Organizing the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter 2015 conference in which many white people responded with “All Lives Matter” or “this event is ‘racist’”, before and after the successful event
  • Exploration of how key Black vegan men have used hip-hop methodologies to create varying forms of “race-consciousness” that often conflict with each other (i.e., some resist cis-sexism, ableism, anti-feminism while others reinforce them.) Note: This idea was originally going to be its on book called “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix), but it will be integrated into Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches instead two chapters.
  • Adventures in nursing while on a super greens vegan diet while hiking through Utah’s national parks as the “token” Black person.


Funding The Annual Sistah Vegan Conferences: The Only Critical Race Studies Oriented Conferences about Vegan Praxis

In 2013, Harper organized a first-of-its-kind Sistah Vegan Project conference , focusing on Black embodied and Black feminist perspectives from Black vegan women and allies. This conference brought community leaders, activists and intellectuals together with an eager audience to speak about the links between social justice and animal rights, sexualization of the body, parenting and spirituality, cosmetic marginalization and indigenous foodways from non-white vegan perspectives.
In 2015, again, Dr. Harper organized another highly successful conference called the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter .

As a Patreon monthly subscriber, you will help fund the Fall 2016, conference From Seed to Table[t]: Food+Tech in an Era of Systemic Racism and Neoliberal Capitalism (Challenges and Possibilities) which was inspired by Dr. Harper’s well received article, “From Seed to Table[t]: Can Foodie-Tech Startups Change a Neoliberal, Racist, and Capitalist [Food] System”? . This conference idea was also inspired by Dr. Harper’s innovative talk in San Francisco about intersections of anti-racism, smart app technology, and ahimsa:



What Dr. Harper Has Done Already: Her Critical Race Feminist Engagement with Food & Culture

Dr. Harper created and edited the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society.

Building on the Sistah Vegan’s favorable reception, Harper created The Sistah Vegan website, a blog writes about intersections of ethical consumption, anti-racism, critical whiteness studies, and Black feminist thought. She recently posted the top 20 blog posts of 2015.

10+ years of anti-racism and Ahimsa based vegan scholarship and activism earned Dr. Harper the Vegan Unsung Hero Award for 2015.


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.



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).


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.


Resistance Ecology, Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter, Hip Hop Youth Dinners

Breeze, kind of looking constipated.... With the lovely Lauren Ornelas.
Breeze, kind of looking constipated…. With the lovely Lauren Ornelas.

I gave a talk at Portland State University’s annual Resistance Ecology conference on June 13 2015 . My talk was called The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter and I recapped the Sistah Vegan conference from April 24-25 2015 and talked about the continuation of this and challenges. I give thanks to The Resistance Ecology Conference organizers for yet another amazing conference. 

I speak about the tweet that Vegan Revolution sent out that dismissed the relevancy of Black Lives Matters in terms of the importance of non-human animal lives. I also talk about the Sacramento Hip Hop Youth vegan dinner as an example of ‘vegan praxis of Black Lives Matter’ , featuring many artists such as Dj Cavem and Alkemia Earth doing their culinary concerts. Sacramento dinner was part of the Hip Hop Green Dinner tour for 2015, organized by Keith Tucker. Below is the same video I show at the end of my talk above, but this is far better to hear and see because it is directly from youtube while the one I show is a video recording of the Youtube video and it’s difficult to hear for many.

After the talk, I was on a panel with Jacqueline Morr (Project Intersect) & Lauren Ornelas (Food Empowerment Project) to discuss privilege in terms of animal liberation and vegan spaces. I learned a lot. I thank not just the speakers but the audience for engaging with us and asking really necessary but difficult questions. One woman spoke about a vegan and animal rights author who just published a book and is on tour. She said that he has committed sexual harassment against a woman (maybe more than one). She informed us that DXE tried to shut his talk down and she was disappointed that there was no support for DXE; that there seemed to be this excuse from his supporters that despite sexual harassing behavior, there was the notion that “He has helped so many animals, so we shouldn’t focus on things like him sexually harassing one woman.” She noted that there were a lot of women who still wanted to support him with these types of excuses. I thought that I don’t know much about the accusations towards this author but overall, the dialogue got me thinking about the many women who have privately emailed me telling me certain well known men in vegan or AR movement that have harassed or assaulted them or someone they know… but they are scared to say something about it. What do I do when both sides claim to be ‘innocent’ and we can only rely on the ‘legal system’ to ‘prove’ that something ‘wrong’ did or did not happen? (sigh). The entire 80 minute panel with q&a is below.

On a different note, I was interviewed this past weekend during my travels… and at the end, the interviewer said I was very ‘articulate’. Interesting, huh? Am thinking about how to breath and meditate on it; and how I will communicate to him that he should be careful, as a white guy, complimenting a Black woman for sounding ‘articulate’… I have always been told by white friends and random white people that I don’t “sound Black” throughout my life. I think they think that’s a compliment (?)….Tis not, but thanks for trying….

And as usual, if you like what I do, please consider funding the Sistah Vegan Project or hiring me to speak or do consulting and strategic planning for you or your organization.

The photos below quickly recap my journey.

Sacramento CA Hip Hop Green Dinner t-shirt
Sacramento Youth Hip Hop Vegan Dinner Organizing Crew. June 12 2015.
Sacramento Youth Hip Hop Vegan Dinner Organizing Crew. June 12 2015.
Alkemia Earth and DJ Cavem giving a Culinary Concert at Sacramento Hip Hop Green Youth dinner. June 12 2015.
Crew promoting info about the Bigger Picture documentary about diabetes and sugar consumption.
Cleaver promotional and informational materials from the movie The Bigger Picture.
Cleaver promotional and informational materials from the movie The Bigger Picture.


Lauren Ornelas, Breeze Harper, and Jacqueline Morr on June 13 2015 at Resistance Ecology in Portland, OR.
Lauren Ornelas, Breeze Harper, and Jacqueline Morr on June 13 2015 at Resistance Ecology in Portland, OR.

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


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.


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) .


About the author:


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.