Challenging Racism Within our Broken Food System
June 1, 2020
The recent murders of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky are part of a longstanding pattern of violence and discrimination carried out against people of color in the United States. These are not isolated incidents. They are symptoms of an ever-prevalent racism that exists in all facets of American life – education, healthcare, jobs, criminal justice, environmental impacts, and our food system.
Fair Farms is working to rebuild a broken food system that is founded on a persistent legacy of racism. To understand and begin to repair the root issues of inequality in our food system requires a deep look at its history and the ways in which it perpetuates racism in our country.
Our current agricultural system is rooted in acts of violence and theft against indigenous communities and the enslavement of Black people for labor. After this nation went to war to emancipate enslaved people, African Americans were still relegated to sharecropper status. Over the last century, Black farmers have been denied loans and other federal assistance based on their race. According to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, of the country’s 2.1 million farmers, yet only 8% are farmers of color and only half of those farmers are actual landowners. Over the years, the rate of Black land loss has been twice that of white land loss. Furthermore, while white farmers dominate as operator-owners, farmworkers and food workers—from field to fork—are overwhelmingly people of color. Most are paid poverty wages, have inordinately high levels of food insecurity and experience nearly twice the level of wage theft than white workers.*
It is not just how our food is grown; it’s also who is able to consume wholesome, healthy foods. In 2016, of the 50 million food insecure people in the US — a shocking number in a developed country — only 10.6% of these food insecure Amercians are white, while 26.1% are Black, 23.7% are Latino and 23% are Native American. The 10 counties with the highest food insecurity rates in the nation are at least 60% African American. When comparing communities with similar poverty rates, Black and Latino neighborhoods have fewer large supermarkets and more small corner stores than their white counterparts.
While we work to shift the balance of power and build equity in our food system, Fair Farms is also looking inward to evaluate the ways in which we are complicit in this inequitable system. We challenge ourselves to be a more equitable movement that actively disrupts racism at every level of the food system, from the policy agendas we promote to the speakers we highlight to the farms we work with. We know this work will take time and substantial investment in change and will not be accomplished through one conversation or one workshop. We know that this is an ongoing process that demands discomfort as we continually address our prejudices and acknowledge our privileges in order to fight for the seismic shift we need to see in all areas in our country, including agriculture. We invite you to join us in this challenge, so that we can work together to change inequitable systems, build diverse leadership, push forward conversation that may be uncomfortable, but never stop fighting for justice.
Resources for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color):
Resources for White allies: