Slideshare Presentation: Dismantling Racism in the Food System

Eric Holt-Giménez | 03.26.2015

With roots in longstanding inequities, today’s globalized food system continues to drive poverty, hunger and malnutrition around the world even as it produces record amounts of food and profit. The modern food system, dominated by global monopolies, has been shaped by the privatization of public goods and the deregulation of corporate capital, leading to the highest levels of global inequality in economic history. The staggering social and environmental costs of this transition have hit people of color the hardest, reflected in the record levels of hunger and the massive northern migrations of impoverished farmers in the Global South, and an epidemic of diet-related diseases and high levels of unemployment, incarceration and violence in underserved communities of color in the Global North.

Globalization has also crippled our capacity to respond to these problems by destroying much of the public sphere. This has meant more than the paring back of health, education and welfare functions of government. The social networks within our communities have been weakened, exacerbating the violence, intensifying racial tensions and deepening cultural divides. People are challenged to confront the problems of hunger, violence, the recession and climate change in an environment in which social institutions have been restructured to serve global markets rather than local communities.

Notably, the food justice movement has stepped up—supported largely by the non-profit sector—to provide services and rebuild community agency in the face of the alarming dysfunction of our food system. Consciously or not, in many ways the community food movement, with its projects for a fair, sustainable, healthy food system is rebuilding our public sphere from the ground up. This is simply because it is impossible to do one without reconstructing the other.

But as many organizations have discovered, we can’t rebuild the public sphere without addressing the issues which divide us. For many communities this means addressing racism in the food system. The community food movement itself is not immune from the structural injustices that it seeks to overcome. Because of the pervasiveness of white privilege and internalized oppression in our society, racism in the food system can and does resurface within the food movement, even with the best of intentions. It does no good to push the issue to the side because this undermines the trust we need to be able to work together. Understanding where and how racism manifests itself in the food system, recognizing it within our movement and our organizations and within ourselves is not extra work for transforming our food system; it is the work.

Click here to view Eric’s keynote address at the 2015 Just Food conference.

Meet Food First Executive Director Eric Holt-Giménez on our 40th Anniversary Speaking Tour, March 13th – April 1st, across the United States and Canada. Click here for dates and locations.

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