Dismantling racism is the food movement’s work

“They’re afraid that addressing racism is just too hard, too complicated and too messy. They’re afraid that bringing up issues of oppression and privilege will end up dividing the movement rather than strengthening it. They’re afraid of being overwhelmed with more work. They’re afraid. They’re also mistaken. We need to dismantle racism in our society, our food system and in our own food movements. Dismantling racism isn’t extra work. It is the work.” — Eric Holt-Gimenez

We all know that power and access to power resources aren’t evenly distributed in society. The food movement is no different. Examples of racism in our food movement are omnipresent: the genocidal theft of land from Indigenous people, the kidnapping and enslavement of black folks and the treatment and policies surrounding migrant agricultural workers.

It’s up to all of us to challenge “business as usual” in our food system. And we need to acknowledge the work that needs to be done within our own groups and organizations. We’re not exempt from this.

Gatherings mark key opportunities for us to take a hard look at the work we do together and to consider whose ideas get held up, whose knowledge we value and who guides our work.

White supremacy is real. It’s not a dirty word, it’s the reality of our society. It must be named and recognized for its impact on our work and each other. To go about our business without doing so makes us complicit in holding it in place.

Racism is real. As are the ongoing impacts of colonialism, sexism, patriarchy, transphobia, ableism and homophobia. The ongoing struggle that many of us face in the world and in our work is real.

You’re encouraged to think about the space you take up in conversations. For folks atop the power pyramid who are supported in taking up all of the space, consider listening before speaking and to follow the lead of those most affected by the issues that affect our food system and world.

For many folks of colour — our feelings, experiences and vast knowledge is routinely dismissed and tokenized. People of colour are a significant part of the food movement, in fact much of it has been built on our backs and our ancestors — these contributions need to be acknowledged.

As we move forward, it is critical that we prioritize dismantling racism in our movement and beyond. It’s not extra work, it is the work.

adapted from Opening Remarks given at Food Secure Canada’s 10th Assembly by Paul M. Taylor, Executive Director, FoodShare