Tag Archives: racism

Cultural Appropriation in Food & Elsewhere

Cover of book White Negroes by Lauren Michele JacksonNot to hit you all over the head with the message that systemic racism is an issue that permeates basically every sphere – though it is and if you needed the reminder, here it is – but let’s talk a little about cultural appropriation and racism in the food industry (specifically at Condé Nast with their Bon Appétit magazine), because recipe sharing over social media has boomed in these past few months due to quarantine, and many of us have been baking and cooking a lot more than before and following new bakers and cooks/chefs for their recipes.

For anyone who’s thinking about why I’m dragging politics into food and cooking, because isn’t food just food? Food brings people together! People bond when eating together at the same table, right, and what better way to learn about other cultures than to incorporate their food into your life? That’s great and all, but let’s think about what happens when that food gets removed from the culture whence it (or its influence) came. When recipes such as the Internet famous Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric* by Alison Roman makes no reference whatsoever to perhaps Indian curries or maybe Caribbean curry or any other “ethnic” food culture she might’ve been inspired by – because did Roman invent this combo, or were there influences from other cultures that should at least be cursorily mentioned? Just think about what a surreal experience it must be for anyone who has grown up with something similar to #TheStew to see it show up without any reference to their culture, and then further see this disembodied aspect of their culture go viral… without any credit to their culture? Personally, I think basically everyone ultimately stands to gain by discussing the politics of food, first because as Socrates in the words of Plato said, “the unexamined life is not worth living” and there is lots to uncover and examine when it comes to food and the politics and histories of the dishes themselves in addition to  the food industries and how they contribute to or are influenced by systemic racism; but also because the more you know about the food you eat and/or cook, I think, the more you learn to appreciate the food. As this article from The Atlantic (talking about food media in this quote, but on the topic of whiteness in the food industry as an article): “Devoting more coverage to the social and economic realities that drive the industry—rather than only discussing dishes in a vacuum—has allowed for more meaningful explorations of how food brings people together.” (Giorgis, The Table Stays White).

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What Did You Learn/Unlearn? On Allyship & Anti-Racism

Book Cover of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. KendiIt’s been a few days since #BlackOutTuesday (and the conversations around that movement itself, an Instagram video by Brittany Packnett Cunningham discusses this, which Alyssia linked in her post Ode to Joy – check out the post & the video! There are a number of recommended reads that are, as the title of the post suggests, expressions of joy in the lives of Black characters in novels. Because to only publish & read about Black trauma is also an issue, which Alyssia discusses more in her post much more eloquently than I could cover here), and seeing as basically everyone on my Instagram feed posted black squares of solidarity, I’d like to start this post off with a prompt so we can all share & learn from one another: What did you learn or unlearn on #BlackOutTuesday?

 

 

 

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It’s now Wednesday and there are a couple questions that we need to answers to: You blacked out your screen and said that it was time to listen, but what did you learn or unlearn? Who caught your attention? Who or what did you donate to? Who did you follow? Who did you email, contract, or hire? Have you identified people to share your skills, resources, and clients with? How are you including and centering more black voices? And for those brands and even public figures that have never mentioned anything before, more questions are why now? What changed? What will you talk about tomorrow? Or the next week? Or the week after? Was this a trend for you? Or perhaps, an inconvenience? (*Tag the brands, or public figures that you want to see answer these questions.) A huge shoutout to brands that were ‘doing the work’ – centering black voices, diversifying their boards, leadership, and offices, before it became a trend. And who will continue to do so. And remember, sharing a black square during times of upheaval is not your “PR window of opportunity to jump on the bandwagon.” (- @munroebergdorf ) It’s reeks of being performative. Act now. And when this is all ‘over’ and the smoke has cleared, act better.

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For my part, #BlackOutTuesday brought performative/optical allyship to the fore. I saw a number of posts and videos about how this movement was perhaps not the best of ways to support Black Lives Matter, especially as people were using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and flooding out all the useful information that has been being shared & posted throughout the week on the hashtag with… literally empty blocks devoid of information. I saw a lot of good intentions, of people muting themselves so that we could hear Black voices, but I think many of us saw the reality of what actually ended up happening: we saw a sea of black squares with no useful information in sight. It ended up silencing every community and drowning out the very voices people were trying to let be heard more. Vox covers what happened pretty well and talks about how low-effort performative acts such as this that let people signal their solidarity without actually contributing to anything can be harmful to the very movements they are trying to signal their support for. If you’re confused, it might be helpful to check out this short post for 10 Steps to Non-Optical Allyship (for some reason WordPress does not want to embed this post, so I’ve linked it instead).

If you posted a black square, I’m not telling you to take it down (though if you used the hashtag #blacklivesmatter on it, you may want to consider deleting the post so it doesn’t clog up searches for actual information and updates), or saying that you’re a bad person. You’re not going to be going on this anti-racism journey and making it out without committing a single blunder (least of all because there’s no single “right” way to go about it – there are so many different ways to participate). None of us are. And you know what’s great about anti-racism? You don’t have to have completed purging yourself of internalized racism before you start doing the work! No one’s asking you to be perfect: you’re being asked to show up and do the work, and continue doing the work.

Just a note that this is going to be a very image-heavy post, with many links to Instagram posts & videos alongside links to other resources from the web (articles & compilations), because you have the time to swipe through a few slides on an Instagram post. WordPress is being a bit glitchy so if the instagram post doesn’t show embedded, please click on the link. Do the work and show up in ways that make a difference, because you’ve probably all seen this quote by Desmond Tutu being shared far and wide, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. Similarly, Elie Wiesel: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. Patrice C. Washington’s video on Instagram is one that I think really illustrates the point and drives it home.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmond Tutu)

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. (Elie Wiesel)

So posting a black square and performing the act of solidarity by silencing yourself (do you see the irony here) is NOT ENOUGH.*

Below the cut, you will find:

  1. Titles on Anti-racism that VPL owns, whether that’s a physical book (see our Curbside Pickup service), an e-book or e-audiobook, or a movie. Our staff have created Bibliocommons lists that I will link to below for all age groups: children, teens, and adults.
    • Alyssia has also posted a great discussion on how we need to focus not just on Black people’s trauma, but also pay attention to Black life and all that the joys and pains it comes with, so as not to define Black people by their personal/individual and intergenerational trauma.
  2. Anti-racism 101s. Most of these come from Instagram, which means that they are snappy and to the point, so if you don’t have enough time to go through an entire list of resources and full books, these can give you a good place to start. (I guess the irony is that the compilation that is this post is also a long list to filter through.)
    • I’ll also be linking to guides & resources aimed at non-black POCs, because so much out there is aimed at white (and white-adjacent) people that it can feel like you’re not being seen or spoken to (YOU ARE.).
  3. Canadian Resources/Info/Links because it’s not just a States problem
  4. Reading and Watching Recommendations out in the world that may or may not be owned by VPL. These are going to be lists from outside sources, and I’m including them in part because we don’t have everything on the lists, but also because there are Netflix films on them that VPL doesn’t offer access to, that you might be able to watch on your own dime.

It’s going to be a long post because of all the embedded Instagram posts, but I’ll be labeling each category/heading clearly in larger text so you can scroll to what you want to find more easily. (Or just use ctrl+F.) Let’s get to it.

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Ode to Joy

if it makes you happy coverJust before I sat down to write this post, I watched an Instagram video by Brittany Packnett Cunningham regarding yesterday’s #BlackOutTuesday social media trend, which saw Instagram users post images of a black square in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In this video, Cunningham says to her fellow Black people, “Your happiness, or your joy or your frustration … people need to see all of these messages coming from Black people, because us being full human beings is in and of itself an act of resistance—our existence is resistant.” And this sentiment is really the core of what I want to share today. If you’re a white person, or even a non-Black POC, you may be wondering how to support the fight for racial equality specifically for Black communities around the world. Anti-blackness is a global problem; it might be the loudest in America, what with their endless spate of cop-instigated murders, but the fact is that worldwide, people of African descent are uniformly treated the worst. According to an article in The Guardian from 2019, “In today’s Brazil, black people are still treated as second-class citizens; while in India, students of African origin are persecuted. In South Africa, a majority black country, 72% of the country’s private farmland is owned by white people, who make up 9% of the population.” 

It’s clear we all have a lot of work to do to eradicate anti-blackness and work towards an antiracist society. But like any problem, you can’t fix it until you acknowledge it. And one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal is an abundance of resources to encourage thoughtful allyship. From these resources, we can not only learn about the grand, systemic forms of racism, but the smaller, everyday instances that we unconsciously play a part in. And we can learn, and listen, and grow together, for the better. In this post, the resources I want to highlight speak to another, quieter facet of racism that isn’t always acknowledged. I want to highlight the expression of joy 

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