Whole Foods as a Symbol of White Supremacy

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[My tribute to our gente that continue to face the harsh reality of food injustices across our state; today is Food & Farms Day at the legislature]

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First off, don’t start hating right away you Chicano-lites out there who have the privilege, yes privilege, of shopping at Whole Foods. Please at least read my educational rant in its entirety before you do. Second, Highspanics stop shaking your head and rolling your eyes because you too have the luxury of buying your limones and hippie tortillas there instead of at the fruteria down the street.

I won’t even hesitate to state that I (and I’m sure there are others who agree) believe that this market stands as a clear example of a white supremacist system that remains strong in society. And no white supremacist doesn’t refer to the diablos wearing the white hoods. It actually refers to a system that favors whites and most of those who consciously or unconsciously work to uphold a white system claim innocence or become defensive at its mere mention.

[I can almost hear the naysayer in the background heckling “well what about President Obama?” and “I ain’t got no privilege, I just worked hard!” as they drive to their segregated neighborhood in the North East Whites. Ugh.]

Here’s what happened before you make the assumption that I shop there too:

During the Christmas break (btw I didn’t have a break) I was up in Santa Fe trying to churn out the last chapters of my dissertation. I had made the tough decision to detach myself for a few days so that I could focus on finally finishing this soul-consuming degree. I needed to buy some leche for my chocolate abuelita and saw the Whole Foods sign and decided to quickly stop by to get what I needed. Man what a mistake.

It’s as if the world changed when I crossed the threshold into their food heaven. I was in awe staring at the beautiful displays of fresh bread, pastries, stacks of fresh ripe fruit, the deli, the wine, the variety, the decor, the salad bar, todo. As I was walking down the aisles I couldn’t help but to suddenly feel out of place because I realized I was one of maybe 3 other brown faces among the white mass. I continued to observe the surroundings and noticed the looks of glee and heard the laughter emanating from the pink mouths on the happy white faces. I kept thinking – “well who wouldn’t be happy having the privilege of buying their food at such an amazing market?” Of course these people are going to be ecstatic about all of the variety and the quality available within their reach.

I couldn’t help but to simultaneously feel a sickness in the pit of my pansa that began to spread until my whole body felt nauseous and my face became flushed. No I didn’t have a bad case of chorro, I was pissed! I was so mad at the fact that most of the people in my neighborhood would never ever be able to shop at Whole Foods or even pinche Sprouts or Trader Joe’s. They would never see these beautiful displays and would never be able to purchase a $15 meal from the “hot bar” that equaled the size of the typical $2 Banquet TV dinner. I kept thinking about the food we had available on a daily basis. We have what my dad calls ‘rastrojo,’ the word he used to describe all of the third or fourth-rate food that is usually given as feed.

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Last time I went to the Smith’s down the street from my house I noticed the berries were covered in mold and they were still selling at $3.99. A lot of the fruit and vegetables available to los pobres el el valle del sur are bruised, overripe, or straight out low quality. The ironic part of it all is that a lot of the food at our store sells for a heck of a lot more than at ‘nicer’ markets such as Whole Foods and especially Sprouts. How is it possible or even okay for an economically struggling family to pay double or triple the price per pound for low-quality fruit than the ricos on the other side? How is it justifiable to know that a struggling mom can’t afford to buy her kids those damned (moldy) berries even if she wanted to?

I know what some of you are thinking – “it’s about class, not race.” Well there is truth to the fact that part of this continued food injustice and food disparity is connected to class, but there is absolutely no denying that it is fundamentally racialized. In almost every instance in the game, race trumps class.

No I don’t believe that the white corporate owner is saying out loud to the rest of his board and staff – “okay well let’s send this third-rate food to the market on the south side to those poor Mexicans who just didn’t work hard and who just don’t care about what they eat and feed their children,” but the fact is that he doesn’t have to even say it or even think it because the system is already set up to function in this unfavorable manner.

So to those who can afford to shop at el Whole Foods, just remember that for every one of you, there are thousands (or more) of those on the other side who can’t and won’t ever have that privilege. And as you eat the food that you bought with all of your spare change maybe a few of you will recognize that you are working to uphold an unjust system that doles out its resources ever so unfairly and cruelly.

#lablogadora #foodandfarmsday #foodinjustice

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