Identifying and Countering White Supremacy Culture in Food Systems

Authors: 
Alison Conrad, MPP
Published: 
September 2020
Type of Publication: 
Report

This research centered on the question: How does white supremacy culture play out in the food insecurity and food access space in the United States? To become anti-racist, food system actors must understand how white supremacy culture narratives function to center whiteness across the food system, effectively reinforcing systemic racial inequality and by extension disadvantaging BIPOC people. We discuss how whiteness holds white ideals as universal, how whiteness fuels power in decisionmaking, and how whiteness defines foods as either good or bad.

Whiteness fuels and dominates policy and practice in food systems. Whiteness permeates the food system in the ways it “articulate(s) white ideals of health and nutrition, offer(s) whitened dreams of farming and gardening that erase the past and present of race in agriculture, mobilize(s) funding to direct programming toward non-white beneficiaries, and create(s) inviting spaces for white people.” Whiteness helps perpetuate “existing structures of power and privilege within food spaces,” enabling white activists and organizations to assume their ideals and emotions are shared by all.” Whiteness is an unnamed presence that shapes the discourse and focus of food system reform. Consequently, many historically white-led organizations find that their policies and programs fail to resonate with Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

As a result of whiteness, white supremacy culture narratives function to reinforce systemic inequity across the food system in the United States. This paper identifies eight messages from food insecurity policies and practice stemming from broader white supremacy culture and whiteness.

This research centered on the question: How does white supremacy culture play out in the food insecurity and food access space in the United States? To become anti-racist, food system actors must understand how white supremacy culture narratives function to center whiteness across the food system, effectively reinforcing systemic racial inequality and by extension disadvantaging BIPOC people. We discuss how whiteness holds white ideals as universal, how whiteness fuels power in decisionmaking, and how whiteness defines foods as either good or bad.

Project methodology included document and literature review, practitioner interviews, and qualitative analysis and coding to identify themes and findings.

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