CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS ON RACE IN THE FOOD SYSTEM

MFAN hosted a series of six workshops to help food access advocates understand the pervasive role of racism in the food system from December 2017 - April 2018. Since the colonization of stolen lands from Indigenous peoples and the kidnapping and enslavement of people from Africa to build the United States of America, no system or institution in this country has remained untouched by racism, including the food system. In order for us to achieve MFAN's vision of a safe, just, healthy food system for all, we must develop a shared understanding and analysis of race and racism. In alignment with the MFAN’s strategic priorities of building skills and knowledge of network partners to advance equitable access to healthy food for all and integrating equity into all network actions, this series aimed to provide a space for conversations about racial justice and resources to examine how we, our systems, and our institutions perpetuate racism. While this series was a starting point and provided several opportunities to advance racial equity, MFAN network partners must understand that it is essential to seek other opportunities to learn and dismantle racism as well.

Shared Language

These conversations took place in a mixed race setting. To ensure White People entered the space with a baseline understanding of their privilege, we asked they view at least one of the following videos from Robin DiAngelo.

Together we used the following definition of equity, adapted from PolicyLink's Equity Manifesto.

“Just and fair inclusion into a food system in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”
Brave Space

​The following guidelines were reviewed at the beginning of every meeting. These guidelines are adapted from Equity Matters.

  • Put Relationships First

  • Keep Focused on Our Common Goal (Equitable Access to Healthy Food For All)

  • Notice Power Dynamics in the Room

  • Create Space for Multiple Truths and Norms

  • Be Kind and Brave

  • Practice Examining Racially Biased Systems and Processes

  • Look for Learning

Connection to the Food System

These conversations were focused more on racism rather than the direct connection of racism to the food system. The following resources can support your understanding of how the food system perpetuates racism.

Talking about Racism

Key Resources

Partners used resources to understand where they need to work on communicating effectively about racism. A fishbowl activity revealed how black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and white people manage conversations on racial justice.

"I felt that the conversation that came out of the exercises were some of the more genuine conversations that I have heard and taken part in regarding racism in the food system. While it was uncomfortable and tense at times, I think a lot of us white folks learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to be doing and how we need to challenge ourselves more rather than sit back in our privilege and dis-engage, which is so easy to do."

Healing from Racism - BIPOC Affinity Group

Key Resources

Partners used resources to understand where they need to work on communicating effectively about racism. A fishbowl activity revealed how black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and white people manage conversations on racial justice.

"I think getting to share our own experiences and support each other is huge. To know we're not alone and to see both how far we've come and also how far we need to go."

Owning our Whiteness - White People Affinity Group

Key Resources

Partners used resources to understand why White People resist racism, the ways in which White People resist racism, and the attitudes and behaviors of strong anti-racist allies.

"I appreciated the worksheets that probed my own resistances to engaging more deeply in this work. I also work with other whites who are involved in the food system and I'm planning to share these materials with them as well to have a conversation about what we can do individually and collectively."

White Supremacy Culture

Key Resources

Partners used the White Supremacy Culture resource to understand how they personally and organizationally perpetuate White Supremacy Culture and identified antidotes to  White Supremacy Culture.

"I had a review with my supervisor the next day after the training and suggested we talk about the way these norms are prevalent among our teams and programs so that we can identify the actions we want to take to move past them."

Organizational Equity Assessment

Key Resources

Partners used resources to understand what type of organization they work for including, "an all white club, an affirmative action or "token" organization, a multicultural organization, or an anti-racist organization". Partners discussed what it means and how they can support their organization to become more anti-racist.

 "I wanted to say thank you for pointing us to such solid resources.  I am the only person from my organization who has gone through your series this spring, but I have brought the materials back to my fellow staff. They have embraced the topic and materials and it has had immediate impact on decision making. As a long time community organizer, I am grateful for these tools. They have given me leverage for now small, and maybe bigger future changes."

Accountability Requires Action

Key Resources

Partners used resources to understand the assumptions that underlay anti-racism work, developed their personal action plans, and made commitments to each other about how they will live out their action plans.

"From our meeting, I came away with a plan to engage with anti-racism work moving forwards in my personal and professional life."

Additional Resources