Food Chains



Edit Feb. 9/19: There are SOLUTIONS

Food is political.

It is. You know it is.

Food acquisition can be manipulated to penalize whole groups.

Why do you think some neighbourhoods are “food deserts”? No supermarkets mean that the people in those areas will have to travel long distances, expending time, energy and money they cannot afford, just to get food, or to stigmatize groups (think “Food Stamps” and how they are policed by the well-fed: Poor people mustn’t eat “junk food” but at the same time are criticized for buying anything healthy like, oh, I don’t know, actual meat, or fruit, or non-sugar-laden cereal…)

Food availability and affordability can be manipulated to keep a population obedient: governments who routinely claim that things like education and health care are “too expensive” to be funded by taxpayers will, if necessary, have no problem subsidizing farmers who might not vote for them if they go broke. (see: subsidies for farming in the USA. It’s stopped now, but for 70 years, the US government made sure that a lot of these farmers stayed in business, even to the point of paying them not to farm at all.)

The USSR made sure that no matter what, there were things like cheap bread and potatoes, because they knew that the civil unrest generated by starvation would topple their regimes. No matter how tight the budget might have been, that was a priority for them.

But currently, the politics of food are going to get very tricky.

Food prices worldwide are going to rise, because of what we are doing to the climate and to the ecological balance.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in this or not. It’s a fact. There won’t be a different price list for climate-change deniers. Your food prices will rise alongside mine. There are no exceptions and no mercy here.

Look at the floods, and the fires burning worldwide, and tell me that we’ll have the same amount of usable farmland next year. Think about what happens when millions of people (some of whom used to grow that food for you) are displaced.

We in North America have actually been here before, and not all that long ago.

We’ve ignored the reality, the science of that time. We’ve pretended it was just some isolated, causeless act of deity. We’ve mythologized both the cause and effect of our own myopia.

But the fact is that we collectively caused the Dustbowl of the 1930s by using short-term farming practices that created an ecological disaster across the Midwestern USA and Canada: what the farmers had done to the land made it impossible to cope when the weather decided to not be exactly like it had been for each preceding year in our farming memories.

And for USA citizens especially: right now, you are getting all hysterical about immigrants from “other countries” coming to your borders in search of simple survival.

Wait until it is you. Wait until it is your neighbor. Wait until it is US citizens who need to relocate from state to state, in droves, coming with virtually nothing, because their livelihood has been stripped from them by drought, by fire, by flood.

Because, if you were to ask, you’d find that half of the native Californians you might know have grandparents or great-grandparents who were stigmatized as “Okies”, and who were exploited and vilified, herded into “camps” and left to sink or swim without resources, simply because they sought refuge from disaster.

Farmers without farms, because the banks simply gave no fucks: they will not now, either.

People willing to work for food were starving to death along the roadsides of America. They may yet be doing so again.

Meanwhile…your food prices will rise. Worldwide, shortages are already making some things increasingly unaffordable. At some point, unless you are a billionaire, some things you think of as necessities will become luxuries you won’t be buying anymore.

Oranges. Avocados. Meat. Cheerios. Coffee.

And if you’ve been pretending that politics is boring, or that everything is A-OK because it hasn’t happened to you…wait till you look into your child’s eyes and know that you cannot feed them supper because there just isn’t any food at all.

I’m betting politics won’t seem so remote to your life anymore.


#GrapesofWrath #Dustbowl #DirtyThirties



Where the Line goes…


Lately I’ve been seeing a whole lot of memes, anecdotes, and photos showing children being children, in ways that purport to be espousing inclusivity, and openness. They supposedly show that racism/homophobia is silly, and learned, and we should all just be one big happy family.

And this is all very true.

It is.

Even racists, deep down, know it is.

But…what does it say, when we “show” we aren’t racist by posting pictures of super-adorable toddlers of colour being oh-so-sweet and kind and loving? Or talented – throwing expert karate chops at blocks of wood, or singing the blues like Howlin’ Wolf? What does it say, when we advertise our openness to non-binary folks by telling about how our six-year-old kid has no trouble accepting that Uncle George has a boyfriend, and then just wants them both to play with him and his dump trucks, and how adorable it all is when they do?

It says that we still want people from the margins to be quiet, and unthreatening, and infantile.

It says that we are still policing the boundaries, and demanding that minorities moderate their behavior to make sure we are not made uncomfortable.

We are fetishizing the “good other”.


I want to tell you that I accept your anger.

I accept your human-ness, your flaws, your refusal to “behave”.

I do not give you permission for these things: it is not mine to give. It is your right as a human being to be all these things and more.

You do not owe anyone pliancy, or courtesy, or “cuteness”.


And change will come for us all in no other way.

What Changed Me

Ibram Kendi pointed out in this article that black neighbourhoods are not inherently more dangerous that white neighbourhoods.

There are a lot of reasons why this is true, both situational and statistical, which you can read more about in his work ( ), but the above article I just read on The Undefeated blog, by Lonnae O’Neal pushed out a memory to the surface…one that I had all but forgotten until I went to work in Ethiopia briefly a couple of years ago, and then had re-buried, because it is so uncomfortable.


I was seventeen. I was standing on a street in Rabat, Morocco, and I was, quite literally, the only white person there.

I felt naked and exposed and vulnerable, in a way that I had never experienced before. I was frightened.

Because I had lived my entire life where white was the default.


Fast forward to Lallibella in 2015. I am, once again, the only white person on the street.

It’s disconcerting. I had forgotten how that feels.

I was glad to be reminded, though. It’s a lesson I needed. It’s an experience we all need.


This is why we think “black neighbourhoods” are inherently more dangerous: because we are now the “other”…and we don’t like it.

We think those neighbourhoods are dangerous because we know (whether we admit it or not) how dangerous our neighbourhoods are to the “other” when they travel to them.

We think neighbourhoods  full of people who don’t look like “us” (or speak like “us”, or – we suspect, “think” like “us”) are dangerous because for the most part, it is a white person’s first experience of not being the default. Not being the norm. Not being the standard to which everyone else is held (and generally found wanting, but I digress.)

And once you, as a white person, get that – once you, as a white person, get over that – you can start to heal yourself of the wound that racism has carved into your heart.