This pandemic has already laid bare so much about our humanity and the things we hold dear: our family and friends, our health, our safety, our livelihood, our freedom. And these are the very things that provide stark, heartbreaking proof of the massive iniquity that plagues our country. It took the intersection of a pandemic and yet another brutal police murder to deliver us to this historic moment, a seismic wave of deeper awakening in our country’s consciousness, long-overdue awareness, and a commitment to action and change.
Two weeks ago, George Floyd was brutally murdered before our eyes by the Minneapolis police, and on June 9th, 2020, he was laid to rest in power. Cause of death: our country’s racism and toxic policing and brutality. Yet again. The pandemic already stands testament to so much systemic racism, from the higher death rate of Black Americans from COVID-19 than whites (almost three times), to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) essential workers who have no choice but to show up for their jobs with unsafe or high-risk working conditions and get exposed and sick and die, while many of us work safely distanced at home and order what we need off of Amazon or Instacart or Uber Eats, using people as a virus shield, without a second thought. And how about all the food insecurity, dialed up to 11? The soaring rate of unemployment? Homelessness? So many Black Americans are suffering at a disproportionate rate.
We have been witnessing so many brave Black Americans (and allies) putting their safety and lives on the line to protest the outrageous injustice of George Floyd’s murder at the hands and knee of our racist police and corrupt system, along with all the other horrific deaths from racially motivated lethal force, and all the continued injustice leading up to this multi-crisis moment. The past two weeks, we have watched videos daily of excessive violence from the police and National Guard toward protestors (reminder: who are protesting police brutality), which show such a disregard for life or humanity or decency—oh, the unbridled hatred required to pull down a protestor’s mask and spray them with pepper spray, to fire at them, beat them with batons, tear gas peaceful protestors, shove them, provoke and taunt them, brutally confront and taser them, try to run them over. We have Black Americans fighting for their lives on so many levels, for their children’s lives. Lives that keep being taken, like they don’t matter, because actions speak louder than the words we are screaming: Black Lives Matter.
We are running along the full emotional spectrum, from grief to outrage to extreme exhaustion to anguish to numbness. It changes daily, hourly. We are all navigating through this moment in our own way, from people who cluelessly kept posting pictures of their meals on Instagram the past two weeks (except for that one post with a black box and a hashtag), to some deep wake-ups, to tentative steps in writing a post on social media, to starting an anti-racist book club with friends, to fundraising, to rallying others, to calling out racism, to a march into protests.
I see that we’re all having conversations. Vulnerable ones. Difficult ones. Keep having them, go deep. I’ve been talking with my white friends about where we’re at and the work we’re doing: where we feel shame or confusion, what are we learning, and what’s changing; connecting with family members; engaging in Facebook housecleaning (bye, racist “friend”); checking in with industry colleagues; and even having a long conversation with a local business about why I can no longer buy their product when I saw a member of their family made a donation to the current President’s campaign of hate. I may have considered making that call previously, but after the past two weeks, I felt compelled to act upon my values.
I have spent the past two weeks reading, watching, listening, processing, learning, feeling, grieving, questioning, confronting, having real talk, trying to hold space, and taking a much closer look at myself and my white privilege. Oh, to even be writing this from the comfort of my apartment in San Francisco, with my fridge full of food, my ability to work from home, my career, my education, my travels, my opportunities, my access, my network, my life, my freedom, my future, my safety, my health. To be able to have cannabis delivered to my door while people remain incarcerated for nonviolent and minor cannabis offenses, who haven’t been freed and run an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 in their human cages while our system allows companies to profit off their continued incarceration, our prison-industrial complex. Countless victims of a racist War on Drugs designed to oppress Black people.
I know many of us are finally watching those “hard” documentaries we always had the intention to watch, instead of checking out with whatever Netflix show we like to numb ourselves with. Yes, we need to watch and learn more about injustice and discrimination and systemic racism—to see and understand the many ways things need to drastically change. We need to seek and demand and make space for more Black voices and perspectives in our many input streams—and (thoughtfully) amplify in our output streams. It’s way past time to read the books, the long articles, the blog posts, to listen to the panel discussions and Instagram Live videos and TED Talks and webinars, to take the time to do the work, right now, and for the rest of our lives (I list some resources below). It’s all helping in my current self-analysis, in unpacking my whiteness, in confronting my inherent racism, my white privilege, my white fragility, as I inform my individual plan of action and change. This is my work to figure out, I can’t ask my Black friends and the people I follow to help me with it, although they’re generously offering plenty of guidance if you pay attention.
I am deeply grateful for the incredible access we have, especially right now on social media, to really listen and learn from so many powerful Black voices and from the folks who have been doing racial justice work and activism for a long time. But I’m also trying to be carefully cognizant of this ambush so many Black creators are feeling—a tidal wave of so many new white followers, and comments, and questions. Where were we before? What took us so long, and how long are we going to stay? Thank you to Stephen Satterfield and George McCalman for articulating this. I want to be sensitive to keeping my “white noise” quiet, to be supportive but not have my presence encroach, to listen, and keep the conversations Black-centered.
Even writing this piece brings up issues for me—who am I to be sharing this processing, when there are important voices you should be reading instead? I acknowledge this is a form of white privilege. But (I know, there’s the damn but!) as a columnist, one that many of you have been reading for a long time, I felt impelled to share some of my observations, and the resources and articles shaping my perspective right now.
While I have always considered myself very committed to covering all kinds of diverse businesses and chefs and events in tablehopper, with a particular focus on women and small businesses, I recognize and fully acknowledge that I need to make a concerted effort to specifically elevate more Black businesses and makers and stories in this column and the other outlets I work with. I have fallen short in my coverage. I also need to expand my knowledge and awareness of our national Black food scene, including Black content creators and voices, from food writers to podcasters. I commit to engaging in more food justice work and activism, and to recommit to more volunteering.
Even with all the well-meaning lists we’re seeing and posts about Black restaurants and businesses and artists and fashion designers and filmmakers and musicians to support, we need to pay attention to how we engage. Will our support be short-term or long-term, voyeuristic or authentic (and actionable)? This thought-provoking piece from Ruth Gebreyesus takes a closer look.
By all means, we must support Black business—and especially in this devastating pandemic, support is welcome and overdue. But we can’t just pick up some dinner for the first time from a Black-owned spot we recently learned about and post it on Instagram and mentally check the “I’m an ally!” box. We have to be more than performative (which includes taking selfies at a protest or posting a pic of your donation to the NAACP). With anything I am writing or posting these past two weeks, I keep checking in and asking myself: “Who does this benefit? Myself? Is this virtue signaling? Is this supportive, or performative? Is this educational, helpful, truly in solidarity?” (Learn more in this piece from Ijeoma Oluo.)
And then there’s the inherent racism (and sexism! and anti-LGBTQIA/homophobia!) in our restaurant/F&B industry that desperately needs to be acknowledged and addressed and dismantled and reformed, from structural and staffing issues (do you hire and promote Black employees into management positions?), to sourcing (do you work with any Black farms or wineries or purveyors?), to how Black customers are treated. This piece from chef-writer Amethyst Ganaway is one to read now, as well as this one on our broken restaurant system, also from Ruth Gebreyesus. We have a huge opportunity to make crucial changes, right now, and for our future.
I have so much work to do. We all have so much work to do. And real support that needs to be extended. And justice that must be demanded and served. And racially motivated police brutality that officers need to be held accountable for, leading the way to reform and eradication. The more I learn about what defunding the police actually means and what a new system would look like with reallocated funds, the more I want to help fight for it. There are massive changes that need to be made, a dismantling of this racist and morally bankrupt system that only gets more rotten, and delivered us here, right in this desperately tragic pile-up of human crises.
Where to start the work? I do not purport to be an expert on this, by any means, and I humbly welcome your input if you are compelled to share. But, I do know this: it’s time to unlearn and relearn. Make the shift from “non-racist” to anti-racist. I have been referring to a comprehensive anti-racism resource guide here and you can find resources for white people on anti-racism here.
Show support for protestors by donating through the National Bail Fund Network—there’s a state directory of community bail funds. Contribute to the Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee Bail Fund. You can also find out about local protests you can march in here: @protestsbayarea and @blacklivesmattersf.
Here’s a list of Black organizations to support, and I’m including the Instagram tags of (mostly) Black-led and racial justice organizations to follow, support, and learn from (who also share where to donate and how to help). Obviously, this is by no means comprehensive, but a place to start: @blklivesmatter @aclu_nationwide @colorofchange @blackvisionscollective @mvmnt4blklives @blackfutureslab @untilfreedom @showingupforracialjustice @blacksanfrancisco
I am grateful for all the insight and posts from: @thecollectress @rachel.cargle @wkamaubell @from[underscore]lagos @shak[underscore]simley (not sure why I can’t get those two addresses to format correctly) @whetstonemagazine (be sure to subscribe) @blackculinary And always following the beating heart of @engvinny
I pledge to follow, elevate, and feature more Black businesses and people and causes in my work and events, to continue to read and learn and unlearn and listen and feel, to be open, to be uncomfortable, to be accountable, to become a stronger ally, to show up, to get activist training, to call out injustice and racism, to demand an end to police violence and lack of accountability, and to do anything I can to help foster the change we need, healing, equity, equality, the flourishing of Black and all BIPOC communities, justice, deeper understanding, community, peace, love, health, happiness, and safety.
With love and respect, ~Marcia
Protestors at the Mission High/San Francisco Solidarity Protest for George Floyd. All photos: © tablehopper.com.