Much like how it was only a matter of time before I addressed COVID, it was only going to be a time before addressing the other disease plaguing America: racism. Even if it may seem tangential to the focus of a food blog, America’ history of racial inequality and police brutality that have come to a tipping point in the wake of the killing of George Floyd can not and should not be ignored.
Full disclosure: I’m a white (-passing; 25% Japanese, 100% irrelevant in this context) guy, so I am not going to claim to truly understand the full extent of what the black community has been experiencing all these years. If this was, ya know, a real publication with a real staff of writers, this story would have been given to a black writer. The best thing than non-black people can do to show their support is to listen to black voices, then act accordingly.
However, since that would lead to a very short article, I’ll also take a moment to reiterate some of the things that said black voices have been saying.
Supporting Black Restaurants
One of the best (food-related) ways to show solidarity with the black community is to support black-owned restaurants. This is getting increasingly easier to do, since many municipalities, wanting to save face and show superficial support to the protesters, have accumulated lists of such restaurants to make them easier to seek out. And, with more and more states beginning to reopen and consumers being more and more eager to dine out again, there really isn’t much of an excuse not to. Needless to say, doing so will put more money directly in the hands of black business owners, protecting their livelihoods.
It may also be worth noting that with many non-black-owned businesses also voicing support, there is a right and wrong way to go about doing so.
Ben & Jerry’s Response
Ben & Jerry’s response is probably the most sincere one that I’ve seen from a non-black company. Where many companies stopped with vaguely saying they stand with the protesters, Ben & Jerry’s went out of their way in this tweet thread to give a brief history of systemic racism and discuss how to enact reform at a local level. And it all feels genuine, because the company has a long history of supporting social justice. Ben and Jerry themselves were even arrested in 2016 while protesting in Washington D.C. All in all, they use their privilege and the platform that comes with it to not only call attention to the plight of marginalized groups, but to demonstrate how to bring about effective change.
Bon Appetit’s Response
Meanwhile, we have this editorial by BA’s editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport. At surface level, it seems supportive enough, acknowledging that BA has a duty to address the issue, and urges its readers to support black-owned restaurants. However, several things about it come off as performative at best, patronizing at worst. A good chunk of the editorial is links to other BA articles they’ve done relating to race (many of which were done after the killing of Floyd on May 25th), so after a while the tone seems sort of self-congratulatory. At the end, there’s a tacked-on call to donate to ACLU or NAACP, two already well-funded (although still very worthy) organizations that don’t need support as much as smaller bail funds, mutual aid funds, or local chapters of Black Lives Matter. It also feels worth noting that, for all the claims of wanting to amplify black voices, back in mid-May, BA’s parent company, Conde Nast, laid off or furloughed hundreds of employees, many of whom were POC.
Hopefully I haven’t shot myself in the foot here, I had actually applied to a couple of positions at BA back in February. But in the grand scheme of things, making sure the right voices are being heard right now is more important.
EDIT: While I was doing last minute editorial work on this, a screencap of Adam Rapoport doing brownface has begun circulating around Twitter.