Action for Food Justice

U of T Food Justice Committee

The U of T Food Justice Committee

The U of T Food Justice Committee aims to connect U of T’s people power and resources to the growing food justice movement in Toronto. Specifically, the U of T Food Justice Committee aims to make U of T a contributing member to the Growing Food and Justice Initiative, based in Milwaukee, which is gaining ground in Toronto. The Committee is meeting every two weeks to discuss what food justice means, as well as issues related to food justice. We are in the process of setting up a listserv and becoming a student group. Our next meeting will be in two weeks, date and time to be announced on the blog and on the listserv which we will probably have set up by this time.
You can find a link to the GFJI website on the main page of the blog. As well, below is an article we discussed briefly at the last meeting and will probably discuss in more detail at the next meeting:

> The bi-monthly journal of the Women’s International League for Peace
> and Freedom
> By Peggy McIntosh
> Through work to bring materials from women’s studies into the rest of
> the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant
> that they are over privileged, even though they may grant that women
> are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to improve women’s
> status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they
> can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s.
> Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that
> men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male
> privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened or ended.
> Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I
> realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking,
> there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege that was
> similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had
> been taught about racism as something that puts others at a
> disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary
> aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.
> I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege,
> as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun
> in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I
> have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned
> assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was
> “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible
> weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks,
> visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.
> Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable. As we in
> women’s studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up
> some of their power, so one who writes about white privilege must ask,
> “Having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?”
> After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of
> unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their
> oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent
> charges from women of colour that white women whom they encounter are
> oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as
> oppressive, even when we don’t see ourselves that way. I began to
> count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been
> conditioned into oblivion about its existence.
> My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as
> an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged
> culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral
> state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed
> the pattern my colleagues Elizabeth Nimmich has pointed out: Whites
> are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and
> average and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this
> is seen as work that will allow “them” to be more like “us”.
> Daily effects of white privilege:
> I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the
> daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those
> conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin colour
> privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic
> location, though of course all these other factors are intricately
> intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American co-workers,
> friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent
> contact in this particular time, place and line of work cannot count
> on most of these conditions.
> 1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my
> race most of the time.
> 2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or
> purchasing housing in an area that I can afford and in which I would
> want to live.
> 3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbours in such a location will be
> neutral or pleasant to me.
> 4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that
> I will not be followed or harassed.
> 5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the
> paper and see people of my race widely represented.
> 6. When I am told about our national heritage or about
> “civilization”, I am shown that people of my colour made it what it
> is.
> 7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials
> that testify to the existence of their race.
> 8. If want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this
> piece on white privilege.
> 9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my
> race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that
> fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find
> someone who can deal with my hair.
> 10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin
> colour not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
> 11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people
> who might not like them.
> 12. I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer
> letters without having people attribute these choices to the bad
> morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
> 13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my
> race on trial.
> 14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a
> credit to my race.
> 15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
> 16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of
> colour, who constitute the world’s majority, without feeling in my
> culture any penalty for such oblivion.
> 17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its
> policies and behaviour without being seen as a cultural outsider.
> 18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in
> charge” I will be facing a person of my race.
> 19. If a traffic cop pulls me over, or if the IRS audits my tax
> return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
> 20. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting
> cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my
> race.
> 21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I begin to
> feeling somewhat tied in rather than isolated, out of place,
> outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
> 22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without
> fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in
> the places I have chosen.
> 23. I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of
> my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have
> chosen.
> 24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will
> not work against me.
> 25. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each
> negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
> 26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” colour that more
> or less match my skin.
> Elusive and fugitive
> I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I
> wrote it down. For me, white privilege has turned out to be an
> elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for
> in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things
> are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one
> makes it; many doors open for certain people through not virtues of
> their own.
> In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege, I have listed
> conditions of daily experience that I once took for granted. Nor did
> I think of any of these prerequisites as bad for the holder. I now
> think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege,
> for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone
> in a just society; and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious,
> arrogant, and destructive.
> I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a
> pattern of assumptions that were passed on to me as a white person.
> There was one main piece of cultural turf; I was on my own turf, and I
> was among those who could control the turf. My skin colour was an
> asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of
> myself as belonging in major ways and of making social systems work
> for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to
> anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main
> culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely.
> In proportion as my racial group was being made confident,
> comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made
> unconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated.
> Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress and
> violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon
> people of colour.
> For this reason, the word “privilege” now seems to me misleading.
> We usually think of privilege as being a favoured state, whether
> earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I
> have described here work systematically to overpower certain groups.
> Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.
> Earned strength, unearned power
> I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned
> power conferred systematically. Power for unearned privilege can look
> like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate.
> But not all of the privileges on my list are inevitably damaging.
> Some, like the expectation that neighbours will be decent to you, or
> that your race will not count against you in court, should be the norm
> in a just society.
> Others, like the privilege to ignore less powerful people, distort the
> humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups.
> We might at least start by distinguishing between positive advantages,
> which we can work to spread, and negative types of advantage, which
> unless rejected will always reinforce our present hierarchies. For
> example, the feeling that one belongs within the human circle, as
> Native Americans say, should not be seen as privilege for a few.
> Ideally it is an unearned advantage for them. This paper results from
> a process of coming to see that some of the power that I originally
> saw as attendant on being a human being in the United States consisted
> in unearned advantage and conferred dominance.
> I have met very few men who are truly distressed about systemic,
> unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question
> for me and others like me is whether we will be like them, or whether
> we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race
> advantage and conferred dominance, and, if so, what will we do to
> lessen them. In any case, we need to do more work in identifying how
> they actually affect our daily lives. Many, perhaps most, or our
> white students in the United States think that racism doesn’t affect
> them because they are not people of colour, they do not see
> “whiteness” as a racial identity. In addition, since race and sex are
> not the only advantaging systems at work, we need similarly to
> examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or ethnic
> advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality,
> religion, or sexual orientation.
> Difficulties and dangers surrounding the task of finding parallels are
> many. Since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the
> advantages associated with them should not be seen as the same. In
> addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects or unearned advantage that
> rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex, and
> ethnic identity than on other factors. Still, all of the oppressions
> are interlocking, as the members of the Combahee River Collective
> pointed out in their “Black Feminist Statement” of 1977.
> One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions.
> They take both active forms, which we can see, and embedded forms,
> which as a member of the dominant group is taught not to see. In my
> class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught
> to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of
> my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial
> dominance on my group from birth.
> Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was
> taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed
> their attitudes. But a “white” skin in the United State opens many
> doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has
> been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end
> these problems.
> To redesign social systems, we need first to acknowledge their
> colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding
> privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking
> about equality or equity incomplete protecting unearned advantage and
> conferred dominance by making these subjects taboo. Most talk by
> whites about equal opportunity seem to me now to be about equal
> opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying
> that systems of dominance exist.
> It seems to me that obviousness about male advantage is kept strongly
> inculturated in United States so as to maintain the myth of
> meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to
> all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is
> there for just a small number of people props up those in power and
> serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of
> it already.
> Although systemic change takes many decades, there are pressing
> questions for me and, I imagine, for some others like me if we raise
> our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned.
> What will we do with such knowledge? As we know from watching men, it
> is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage
> to weaken hidden systems of advantage, and whether we will use any of
> our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a
> broader base.
> *This excerpted essay is reprinted from the July/August 1989 issue of
> Peace and Freedom, the bimonthly journal of the Women’s International
> League for Peace and Freedom.

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