May 30, 2020
ARC stands in solidarity with communities from Minneapolis to Athens, from New York City to Oakland, who have taken to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020.
We have signed the Movement for Black Lives petition and are taking this opportunity to open deeper conversations into how racism affects every aspect of our lives and work as scholar-activists committed to transforming the food system.
Here are a few things we know.
Colonialism brought white settlers to the shores of this continent, legitimating the dispossession and genocide of millions of Native Americans as “land hunger” propelled whites westward through the 19th century.
Land was cleared, watered, seeded, and made productive for intensive agriculture by the labor and knowledge of enslaved Africans. After Emancipation, some freed persons would come to own a portion of it. However, through a variety of means — often combining force, law, and manipulation from authorities — farmland owned by Blacks once again became property of white people. It’s estimated that 1 million Black families have been ripped from their farms since World War I, a loss denying generations of families a stable source of sustenance and wealth.
Many small-scale white farmers would themselves succumb to the relentless tug of industrial capitalism, with larger and larger landholdings becoming the new normal. With land concentration, agribusiness has come to dominate the literal and figurative landscape of US agriculture. From Wall Street investments in land to agrochemical firms’ monopoly on inputs to the Wal-Mart effect that ripples through supply chains, we now have a food system in which people of color are neither growing, eating, nor making decisions about food that gives health — let alone freedom.
So, here we are in May 2020, a month that saw two white men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year old African American man in Athens, Georgia. A month in which long-delayed attention pivoted back to the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman slain by police in her own Louisville apartment. A month in which a white woman in Central Park called the cops to “tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life” — using her own white privilege to harm a Black man, rather than put her own dog on a leash.
Then, this month saw the death of Floyd George. In video footage that has since prompted protests around the country and the world, Mr. Floyd was pinned to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds by Minneapolis police. Officer Derek Chauvin can be seen pressing his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck in silence, while Floyd repeatedly says, “I cannot breathe.”
In Black Skin White Masks, Frantz Fanon wrote “I must free myself from my strangler because I cannot breathe.” Fanon’s study of effects of racism on the psyche and body became a cultural touchstone in 2014, when Eric Garner suffocated at hands of police, uttering repeatedly that he could not breathe. It again comes flooding back in 2020, when black folks are not only fighting COVID-19 — a respiratory illness hitting POC populations much harder than their white counterparts — but also the militarization of our cities, campuses, and communities.
There is so much work to be done. There is also so much we can learn from Black, Indigenous, and other POC who are in countless ways leading the revolution to healthy, just, and food sovereign systems. Who are, in the words of The Rising Majority, developing “a collective strategy and shared practice” to connect and involve labor, youth, immigrant rights, abolition, feminist, anti-imperialist, and economic justice movements to amplify our voices and build power.
Please consider signing the M4BL petition and sharing your own experiences, efforts, and struggles to end systemic racism.
— The Agroecology Research-Action Collective