Updated: Mar 30, 2021
FairShare is part of a national network of CSA support organizations, called the CSA Innovation Network. Through our participation in this network, we hoped to look more intentionally at the intersection of food sovereignty and food justice with the CSA landscape. In beginning these inquiries, we realized how much work our own organization had to do in order to center food justice and anti-racism work in our programming and organizational culture.
FairShare began a series of regular (every other week) meetings in June 2019, called Just Lunches. The intent behind these meetings was to create a space for staff to develop a shared language and understanding around topics of equity and the food system, while also moving forward concrete aspects of organizational and programmatic change at FairShare.
We decided on having rotating staff facilitators, in order to ensure that there was equal accountability across our organization. Staff would be responsible for identifying resources that would aid in our understanding of different topics, and to ensure that rather than creating a "book club", we would be ending each meeting with actionable steps for our organization. We agreed that our education can happen in parallel to enacting meaningful change within the organization.
In our initial meeting, we identified racial equity as the primary lens through which to have these conversations. Though it is only one aspect of food justice, we believed it was the largest and most pressing internal need at FairShare and within our local, CSA landscape. At the same time, we committed to understanding how anti-racism work intersects with culture, gender, class, age, etc., and to ensure that this intersectionality is always a part of our conversations.
As a small, all-white staff (at the time), we felt it was important to use some guiding resources to start talking about privilege, positionality, and white supremacy culture. We used the following Racial Equity Leadership Practices as an initial jumping-off point, along with some readings (linked at the end of this post.)
Racial Equity Leadership Practices (Adapted from City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s Race and Social Justice Initiative)
Be clear about your own racial positionality and how it impacts your racial equity leadership
Focus on impact, not intention
Know our shared history of institutional and structural racism in the United States, including in the food systems/agricultural sector
Tell the story of race and racism
Name and frame with race
Emphasize that today’s racial inequities don’t depend on intentional racism
Change systems, not just individuals
Have a targeted, structural strategy with clear goals, and be accountable to it
Understand the difference between diversity and access, and racial equity
Invest in racial equity and embed it into all aspects of your work --don’t make it a separate effort
Start with the eager and build from there
Be courageous; take risks
Explore contradictions between the reality of different types of racism and our concept of the U.S. as an equal opportunity society
Engage your peers - other leaders - in particular, those with the greatest influence
Create opportunities to listen to those with less societal and formal, institutional power and influence
Create brave spaces for people to talk about race and collaborate on strategies for achieving racial equity
Invest in relationships and build networks where you can turn for support
Help people find their roles as change agent
Only in understanding how FairShare comfortably remained a predominantly all-white organization, in a majority white, local food landscape, could we begin to think about what our role is in changing this. CSA can't be the backbone of a strong local food economy (as stated in our mission) if it is centered around whiteness.
Resources used/Guiding Questions:
Why is your organization invested in diversity work? What is your answer that is terrifying in its honesty?
How might our staff/board/farmer relationships and office environment be set up in ways that would make a person of color uncomfortable or isolated?
What action can we personally take within the next few weeks within the Ally or Accomplice category?
“White Supremacy Culture” - Tema Okun
Which of these characteristics are at play in your life? In the life of FairShare or your community?
How do they stand in the way of racial justice?
What can you and your community do to shift the belief(s) and behavior(s) to ones that support racial justice?
“White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” - Peggy McIntosh
Additional: Food Systems Racial Equity Assessment Tool