While systemic racism has existed in our country for hundreds of years, when George Floyd was murdered due to police brutality in May 2020, our country found itself at a crossroads in its history. In a moment where America could have looked the other way as it so conveniently has in the past, it instead decided to awaken itself to racism, look it in the eye, and acknowledge the severe inequity that plagues Black and Indigenous people in this country everyday. This awakening was witnessed around the world. George Floyd’s death inspired a movement inclusive of hundreds of protests for racial justice, making it known loudly and clearly that #BlackLivesMatter in America and around the world. It was an incredible moment in history to see the #BlackLivesMatter movement realized at scale.
The movement fueled a sense of urgency politically as well, and after incredible organization and grassroots efforts by Black and Indigenous leaders like Stacey Abrams and Allie Young, President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris were announced as our elected officials in the 2020 Presidential race. History was made again with our very first Madam Vice President of Black and South Asian descent elected to the second highest office in the land. Another wave of hope and excitement was felt across America. However, amidst the organizing, protesting, voting and awakening, we continued to hear about police brutality and more Black lives being taken. Breonna Taylor. Walter Wallace Jr. Too many names to count. In fact, 164 black lives were taken from us in the first 8 months of 2020 (CBS News, 2020). And this staggering rate continued through the end of the year. Finally, last week on January 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol was stormed by white supremacists in a horrific act of terror. When we thought things could not get worse, they did.
After reflecting for a few days, I have found within myself and others a sense of hope and determination that my generation and those to follow will continue to actively and intentionally dismantle racism in America. As I think about my role and how I can contribute to being anti-racist on a daily basis and fight for racial justice in my spaces, I immediately think about wellness and food.
Wellness is political. Food is political. It is not by mistake that minority populations, specifically the Black community, are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. It is because they lack the same access to healthcare and resources than White people in this country. In fact, more than 58% of all patients hopsitalized for Covid-19 in the first 6 months were made up of Black and Hispanic individuals (Stanford, 2020). In addition, many communities of color live in food deserts and lack access to affordable, fresh produce. These communities were intentionally placed in areas that do not have grocery stores. This lack of access has a direct impact on the high rates of chronic illness in communities of color. It’s a vicious cycle that is also fueled by inequity, segregation and racism. The Eater published an article in 2018 on the very issue of food deserts, noting an interesting fact on “redlining which was a formalized practice that began in earnest in 1934 with the passage of the National Housing Act and led to the creation of race-based maps of more than 200 U.S. cities” (Eater, 2018). Redlining intentionally divided White and Black communities, along with their right to housing, food, healthcare, and other basic resources.
So, how do we dismantle racism in these systems that I, myself, benefit from everyday?
When I first discovered my chronic illnesses and the importance of nourishing, fresh food to optimize my health, I did not have to think twice about going grocery shopping. Not only did I have plenty of grocery stores nearby, I had my pick of Whole Foods and numerous other local, organic stores in the area with price points that usually contribute to grocery bills upwards of $100. In addition, when seeking healthcare from functional and western providers, I did not have to think twice about my ability to afford and access their practices and associated treatments. Many care management plans that I’ve followed throughout the last ten years are not covered by insurance and are mostly out of pocket. They’re extremely expensive and largely inaccessible to much of America. My privilege is evident at every part of my health and wellness journey, and that does not fall short on me.
I do not have all the answers to my earlier question on how to dismantle racism in the food and wellness spaces, but I know that I must use my privilege to opt in and do the work. I have a few ideas that I am taking very seriously and commit to working on everyday as an ally to Black and Indigenous communities.
First, I commit to realizing and recognizing my privilege everyday. A very obvious example of my privilege includes how I’m developing and sharing recipes. I want to make my recipes more affordable and accessible. If someone doesn’t have access to grass-fed meat, high-quality Indian spices or paleo friendly products like almond flour, I commit to be more intentional about providing accessible substitutes or suggestions. My recipes, which are rooted in nutrient dense and healthy foods, should be accessible to and benefit a much broader audience inclusive of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Today, I am ashamed to say that they don’t. They are rooted in privilege and this needs to change.
Second, as a food blogger and knowing that in my space there are many opportunities for paid partnerships and opportunities to collaborate, I commit to only partnering with brands and companies that value the same things I do: racial justice and equity, integrity, respect and transparency. Whole30, which has been a critical part of my wellness journey, is a great example of this. They have committed to expanding their DEI efforts, and are being intentional about who is represented in their community, amplifying BIPOC voices and creators, and figuring out how to make their products and services more affordable and accessible.
Third, I commit to being intentional in expanding my network in the food and wellness spaces beyond just South Asian or White wellness bloggers. I have been lucky to (virtually) meet some incredible Black chefs, creators and bloggers, and want to amplify their work. I will dedicate space on my social media platforms and website to feature some of my favorite Black bloggers, creators, artists and entrepreneurs. For starters, you don’t want to miss my dear friend Erica from This African Cooks (Ghanaian American inspired Whole30 and other recipes), Althea from Metemgee (Guyanese and Caribbean inspired Whole30 and other recipes), and Nicole from Heal Me Delicious (Whole30, AIP and paleo friendly recipes). Also, look out for an Instagram Live from Althea and I in February 2020 as we share more about how we infuse our culture and heritage in our cooking to support our health!
Finally, and probably most importantly, I will directly invest in and purchase Black and Indigenous products and services. I will be more mindful of how I’m spending my money and supporting Black-owned businesses. This can help empower local communities, fuel the economy, spur job creation, and perhaps most importantly, close the racial wealth gap. One way I’ve been supporting Black businesses is by being more mindful of ordering food from Black-owned restaurants in the Bay Area and sharing them out to my community on my social media platforms. Given we live in a capitalist society, we must recognize our role as consumers and our purchasing power. It is a force to be reckoned with, and one we must not lose sight of in our fight to dismantle racism in America.
I hope you find a new section called “Amplifying the BIPOC Community” on my website a safe space for allies and BIPOCs who are committed to dismantling racism in America to exchange ideas and resources, and amplify Black and Indigenous voices. If you have any ideas you’d like to share with me, please leave a comment here or contact me directly.