The killing of Minnesota resident George Floyd has spurred widespread outrage and pushed the United States towards a reckoning with its long and painful legacy of racism.
The agricultural industry is not exempt from critique; though 14 percent of U.S. farmland was black-owned a hundred years ago, decades of systemic discrimination and the abuse of legal loopholes has left black farmers with just .52 percent of the nation’s arable land. This has robbed black communities of billions of dollars of wealth, a fact that many experts say has contributed to the modern racial wealth gap.
National Farmers Union (NFU), which has historically supported social justice movements including women’s suffrage and the civil rights movements, redoubled its efforts to support racial equity and justice in light of George Floyd’s death. NFU President Rob Larew in a statement.
“The killing of George Floyd was an abuse of power and a horrifying act of violence– but what is even more horrifying is that this is not a rare or isolated incident. People of color are far more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts; black Americans account for just 13 percent of the overall population, but 26 percent of fatal police shootings. But police brutality doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s just one of many examples of racism in our country – in criminal justice, financial services, health care, voting, education, and elsewhere.
“If we stand idly by while our friends and neighbors suffer – as too many of us have done for too long – we are complicit in their suffering. Now is the time to step up, to heal these wounds, to build a just and equal society. This will not be a quick or easy task – to overcome the terrible legacy of racism in this country, we all must reflect on our own privileges and prejudices, rethink our institutions, and demand structural change. The road ahead of us may be long and uncomfortable, but it is our moral obligation to traverse it.”
The organization has been sharing ideas for how individuals can fight racism in the food system. Here is a place to start:
- Educate yourself about racism in agriculture. There are many excellent books on the subject, including Farming While Blackby Leah Penniman, Freedom Farmers by Monica White, Dispossession by Pete Daniel, Black Food Geographies by Ashanté M. Reese, and The Color of Food. There is also a wealth of journalism on black land loss and structural racism, including these articles published by The Guardian, The Atlantic, ProPublica, and the Food and Environment Reporting Network.
- Donate to organizations that support black farmers.Civil Eats has compiled a list here.
- Listen to black, indigenous, and people of color. Follow and amplify them on social media, feature them at conferences, give them the opportunity to hold positions of leadership.
- Buy food from black farmers and other black-owned food businesses. You can find a list of black-owned grocery stores and farmers markets here, a list of farms and gardens here, and a list of restaurants here.
- Vote for lawmakers who are committed to food justice.
- Advocate policies that keep black farmers on their land.
NFU will continue to work towards justice in the food system – if you have thoughts or recommendations, please contact us here.