Every great revolution started with a boycott.
Okay, maybe not... but I'd like to think that in the future they will. Boycotts are incredibly powerful actions that, if adopted on a mass scale, can alter the course of history as we know it. Take the Montgomery bus boycotts, where from 1955-1956, African-Americans refused to ride segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama. I can now choose to sit at the head of the TCAT or CTA or any public, or private, bus because those who predated my existence fought for a future free of segregation.
So why haven't we pushed forward, full throttle, en masse, on boycotting the companies, corporations, cities, people, organizations (the list could go on!) that continue to reject, oppress, poison, and exploit black and brown communities across the country? Is it our inability to collectively organize against such entities? Our inability to identify and thus target the true perpetrators, who are often sitting upon their thrones and fortune, all built by the people? What is it that allows us to nurture the pockets of entities that neglect our own needs?
I'll stop here. And say this. A month ago, I would have told you how I couldn't wait to get back to Chicago to begin organizing a full on, South-Side wide boycott on any fast-food corporation that profited heavily off of the sale and distribution of trash. The chicken nuggets, the fries, the shakes, all of it is trash. Not really food. Faux food. Faux food that sells because it is much cheaper (through government subsidies and investments in industrial agriculture) than the real food we should be able to afford, purchase, and consume. (Side note: I have been on a personal boycott of McDonald's since sophomore year of biology, where I saw Food Inc., and was disgusted at the truth behind a food system I played a part in.)
But. A boycott won't change the fact that thousands of families who gain nourishment from places like McDonalds. (And in my boycott, I realized that it was an impossible standard to be held to the rest of my community who depend on such places.) It's not their fault. It's not their fault that employers discriminate against them because of the color of their skin. It's not their fault our government see's no value in investing in educational opportunities for black and brown youth, so that those you can somebody have the opportunity to try and achieve economic mobility. (Are you kidding me?!?! A cop academy and no funds for Chicago Public Schools?!?!) It's not their fault that they are unable to afford real food because their either unable to find work, or unable to find work that pays livable wages. (One ought to wonder if we're intentionally being fed poor food that increases our chances of heart diseases and diabetes... to kill us.)
A boycott could fix these problems. But it's necessary to be practical. And look at the economics behind people's motivations. Many people, I'd like to hope, choose fast food because it is cheap and quick. (Okay... and fairly good... even though it's trash.) If we were to boycott fast-food restaurants, which are densely littered throughout are communities, what are the other food options? Where else will we eat? (I'm sure you've heard the term food deserts, so you know it's not a lot fresh produce around.) We have to provide other options. Choice. There is a really exciting enterprise out in LA, EveryTable, that believes that healthy eating shouldn't be a luxury. They provide freshly prepared meals that range in price from $3.50 - $6.00. They're pretty delicious looking too, check out the website. Instead of arduously protesting fast-food, I hope to create affordable alternatives for people in the city. Alternatives, whether it be a grocery store/community hub, a new restaurant concept, etc., that can outcompete and eventually run junk out of our neighborhoods.
Food justice encompasses many things and in this case, it's about options. And starving our communities by forcing them to eat fast food is not a way of providing fair options for our people.
Food for Thought/Motion: In the city of Chicago, specifically on the geographical region of the South Side, a quota should be set on the number of fast-food retail chains that are able to open. (That quota should be capped in present day, preventing the further expansion of fast-food corporations into black and brown communities.)
What do you all think? What are the benefits? The cons? The implications? What would Rosa do?