Por Max Moulton
It’s easy to think of countless examples of how systemic racism affects our country. While we have already discussed in class things such as redlining, racially based housing laws, and other racist practices written into our laws, the factors and repercussions outside the law are just as extreme. Things such as education, financial resources, and access to healthcare and healthy food do even more to limit the opportunities for low income communities of color. Beyond the scope of legal and socioeconomic factors also exists the social side of things such as in universities and corporate America. Because the system favors white men particularly, it is they who are often at the top of the ladder and making decisions, and these decisions often favor more white men to take their place. It is these same people who also have the most resources and connections to continue the cycle. The cycle is most definitely still going strong, as the statistics show: “de acuerdo a estadísticas de la Reserva Federal de EE.UU. publicadas en 2017, los hogares blancos son por lo menos 10 veces más ricos que los negros en términos de patrimonio neto” (Paredes). These striking statistics are almost entirely lined up with the opportunities that both these communities receive.
With all these factors combined, the access to healthy foods and presence of food deserts is certainly linked to the racism inherent in our system. People living in food deserts have higher rates of diabetes and obesity, mostly due to the high price or low access of healthy food in their area, not their predisposition to these diseases. Regardless of ethnicity, children in low income communities have more health problems and a lower life expectancy than those in high income communities; “given these striking health disparities, one can see why the argument has been made that diabetes is not necessarily the “genetic destiny” of Latino residents and that environmental factors play a major role” (Portnoy 119). The environmental factors extend beyond food access and into healthcare, but the vastly different diet of those with access to fresh food versus not is one of the most important factors in the rates of these diseases, which only continues the cycle of poverty as these diseases have huge economic consequences.
To combat these two cycles of privilege and poverty, both must be dismantled in some way. While institutions such as universities and corporations are slowly improving the ability for people other than white men to be a part of them, there are still barriers in place that make it difficult. The top of the ladder is still dominated by the same demographic it always has, and in order for this to change, the system needs to. While grassroots organizations such as GSF are doing great work to change the access and knowledge of healthy food, they are only at two of the thousand LAUSD schools, so only a small fraction of the population is receiving this priceless education. If real change is to be made, the city needs to get involved and convert the thousands of acres of unused space it owns into gardens or green spaces for Angelinos to use. In Ron Finley’s ted talk, he estimates that the city owns 26 square miles of unused land, or as he puts it, “724,828,400 tomato plants.” There is no reason to have all this unused space at the same time there are hundreds of thousands of people (if not more) living with food insecurity.
Class this semester has been an absolute blast to be a part of. I have learned so much and met so many great people! From my classmates to guest speakers and entrepreneurs I have had the privilege of interacting with, I feel like I understand Los Angeles so much better than before the semester started. My favorite parts have been our first excursion to Olvera Street and Tirsa’s, where we learned about very literal whitewashing that I was previously unaware of, and got to have some amazing food after. Another highlight was this past week at GSF, I loved getting to work outside and learn about the garden as well as get a good workout in mulching with classmates. It was a perfect last trip in my mind as I felt like the whole class bonded and is at the point where we can have fun together even when doing something normally not exciting like weeding or mulching. It also gave me so much inspiration for the future as I could realistically see these resources at every school that could hopefully break the cycle of poor food habits and more in communities currently without these resources.
Finley, R. (2013, February). A guerrilla gardener in South Central LA . TED conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerrilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en#t-618158
Paredes, Norberto. “Racismo: Cómo Surgió El Polémico Concepto de ‘Privilegio Blanco’ y Por Qué Despierta Tantas Pasiones – BBC News Mundo.” BBC News Mundo, BBC, 15 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-53169564.
Portnoy, Sarah. Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.