"The fact is that one imagination is critically important, and if you have had your imagination stimulated by what is basically a variety of subjects, you are much more amenable to accepting, to understanding and interacting with the realities of the world."
"Whole Foods is a point of entry into a new version of American whiteness, one which leans on a pseudo recognition of diversity through sanitized food presentation. It offers a new order of “otherness” in which the other is a pleasant-looking piece of food, totally safe, and with a pedigree. Within the Whole Foods’ bubble we are turned instantly sophisticated, and the store becomes the place where we can self-indulge in notions of cosmopolitan openness to world products and political struggles. To buy an avocado “with a background” ends up, dangerously, filling the space of our urge for political awareness. The store did the math for us, as well as all the thinking, so we can “shop with confidence” and just relax.
The whole process does something rather particular: It creates the illusion of an “independent” understanding within the larger implications of corporate intervention in defining a food’s background. In establishing a perimeter of commercial values based on social responsibility, Whole Foods depoliticizes us. Worse, for those already sinking into the hybrid life of a world without politics, it offers a parachute, a sort of immunity: “I shop here so, by extension, I know a thing or two about social awareness.”
Whole Foods unavoidably widens the gap between people who have everything and people who have nothing: How can super expensive foods that look like an invention of Edward Weston’s camera - that the majority of the world cannot afford, or would laugh about - be synonymous with social responsibility? This is truly a modern enigma.
The recent situation with quinoa, the “hot” and “trendy” new grain that we are suddenly unable to live without - and without which we are suddenly missing essential nutrients to keep us alive - is case in point. Paola Flores, filing for the AP from La Paz, Bolivia, reports that “[t]he scramble to grow more (quinoa) is prompting Bolivian farmers to abandon traditional land management practices, endangering the fragile ecosystem of the arid highlands, agronomists say.” A quinoa emergency, then, at the bulk bins. A separate exposé published in the Guardian goes even further: “[T]here is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken.” Whether we blame vegans or hipsters or the organic food movement or a lack of appropriate trade regulations, the troubling truth about quinoa represents that repetitive drama between the West and rest in which our voracious consumption depletes yet another land and another people.
Whole Foods widens the gaps, and it does so in the most subtle and displacing manner, giving us an environment (the actually sanitized, spotless physical space) that is the embodiment of an elite (yet perceived as “open,” especially through the chain’s less pricey “360” product line) that finds itself at home within a soulless, sterilized experiences. The notion of gentrification has been surpassed, attaining the space of a perennial state of mind. This is where even an apple turns into an object/jewelry of desire, not of need, or at least of normality. In that sense, Whole Foods is simply the last piece in the long, familiar chain of shifting perceptions in neo-capitalistic societies that exploded after the Second World War, in which the creation and multiplication of desires is central to the self-preservation of the system."
"A third pillar of white supremacy is the logic of Orientalism. Orientalism was defined by Edward Said as the process of the West defining itself as a superior civilization by constructing itself in opposition to an “exotic” but inferior “Orient.” (Here I am using the term “Orientalism” more broadly than to solely signify what has been historically named as the Orient or Asia.) The logic of Orientalism marks certain peoples or nations as inferior and as posing a constant threat to the well-being of empire. These peoples are seen as “civilizations”—they are not property or “disappeared”—however, they will always be imaged as permanent foreign threats to empire. This logic is evident in the anti-immigration movements within the United States to target immigrants of color. it does not matter how long immigrants of color reside in the United States, they generally become targeted as foreign threats, particularly during war time. Consequently, orientalism serves as the anchor for war, because it allows the United States to justify being in a constant state of war to protect itself from its enemies.
For example, the United States feels entitled to used Orientalist logic to justify racial profiling of Arab Americans so that it can be strong enough to fight the “war on terror.” Orientalism also allows the United States to defend the logics of slavery and genocide, as these practices enable the United States to stay “strong enough” to fight these constant wars. What becomes clear then is that Sora Han states—the United States is not at war; the United States is war. For the system of white supremacy to stay in place, the United States must always be at war.
Because we are situated within different logics of white supremacy, we may misunderstand a racial dynamic if we simplistically try to explain one logic for white supremacy with another logic. For instance, think about the first scenario that opens this essay: if we simply dismiss Latino/as or Arab peoples as “white,” we fail to understand how a racial logic of Orientalism is in operation. That is, Latino/as and Arabs are often situated in a racial hierarchy that privileges them over Black people. However, while Orientalist logic may bestow them some racial privilege, they are still cast as inferior yet threatening “civilizations” in the United States. Their privilege is not a signal that they will be assimilated, but that they will be marked as perpetual foreign threats to the US world order."
Andrea Smith on Orientalism/War as 1 of 3 pillars of white supremacy
taken from Color of Violence: the INCITE! Anthology
chapter 6: heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy, rethinking women of color organizing