Our world is in incredible crisis right now, and yet, movements for greater social and economic justice are being dismissed. Those who turn away, I fear, have succumbed to the overwhelming and dominant notion that the path forward must be paved with the oppression of many so that a few may swell their financial gain. We are often battered with this vision for the future: as if it is simultaneously the best option as well as the only thing we, as a human family, are capable of.
Fasting as a form of non-violent action – the refusal to be compliant and silent in the face of profound injustice – is the tool of those who believe that every human being amounts to something more valuable than brick and mortar. Those who believe that the path of gross inequality and economic injustice is wholly and unequivocally unacceptable – primarily because it is deeply and morally wrong, and additionally because it is unsustainable in any realistic longer vision of our future.
The Campaign for Fair Food is an amplified collection of voices of farmworkers, young people, people of faith, and many other community members who are breathing life into the possibility of an alternative future. Already, in two decades, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies have made enormous gains: increased pay for farmworkers in Florida, basic rights in the field such as shade, water, and freedom from violence, and a growing partnership of actors spread across the food chain who are shaping an entirely new, concrete system that fosters dialogue, respect, and accountability. Only last week, Trader Joe’s joined the Fair Food family, demonstrating, alongside Whole Foods, that supermarkets can join the fast food and food service industries in transforming U.S. agriculture from the soil to the kitchen.
Even in the same moment that we congratulate Trader Joe’s and the nine other companies who have signed Fair Food Agreements with the CIW, there are still companies like Publix who are refusing to come to the table – who claim that their hands are clean and they have no role to play. This attitude is not only profoundly backward, given that ten companies are taking part in the Campaign, but it is incredibly dangerous. As John F. Kennedy said of those individuals and institutions who opposed the civil rights movement, “Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence.” With each day that passes that they refuse to join the Campaign, companies like Publix threaten the great but fragile gains that have been made.
It is not enough to do nothing. It is not enough to offer empty words. It is not enough to give out food to families facing poverty while actively participating in those systems which produce poverty for those who pick the food.
“If he is still saying, “Not enough,” it is because he does not feel that he should be expected to be grateful for the halting and inadequate attempts of his society to catch up with the basic rights he ought to have inherited automatically, centuries ago, by virtue of his membership in the human family” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait
That is why, as a young person profoundly invested in the future, as a Publix shopper, as a member of the human family, I am fasting for six days with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in March. I will not concede to a future which requires routine violence in the name of Publix’s profit – or a future which marks someone else’s suffering as my “gain” in the form of an artificially cheap tomato. The sustainable path that I want to construct, that I am depending on, requires dignity and respect for the whole human family – period.
February 15, 2012
D.C. Fair Food