November, November

November, a time of transition. As the earth cools, the leaves change and fall. Winter comes to fruition.

Rain turns to snow as a white blanket falls upon the earth. Casually caressing the land with its frigid glow.

As the earth experiences change, we too participate in transformation. Growing stronger, growing smarter, with each and every exchange.

We become in tune with the earth. Using her gift to add flame to the hearth.

A warm light floods the space as sensation returns to my face.

The ice begins to crack, the sun melts the snow. Quenching the thirst of the earth, and each and every crow.

Buds begin to bloom, a rich color sweeps over the earth almost like a broom.

The change has gradually become complete. Gathering my senses, I calmly climb to my feet.

The sun scalds my eyes, as a slow burn returns to my thighs.

The winter has come to an end and November has given me a new friend.

Another year of evolution, a step closer to the end solution.

Never to forget, but always to remember.


A Man Moved Away Today

A man moved away today.

Not just any man, a very special man.

A son moved away today.

A son who was loyal to his mother and father.

A brother moved away today.

A brother who learned from and loved his siblings.

A friend moved away today.

A friend that made everyone feel welcome, even the stranger.

A lover moved away today.

A lover whose tenderness can never be replaced.

My best friend moved away today.

A best friend who’s place I’d rather take.

Where he’s moved, I am not sure.

Why he’s gone, I’ll never know.

In the meantime, I’ll wait.

And love him like he’s never gone.

Muddled Meditations

Sometimes I sit and wonder.

What it’d be like to be a bug.

To spend all day,

Crawling or perhaps flying.


Incessantly searching for,

Whatever it is they need.

Food? Water?

Why even bother?



I realize not much is different.

Between me,

And a little bug.

Our search coincides,

Around that which is inside.


Their world, my world.

Both revolve around the same thing.

One tiny life except upright.

Walking, or perhaps running into decay.

Report Finds Widespread Racial, Economic Disparities In Bloomington-Normal

For the past 15 weeks, I have worked on a research project examining social justice issues in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. The local chapter of Not In Our Town (NIOT), a non-profit organization that fights against bigotry and discrimination, commissioned my graduate sociology class to ‘hold up a mirror’ of the Bloomington-Normal community, reflecting back the good and the bad.

The project was wide in scope. We conducted focus groups and interviews, analyzed crime and segregation data, produced GIS maps, analyzed archival research and performed case studies of best practices employed by other community organizations. What we found was both disheartening and hopeful.

The results from this project were publicly presented to local residents, community leaders, elected officials, as well as faculty and students of Illinois State University.

Prior to the presentation, I participated in a radio interview with the local public radio. I was joined by two of my colleagues who also participated in the research. Some of the findings that were shared in the radio interview can be found HERE.

The professor of the course, Dr. Frank Beck, also interview with the local radio station and shared some information about the project as well as some of the findings. Further information from that interview can also be found in this article.

Overall, the project was very rewarding. We learned a lot about the community we all live in. I am excited for the future of Bloomington-Normal and for the implications of our research.

Massagenistic Swine

The man, he gets drunk off wine

To this girl, his medals shine.

With privilege and honor

He comes down upon her.

As if with each beat of the chest

He shows he is the best.

Behind the mask, is his true grime

Each day, living a crime.

The man, he goes to smother

In his eyes he must have her.

In search of his crest

He holds tight to her breast.

He now, hard as pine

Exposes he really is swine.

To him, she is a goner

He did his best to con her.

In contentment, the man rolls over to rest

The blade, she drives it through his chest.

Illinois Mountains

The flatland has mountains too.

You just can’t see them,

you can only feel them.

The mountains, they come in waves.

Sometimes nonstop,

other times not so much.

Very rarely are they quiet, the mountains.

Sometimes a low drone,

other times a screaming whine.

They, the mountains, are always cold and rarely warm.

Sometimes chilling to the bone,

other times cooling sweat.

The flatland has mountains too, I say.

You just can’t look upon them,

you can only be within them.

The Color of Food: A Critical Examination of Race in Natural-Grocers and Farmer’s Markets


Food scholars have found that some areas within the alternative food movement, such as farmer’s markets and natural-grocers, operate as exclusionary spaces that primarily serve privileged white shoppers. The rhetoric used, attitudes upheld and physical characteristics of these spaces ostracize non-white individuals, effectively making the high quality, organic and locally grown food inaccessible to them. This ethnographic study examines a natural grocer and farmer’s market in Boulder, CO, utilizing the usage of qualitative interviews, a secondary sample, participatory observation and discursive analysis.

Through these methods, similar results were found in conjunction with the previously completed literature on this topic. First off, this research argues that the natural-grocer and farmer’s market are overwhelmingly white spaces and are fraught with simultaneous conspicuous and inconspicuous modes of exclusion. With these characteristics in play, it is argued that the alternative food movement, in the form of farmer’s markets and natural-grocers, is inhibited from its true potential of serving diverse populations. Lastly, this study will attempt to offer up some ideas for improvements in these areas in hopes of turning the white spaces of many (not all) farmer’s markets and natural-grocers into locations that accurately depict and welcome the vibrant community working for them and surrounding them.

The Absence of Foreign Language

In whiteness theory, color-blindness is when the absence of racial identifiers in language is seen as non-racist. Alfalfa’s is inherently a color-blind institution because of its location in the city of Boulder, a predominately white and affluent community. However, the key word here is predominately because Boulder also has a large native non-white population. It is also an international tourist destination and home to thousands of foreign students. Due to the absence of foreign language at Alfalfa’s, some of these people are automatically unable to shop there or struggle their way through the process of translation. None of the items sold, or menus advertising the food at Alfalfa’s are bi-lingual. The only presence of another language is a decorative Chinese or Japanese symbol above the seafood and sushi section.

The absence of foreign languages transforms Alfalfa’s into a white space. The language used at Alfalfa’s makes white people perceive this landscape as normal and natural while non-whites could feel uncomfortable and unwelcome (McCullen 2001). When writing about alternative food institutions Guthman (2008) ascertains, “Few people of color attend these programs; many feel isolated, and excluded…not only because of the language employed but also in fear of challenging” (p.394). In the case of Alfalfa’s, the language employed is English and the idea of convincing an entire corporation to include bi-lingual items and signs is a monumental task, even for a white person. The complete absence of a foreign language at Alfalfa’s discourages and dissuades non-whites from shopping there, inherently defending the whiteness perpetuated there.

White Savior Imagery

Alfalfa’s is very heavily focused on providing local, sustainable, and organic products to their customers. With this mission of providing high quality foods, also comes a commitment to the environment. The institution is very much concerned with minimizing their carbon footprint, further placing this commitment onto their customers. Patrons of Alfalfa’s are encouraged to recycle, compost, re-use and only when absolutely necessary, throw something away. As customers walk to the trash bins to recycle, or compost they read a “Did You Know?” placard. The sign reads, “Did you know we diverted 4,105 food packets, 38,561 energy bar wrappers, 2,658 beauty care packages and over 13,230 bags from land fills?” This is no doubt good work, and promotes sustainability awareness, however it paints a white face over the alternative food movement; because majority of the employees and customers of Alfalfa’s are white, it creates a white savior image, attributing all the good work to white people.

The sign ignores the other persons involved in the process and points all the success to the white customers and employees privileged enough to shop there. There is no reference towards the waste management employees who are doing majority of the dirty work, if not all, transporting and processing the conveniently disposed of trash. Slocum (2007) perfectly describes the effect of this, “These well-intentioned food practices reveal both the transformative potential of progressive whiteness and its capacity to become exclusionary in spite of itself. Whiteness coheres precisely, therefore, in the act of ‘doing good’” (p. 520). The “Did You Know?” signage placed all around the store effectively disconnects the races, creating an unrealistic image of who is really responsible for sustainability practices, and ultimately, saving the earth.

Perpetuation of Whiteness

Looking further into the language used at Alfalfa’s, I found that whiteness is not only defended through rhetoric, but also prolonged. Alfalfa’s provides numerous local options for produce, and other products in their store. Each is labeled uniquely, informing the customer where it came from. In addition, scattered throughout the store (almost like a brainwashing technique) are signs that read, “Shop Local, Shop Alfalfa’s”. Language such as this is an example of the prolongation of whiteness because it creates what Alkon and McCullen call the “white farm imaginary”.

Customers of Alfalfa’s valorize the predominately white vendors who “grow their food”, rendering invisible the low-paid predominately non-white workers who do the bulk of the cultivation (Alkon and McCullen 2011). The “Shop Local, Shop Alfalfa’s” signage fetishizes the products, creating a white and ideal conceptualization of embeddedness (within a community and lifestyle of sustainable living) that seductively brings patrons back time and time again. Alkon and McCullen argue, “…The color of faces customers see at the market influences who they believe grows the food they buy, and in the case of our markets, confirms the customers’ notion that sustainable agriculture is done by white family farmers” (p.946). Similarly, employees and customers of Alfalfa’s hold romantic notions of what farmers and community members should look like that both defend and perpetuate an affluent habitus of whiteness.


The lack of color at alternative food sites constructs color-blind conceptualizations in the minds of white patrons and farmers. This in turn is acted upon using mechanisms of racism such as racist language (McCullen 2001; Guthman 2008). When examining a place like Alfalfa’s with a sociological imagination I also found this to be true. The signs, menus, and labels all maintained an unfortunate white mentality. The racist discourse paired with the complete lack of foreign language inadvertently excludes potential non-white customers.

Furthering the exclusion is the insider ambiance found at natural grocers. The attitudes attached to shopping sustainably, local and organic are inherently white. Valiente-Neighbours (2012) writes, “The unequivocal celebration of the local foodshed neglects a discussion about the power relations and social inequalities (such as racism or sexism) within the supposed “foodshed” or locality” (p. 533). In the case of Alfalfa’s, the “celebration” that Valiente-Neighbours brings to light is connected to the insider ambiance. The ambiance has a universal quality, in other words it is assumed to be widely shared and normal. This is precisely the ambiance’s ostracizing characteristic, othering whoever else does not fit into it; because Alfalfa’s is such a white space, the insider ambiance is therefore white, further gentrifying color to the fringe.

Additionally, whiteness theory gives a perspective in which to analyze the different aspects of white privilege at play in the alternative food movement.  McIntosh (1989) vividly depicts white privilege “as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless backpack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and bank checks” (p. 1). Within that knapsack is not only the access to high-quality organic food, but also leisure time to enjoy shopping in a space overwhelmingly your own color, down to the words being read or spoken. To have such good food with such willing employees to serve you is a privilege. Alfalfa’s disproportionately benefits white people and provides pathways to block attempts to change it.

The mere completion of my participant observation and involvement in academic research is an item of white privilege. Along with that is the privilege to further the research, to continue asking questions. Whiteness studies and the alternative food movement create an incredibly interesting intersection. Racial studies of food are a crucial focal point in the flattening of the uneven road that is the alternative food movement. With that, I believe my study contributes some questions, or tools if you will, to help galvanize the construction. (1) What physical changes can be made to natural-grocers in order create a more encompassing environment, further creating a more inclusive ambiance? (2) With a better understanding of privilege, how would the interactions within natural grocers between whites and non-whites change? However, physical changes to the landscape will not completely solve the inequitable characteristics found within the alternative food movement. A social revolution is needed; a type of awareness that sweeps over the color-blind rhetoric and universal whiteness, adding color to the alternative food movement and exposing the truly vibrant communities surrounding the markets. Hopefully in the future, the veil overshadowing the inequitable alternative food business will be torn away, revealing the true structure and color of food.