Over the last week the James Beard Foundation has been quiet. In our silence we have been coming to terms with the enormity of the work we have to do as an organization.
The murder of George Floyd and the protests against the racialized police brutality and injustices Black people have faced in this country for centuries have galvanized our organization’s commitment to racial justice. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
We acknowledge that solidarity is not enough, and that we have more work to do in centering anti-racism in our messaging, our programs, and our own internal structure and staff. The James Beard Foundation has an all-white leadership team and an overwhelmingly white board of trustees. We know this must change and are committed to making the change.
For more than 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has stood for excellence in the restaurant industry. But we have never fully acknowledged that this industry was built upon a culture of oppression and privilege. A culture that oppresses the Black and Brown people who make up nearly 50 percent of America’s food and beverage workers, and one that perpetuates inequities from wage disparity to harassment to outright violence, cannot rightfully be considered excellent by any moral standard.
Although the concept of equity has been part of our mission for years—to make the world more equitable, sustainable, and delicious for everyone—we realize the limitations of our understanding of what equity really means.
It’s past time to acknowledge that the white privilege that keeps us safe is a weapon used against our Black colleagues and community. It is imperative for white people to face our privilege, to gather our white family members, friends, coworkers, and community members and fight for the rights, freedoms, and self-determination of Black people.
In a time of economic uncertainty and political division, facing a global pandemic, brave people around the country have risen. We join them and we commit to make real, substantive change in our organization and in our industry so that their efforts will not have been in vain.
We will be sharing updates over the coming weeks on the James Beard Foundation’s priorities, funding, and programs, as well as resources for our audience to join in the Black Lives Matter in an effort to dismantle systemic racism. Racial equity must be at the core of any and all of our efforts to build back a better industry, as humble, open partners.