BERKELEY, Calif., — Amidst the drudgery of 2020, anyone could use a little light amidst the darkness. Today, this takes form as political action carried out by multinational chain Whole Foods Inc., which has subsequently repaired decades of generational trauma and inequality in the Organic Food Industry.
In recent months, the company had large, outward-facing banners that read “RACISM HAS NO PLACE HERE” installed above store-entrances across the country.
Local Berkeley Whole Foods (corner of Ashby and Telegraph) partook in this historic statement, which according to staff and patrons has made waves not just locally, but societally.
“It’s just so crazy how easy it is to change oppressive structures,” said Produce-Team-Leader Michael Christianson. “Step One: We put up a sign. Step Two: People read it as they grab their shopping carts, heading in to buy exorbitantly-priced vegetables surrounded only by other shoppers who look just like them. Step Three: The hatred everywhere stops. It’s magic.”
The sign received an outpouring of positive reactions from regulars – predominantly white 40-70-year-olds – many of whom were in want of a reminder that they, too, have an influential role in promoting racial equality.
“It really touches my heart,” said one such patron, Christine Golden. “When I’m at the cash register, and the kid accumulating minimum-wage paper-cuts is bagging my $95 haul of one bell pepper, a bottle of grapefruit juice, a slice of brie, a CBD-infused dark chocolate bar, and three lemons, I can’t help just thinking to myself, this place really is for everyone. Looking around at the other customers–this community–it just hits me: I don’t see color. Whole Foods doesn’t see color. I’m so proud! Now that this sign is up, when I walk home with my brown W.F. paper bags, people see me and think ‘racial equality.’ The more people shop at Whole Foods, the more society builds this consensus we’ve built in Berkeley that racism isn’t okay in grocery stores.”
Aside from the society-fixing work, the banner has reportedly caused race-related improvements within the store, such as:
- An addendum to the ‘10-Step-Racial-Profiling-Protocol’ that expands practices to account for suspicious-looking white people, too;
- Implementation of strict Employee Apparel Conduct-Codes prohibiting the words “Black Lives Matter,” in favor of anti-racism T-shirts approved, designed, and produced only by Whole Foods; and
- Adding the phrase “Not Woke, Not Eating” under the “No Mask, No Service” requirement for entry.
These shifts are impactful, as per recent accounts from patrons like Ashley Davison.
“As a woman of color who shops at Whole Foods, I can personally attest that I have been followed in the store 20% less since that racism sign went up. For the most part, I’ve stopped getting death-stares in the produce section from other customers and–the cashiers have only accused me of using a fake credit card once this past month!” Davison said.
Employees believe the signs have helped dispel racist assumptions from their collective consciousness, teaching them that POC, too, can prefer to eat food that is not bathed in pesticides. Others feel that the signs denormalized problematic but systemically-entrenched business-practices.
“The distinction of no racism inside Whole Foods is honestly so helpful for us employees,” PR Manager Amy Cooperstein remarked. “Because this way, when we see people in the store who look like they don’t belong, if you know what I mean, we know we can only chase them and accuse them of shoplifting in the parking lot, outside.”
Recent efforts to further this work have included patron-community brainstorms for new There was a push to add “No White Privilege, No Service” as another entrance slogan, but it was shut down by executive offices citing “confusion.” Golden (previously mentioned) is involved in the project; she is currently championing production of a “WHOLE FOODS DOESN’T SEE COLOR” sign.
“We have had a lot of input about the signs,” Regional Manager Derek Levy said. “It’s kind of shocking that everyone wants to help, but it’s because they know that the most effective way to affect change in our society is by printing political statements in large letters and hanging them in windows. Why make deep economic and infrastructural changes when you can just use a sign to convince customers that they aren’t racist for shopping at a place only white people can afford?”