Bread and Justice
Guest post from baker Mo Cheeks
Hello bread friends,
I believe in the transformative power of bread, and of new relationships along the grain chain reorganizing how food is made. However, after the heinous racist massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, everything felt frivolous. Can baking unmake the gun? Unravel racism? No.
But baking remains a tool for good, and I’m glad to share the words of someone who is using bread for great good, Mo Cheeks.
I first encountered Mo when I followed #blackbakers on Instagram in the summer of 2020. As he made his Bakers Against Racism fundraisers into a permanent effort, I got very excited. Bread & Justice became a microbakery in Madison, WI that supports different nonprofits. I reached out to him for a hello, and we talked for more than an hour one night as he shaped dough for its overnight rise.
The bakery fits inside Mo’s professional and family lives. The newsletter part of this project has introduced me to his family, and his writing raises my awareness of issues, and of groups working to solve problems. Each Tuesday I look forward to reading Mo’s thoughts. Last week, he wrote about Black safety , and I’m so grateful Mo has allowed me to repost his writing. Please sign up to get his newsletter regularly.
If you are able, please consider donating to the group Bread & Justice is supporting this month, the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund, or to Black-led organizations in Buffalo that are working to end food apartheid and violence.
Thank you for reading, Amy
The early morning bread routine doesn’t typically leave me sleepy – and that’s not what I mean today.
I’m tired of the normalness of racism. I’m tired of reading about people who look like me getting killed by people that believe that my existence is a threat to their existence.
Last night I was on the phone with my little brother, and he was talking about a long drive that he has coming up. He’ll be driving from Atlanta, Georgia to Houston, Texas, with his wife and their 1-year-old baby. They aren’t in a rush, so they are planning to make the 12-hour drive stretch out for a few days. He paused as he described this desire to drive through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, with several stops along the way. The pause was to collect the words to let me know that he was going to be cognizant of his surroundings and intentional about his route. He explained that he wouldn’t be driving his family through certain parts of these states and wouldn’t be driving at night. We had an uncomfortable laugh about the still-standing slave houses, confederate flags, memorials to so-called “civil war heroes”, and avoiding getting lynched.
But the laugh was to mask the fear. The fear is that his black family can have no expectation of safety from racist violence in certain parts of this country.
I said I’m tired of reading about people like me getting killed by people that believe that my existence is a threat to their existence… but I’m really tired of knowing that white Americans keep getting fed racist ideas like The Great Replacement Theory in broad daylight.
If you’ve been reading much news since the racist hate-crime / mass shooting in Buffalo, NY… you may have seen plenty of references to that mass murder’s beliefs in “The Great Replacement Theory.”
The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies. They define this theory as such:
The Great Replacement Theory is an ethno-nationalist theory warning that an indigenous European—e.g., white—population is being replaced by non-European immigrants. The Great Replacement concept was popularized by French writer Renaud Camus in his 2012 book, Le Grand Remplacement (“The Great Replacement”). Camus postulated that black and brown immigrants were reverse-colonizing native “white” Europeans.
Ethno-nationalist groups around the world such as the American Identity Movement and Generation Identity profess the Great Replacement Theory. These two specific groups claim to be non-violent, but others on the far right have used the Great Replacement Theory to justify violence. For example, Brenton Tarrant—who killed 51 people during attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019—titled his manifesto after the theory and warned of a white genocide. Patrick Crusius—who killed 21 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on August 3, 2019—also subscribed to the Great Replacement Theory. Violent white nationalists believe they are ensuring the survival of their own race through violence against other ethnicities.
This piece written by a security professor was titled The Jan. 6 Insurrectionists Aren’t Who You Think They Are. In it, he makes the case that the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol weren’t the poor, unemployed red-staters often described as suffering from economic anxiety. Many were middle-class professionals motivated by the “great replacement” conspiracy theory.
In the article, he references Tucker Carlson by name. If you do much reading about right-wing extremism, this FOX News commentator’s name will come up frequently. The reason why is because he has a not small role to play in making extreme theories like this one mainstream to his audience of millions of viewers. Just a few weeks ago, the New York Times did a big story on how he uses his platform as the most-watched show on cable news to spread fear and resentment actively amongst his audience.
Today, one in three Americans believes in some type of ‘replacement theory’ according to recent survey findings by AP-NORC. So when I think about right-wing racist extremist views going mainstream… that is what I mean.
Anyway… I know I said that I’m tired of reading about people like me getting killed by people that believe that my existence is a threat to their existence… and that I’m really tired of knowing that white Americans keep getting fed racist ideas like The Great Replacement Theory in broad daylight…
But I think I’m especially tired of this feeling of despair that creeps in during times like this… the fear that this 32% of Americans will keep growing, and things won’t change because not enough people care to do anything about it.
But in times like this, I try to remind myself of you all. This cool little community of humans put their money where their hearts are and invest in trying to make society slightly more just in various ways.
Thanks for being people that aren’t apathetic. You all give me hope that society can get better.
I really hope that my kids will feel welcome to enjoy visiting all of the corners of this country someday without fear of resentment from strangers that could manifest itself in violence.