White Fragility and Joel Salatin’s ‘Good Food’ Framework: Daring to Critique the Mainstream Food and Sustainability Movement’s White Hero

(Copyright Dr. Amie 'Breeze' Harper)
(Copyright Dr. Amie ‘Breeze’ Harper)

Updated October 13, 2015

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ve figure out that I’ve begun to use ‘fake’ advertisements to inspire dialog about the [white] elephant in the [dining] room. Recently, I wrote about what it means to propose permaculture workshops or retreats in ‘sundown’ towns (i.e., assuming everyone is white and will feel comfortable and safe in a ‘sundown’ region of the USA to learn permaculture). The post was called, Grow Your Own Food, Be Sustainable…[Just Be Out By Sundown if You Don’t Look Like Taylor Swift]. I’ve also decided to organize an event for the San Francisco Bay area in 2016 called “THE ROLE OF FOODIE+TECH CULTURE IN AN ERA OF SYSTEMIC RACISM AND NEOLIBERAL CAPITALISM.”

After my thoughts about permaculture workshops and ‘sundown’ towns, I wrote the below piece after an experience with some more unacknowledged white elephants in the room on a community food list serv. It comes from a place of “engaged mindfulness” that I hope will inspire certain folk to unsilence themselves and engage in some heavy self-criticality about whiteness.

[Originally Written on September 4, 2015]

What I learned last night: Never question certain white man ‘gurus’ of the food sustainability movement. Never critique how a significant number of them uphold racist, sexist, white supremacist and colonialist framings of ‘food sustainability’ (some unconsciously, some consciously).  After receiving a post about Joel Salatin having been chosen as a judge for a soil contest,  I did just that on the COMFOOD listserv: I broke the golden rule. I have read a lot of critiques of Salatin that show his framing of food sustainability as white supremacist libertarian, sexist, and neoliberal capitalist. I ask the woman who posted about he being selected as a judge this:

Was wondering how the contest works given the documented history of Salatin’s publicly outspoken views that are racist, xenophobic, and sexist. How can contestants be assured that he will be ‘objective’ when judging if the contestant is not a white man?

Despite me providing about 4-5 citations from peer reviewed social science based articles that critique Salatin, it was not enough. It was implied that I was being divisive and that I was hurting people’s feelings. It was an intensely unique display of white fragility

Someone from a food sustainability institute privately emailed me. A self identified white man, he was incredibly distraught by what I had publicly asked/stated about Salatin. He explained to me that he knows Salatin quite well and that they have had heated/spirited disagreements but that Salatin has never used ‘bigoted’ language before. I was disappointed because the comment came across as such: to uphold racist and sexist systems simply means one calls a Black person a “nigger” or calls a woman a “cunt”. Hence, since he doesn’t use that type of language, he is clearly not racist or sexist.

He then asked that I provide evidence. So, I provided him with 4 citations hyperlinked to full documents (and these included a dissertation and 3 peer reviewed social science based papers). He then explained to me that he didn’t have time to look through all those documents and that should draw out several quotes to substantiate my claims. My logic is that it doesn’t make sense to pull a quote out of context, so reading the full document would allow people to draw their own conclusions. I kindly asked him to do it himself.

So, I wondered if he was distraught over the possibility that the company one keeps says a lot about him as a person. It’s difficult to find out that a friend you consider close could maybe be a racist…a sexist…etc. But, at the same time, I honestly do not understand how my initial question created a huge uproar. And in addition, I got a lot of private emails from people who totally agreed with my questions…but they were only privately emailed me. They did not write it publicly on COMFOOD. That I can tell, only one other person (a Black woman) supported my concerns. So, it would only seem that me and this other Black Identified anti-racist food sustainability woman were in agreement, publicly (And the way my messages cascade, perhaps I missed those who did publicly support it, so apologies if there were more and I just couldn’t see it). But, I wanted to know: What are people scared of? Why is it so problematic for most to publicly respond that they have the same concerns as I do about Salatin’s framing of food sustainability? Is the mainstream food & sustainability movement so powerful that you’re not supposed to mess with them publicly or they will destroy you? 

Now is the time to be public about it. Yes, I appreciate you writing me privately, but please find the courage to show your solidarity publicly– especially white allies. Strength in numbers, please.

Here is a response I emailed to one of the people who wrote me privately, in support of my concern:

The conversation is intense, but I’m enjoying it. It’s fascinating to see that some folk have interpreted my actions as being divisive. I thought it was valid to point out concerns if someone has a viewpoint that could perpetuate systems of oppression (unconscious or conscious). As a mom of three very young Black children, I have been thinking a lot of my responsibility of pointing out when very influential figures (in food and beyond) have perspectives that uphold racist, sexist, etc ideologies that this USA was founded upon. I have been thinking a lot about how certain people will take negative ideas and ‘build’ on them. Maybe they were at an event and heard someone imply that women are inferior or that they aren’t really concerned about the the plight of working class Black moms in urban areas (that are struggling due to systems of white supremacist structuring of resources since colonialism). And then hearing this plants seeds in their minds. [The] Mainstream [good food movement] don’t want to hear this, but seriously, if these things are not nipped in the bud or called out, it could produce the next Dylann Roof. Even if that was not the intention, that could happen. [I] too was called out about my framing of ethical consumption rooted in cis-sexist and ableist language. It was not my intention, but instead of having a fit, I LISTENED to the non-conforming gender communities and people living with disabilities; I read the critical theories around it to understand how I was complicit and how even [though] it was not my intention, I was was cis-sexist and ableist [in my framing of veganism].

I also learned that most of COMFOOD are not really into vegetarianism or veganism. Seems like local and sustainable includes eating animals and animal byproducts… so, when I cited an article that critiqued Salatin’s framework that also critiqued locavorism, people also seemed quite irritated with that. I had provided the paper to point out the critique along the lines of race and gender and didn’t realize it would irritate some folk that it was also critiquing eating animals. One of the best articles I read that critiques Salatin is “The Celebrity of Salatin: Can a Famous Lunatic Farmer Change the Food System?” It can’t get any more concrete than that (i.e. the problems with his sexist and white conservative libertarian framework). And yes, it’s a white supremacist neoliberal framing of food and sustainability when you publicly admit that you aren’t really concerned about Black moms in the inner city struggling to feed their children (because hey, they don’t have buying power like white soccer moms). This is exactly what Salatin states.

With thousands of followers, such a framing of food and sustainability teaches this to those who already don’t have to think about the consequences of US racial caste system on food, consumption, and agriculture: that they should continue framing food and sustainability without the need to understand how systemic racism and white supremacy have organized power and resources in a way that creates the struggle for easier food access for a significant number of Black moms in the inner city. Once again, though not intentional, this is a framing of food and sustainability that has racist/racialized consequences.  White soccer moms have value in this food and sustainability equation, framed within a neoliberal context.  

And let’s not forget that up until recently, he did not allow women to intern on his farm because they are women. Clearly, he has a masculinist sexist framing of gender and roles, no? Yes, this is a sexist framing of food and sustainability. So yes, my concern is totally legitimate and not divisive at all. I’m pointing out the white elephant in the room.

The day after I sent out my question to COMFOOD, A white identified man privately emailed me and asked that I publicly apologize/refute what I had said about Salatin to COMFOOD (despite me providing documents that show why I asked the questions I did). It is unclear to me what purpose this would serve, other than to derail the much needed dialogue about race, food, whiteness, and power.

All I’m asking people to do is to rethink the implications of his framework, despite him never having used ‘bigoted’ language. Just like I was asked to do the same about my cis-sexist and ableist framing of veganism. It doesn’t mean he isn’t knowledgable about alternative farming methods. I’m not saying that he has contributed nothing to sustainable farming movement. This is not what this post is about. Within a USA system of racism, normative whiteness, sexism, and neoliberal capitalism, how does his framing of food and sustainability dismantle or uphold these systems? In the context of he judging soil, if he knows the identity of the person who cultivated the soil (i.e., if they are or are not a white cisgender identified man), how will this affect how he judges the ‘best’ soil? And I’m asking this question whether his intentions are rooted in conscious or unconscious bias.

I have been told that I am implying that Salatin is an ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ person; that I am paralleling his behavior to that of ‘Nazis.’  Listen, you don’t have to be a ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ person to sustain and support systems of oppression. It’s not about that. Ignorance is the problem. I was ignorant about my cis-sexist and ableist framing of veganism. I am absolutely sure that I created a lot of damage and harm due to my ignorance. I don’t have to suddenly become all fragile about the possibility that I’m not some ‘good person’. That’s not the point. The point is to admit that your ignorances are due to privilege, and that they have real consequences (whether or not you intended). The point is to acknowledge it, admit it, be compassionate to yourself that you screwed up, and find out what you can do (in solidarity) with the communities that your privilege, power, and ignorance negatively affected. Fragility is not an option.

Hear Dr. DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility, explain why it’s so hard for most white people to talk about race in this video below:

Just some food for thought. And check out her book about developing white racial literacy skills here.

( As of October 13 , 2015, I decided to unsubscribe from COMFOOD. So, I don’t know if white identified members on there will ever engage further with the problems I pointed out in this article. )
Like what the Sistah Vegan Project Does? Find out about our 2016 upcoming conference “The Role of Foodie+Tech Culture in an Era of Systemic Racism and Neoliberal Capitalism”. If you missed our Spring 2015, “The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter” you can download the recordings with slides, here

Also, learn about our other projects and how you can donate to keep the Sistah Vegan Project alive and vibrant.

41 thoughts on “White Fragility and Joel Salatin’s ‘Good Food’ Framework: Daring to Critique the Mainstream Food and Sustainability Movement’s White Hero

  1. Oh wow. Thank you for asking the question about his ability to be a “judge”. I’m sorry that you were then subjected to dismay and folks running around and waving their arms and generally acting as if you did something awful….and shame on them for being unwilling to engage instead of going to pieces.

    It is regretfully true that white people (most especially those determined to cling to privilege via the strength of their willful ignorance) often act as if being asked a question was akin to assault. I don’t know if Dr. DiAngelo was prescient enough to know how widely known and referenced her paper about White Fragility was going to become back when she published in 2011 but…it is remarkable how accurate and penetrating many of her observations were and are.

    The tactic of attacking the messenger (or in this case, the questioner) is ridiculous and counter-productive as well as being suggestive of evasiveness. Given Mr. Saladin’s rather extensive track-record of apparent sexist leanings and other oppressive framings…he…and his supporters…probably have much to be evasive about.

    It’s usually a good indicator of something being hidden or avoided when the mere asking of a question evokes the kinds of reactions you received. I was especially struck by the one fellow who was asking you to not only provide references but also to summarize them for him…that one was rather pitiful and sort of funny. One has to wonder why he wasn’t already familiar with them.

    If you were being “divisive” by asking a question…we need lots and lots more folks being “divisive”. Thank you.

  2. Was he judging a soil contest? Where was the contest? You feel that he wouldn’t have been able to judge soil?

    1. If he is judging soil and the contestant who cultivated the soil that is being tested is present (or he knows what they look like), will he judge that soil without being biased about who cultivated it. Thanks for asking so I can clarify.

  3. The tropes of “the complainer is always wrong” and “no good deed goes unpunished” tend to be very tragic when it comes to antiracists/vegans/etc.

  4. Hi Dr Harper,Do you have any idea’s on how Joel and other people can help to remedy the situation you are describing?
    Some practical steps.
    Sure everyone can talk about these issues but how could someone like Mr Salatin,structurally change to better assist the local food movement.
    I am currently working with women and men in Brasil creating local food systems at a subsistence level.Some of the systems we use closely mimic Mr Salatin’s.
    We do use animals in the systems and we do use and slaughter them for food.
    We believe that we have a agricultural system that actively repairs land and meets human needs with a net benefit to the environment.
    We have increasing fertility and decreasing costs over time,which financially assists the farmers to create better outcomes for themselves.
    We did sit down and discuss not involving animals in these systems,however it was overwhelmingly rejected.
    I do believe and so do the small farmers I work with that local and sustainable can mean eating animals,although don’t eat these products myself.
    Thanks for your article it is food for thought.
    Best wishes

  5. Why do people always want to blame someone else for their oppression? Like we aren’t all oppressed. What is wrong with Libertarianism? Do you want the government to solve all of our problems, or just create more?

    1. Yes they do they absolutely want government to solve every problem. They really do, I read this article and all I see is a militant vegan that hates a man for being good at what he does and tries to slander him due to it. To claim a man is a racist because he simply sells local and doesn’t apologize for the price of his food is foolish. There are two men that the militant vegans hate, Salatin and Savory, they hate them because they can’t debate their results.

      Hence personal attacks.

      If I were Salatin I would sue this person for calling me a racist!

      1. Your response sounds like that of a person who has done very little to no reading by academics in anti-racism. It’s not intent that defines an outcome, it’s the outcome that determines the outcome.

      2. Calling out racist behavior is critical to creating a world that works for all. It’s a gift to the person being called out, because they are being ineffective at best, and likely offensive to many.

        I encourage you to learn more about the basic principles of anti-racism.

      3. “I read this article and all I see is a militant vegan that hates a man for being good at what he does and tries to slander him due to it.”
        Then that says everything about your frame of mind and nothing about the author. The article contained no personal attacks on Salatin. And again, if you read criticisms of his actions and documented words as that, it again, gives us insight into your frame of mind. Not into this article or the author.

  6. Permaculture (and family) is overly framed around the individual and preaching to the choir that can afford to be there, which makes it seem like an elitist white mans wet dream. It looks like the message is: “Lets run away to our idyllic enclave of goodness and bask in the bounties of our food forest to cover up and pretend away our privileges.” Each time we gather in our so-called perfect little gatherings we attempt to smother our hidden guilt and shame by ignoring the white elephant sitting on our face – the fact that just around the relative corner, on the other side of the tracks so to speak, are thousands of people struggling, languishing and suffering under the weight of the aftermath of racial imperialism. If Permaculture was framed first and foremost around the strength of people, humanity, human potential, the collective struggle,racial and social justice and serving those most in need (using the guiding principles of the civil rights movements) then it would grow stronger, deeper roots that would enable it to become everything it was supposed to be. 40 plus years down the road it is still looking very, very white and feeble.

    1. Hi Ratsack you make some good points.No movement is perfect.Probably all you say is true, in some cases.I have used PC design in my toolbox over a number of years.Fortunately there are any number of people, millions in fact outside the paradigm you are describing.Quietly using what is an excellent design methodology to improve their lives.They are more often than not the victims and the ones who are suffering under the weight you describe.I also know that there are any number of selfless ,aware people fighting in the social justice,environment and civil rights movement that use the design science of Permaculture to create lasting positive outcomes.I think that this is an important distinction to make as well.There is the methodology,and the movement and they don’t necessarily go hand in hand.I would say that the three ethics of PC Earth care fair share and people care a a great starting point but greater clarity on how to carry them out is probably required.Deeper roots are formed on common ground understanding and honest communication.Thanks for the reply i have taken away some good information.

      1. Permaculture is a doacracy, people that do shit, get to decide how shit gets done. And it is a meritocracy as well, those that get good results, reap the rewards.

        The reasons so many of you are frustrated by Permaculture are as follows.

        1. It isn’t what you think it is, it is not a political movement, it is an anti political movement. Holmgren and Mollison are anarchists.

        2. It isn’t what you think it is, it is not a form or social justice it is a design science.

        3. The founders being anarchists made sure NO ONE WAS “in charge”, that it would always evolve and be immune to the iron law of bureaucracy.

        “Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

        First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

        Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

        The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.”

        I have noticed that all of the people so concerned about things like, “we need more transgender people in permaculture” or other such idiocy are bureaucratic types. They want control, they want to tell others what they should do. Now let me be clear I don’t care if a person is transgender, gay, female, I think they should do what they most want to do.

        But not people that I consider the purple breathers of permaculture. They want rules, their rules of course, they want people to have to do things the way they would do them if they could, problem is they can’t do for a variety of reasons, though excuses is a better word. They can’t do because they can’t make a dollar of profit farming, because they don’t have a clue how.

        So they want a place at the table, more accurately the desk. The administrators desk. Problem is there is no desk in Permaculture, and there never will be. You will never be seen as valuable to the movement by attacking anyone, good or bad. You can only be seen as valuable for what you get done, how well you teach and the results of those you teach above your own.

        Doesn’t matter if you are white or black. Doesn’t matter if you are male, female or other. Doesn’t matter if you inherit family land or bust your ass and come from poverty (as I did). No one cares, no one that matters anyway is going to care.

        Doacracy and meritocracy.

        As to the militant vegan stance and if it even fits into Permaculture, I leave you with this,

        “There are no vegetarians, only repressed carnivores” ~ Bill Mollison


    Actually, I critique the both omnivorous and vegan movements who have ‘gurus’ that promote post-racial and/or masculinist framing of “ethical consumption”– whether conscious or not of their behavior. I then explain the consequences of this framing. As stated in my post, you can be a “good” person and still engage in thought processes and actions that have negative impact if you don’t understand how your gender, racial, able-bodied, sizest, etc privileges shape your sense of ‘ethical’.

    Your suggestion to be “Sued” is an excellent example of derailing this conversation and is an example of invoking white fragility.

    I’m not about screaming, yelling, being angry. Though not necessarily perfect, my method has always been “engaged mindfulness” to broach difficult topics about power, privilege, systems, and consumption. I never considered suing the transgender women who publicly called me cis-sexist. I paid attention and am still trying to unlearn my cis-sexist cultured consciousness because yes, though intended or not, my framing of vegan was cissexist! Quite a few still publicly label me as “cis-sexist” and call the Sistah Vegan Project “Cistah Vegan Project”. I’ll continue to listen and not have these angry and reactive responses that I do witness from mostly “white” people when I point out their “racist” framing of [type in this practice].

    I also critique Afrocentric vegan rhetoric and their gurus such as Queen Afua (African american vegan) for promoting cis-sexist framing of healthy “black community” or making the assumption that all Black women will partner with a Black man. One of my dissertation chapters critiqued afrocentric veganism and also showed how positive it has been.

    1. To be called a white supremacist is libel in this case as it is written. It is unfounded and not based on anything but what a social science book says. It is an unfounded attack on a public personality and an attempt to damage him with unfounded accusations.

      The entire article can be summed up with,

      I can’t show you anything this man actually did or said that is actually racist but he is racist because of what a social science book says.

      Sorry that dog won’t hunt. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame from this article but it won’t last.

      If you want to make a difference in sustainable ag, you better get focused on soil, planting, trees, animals in systems and learn to make it profitable. You will never make a difference by putting down others, even when your right, let alone with baseless accusations.

      1. JJSPIKO I am a white Brit. Looking from the other side of the Atlantic, I see a clearly white supremacist culture in the USA – and then, reflecting back, in the UK as well. I am also a vegan permaculturist – Bill Mollison does not define me. Firstly, as a human – I am an omnivore, there are no human carnivores as any biological science book will tell you.

        I own and take responsibility for the privileges which mean that I can plant trees on land owned by another white friend, and cultivate a balanced vegan diet in soil to which I have secure access over the seasons.

        I have learned more, of more value, from Dr A Breeze Harper than I ever learned from Bill Mollision.

        Can I suggest that you sit down, stop talking and start listening to Dr Harper, who has extensive academic knowledge and lived experience of food, culture and systemic racism? From reading what you’ve written here, you could learn a lot if you just step aside from your white ego.

        [For the record, my Ph.D. is in infrared astrophysics, from the University of Cambridge, England.]

      2. Hi Spirko. So in this country white people (myself included) grow up with the view that to be ‘racist’ is to be bigoted and do or say bad things to others. That is one form of racism, but it is not the pernicious kind that is still enforcing systems of racism. White People Being Dismissive or Indifferent is actually the kind of racism that held up slavery, Jim Crow, and the new system we have now of lower-caste blacks. (There’s a whole book that makes that point ‘The New Jim Crow’).

        Yes, Joel’s comments appear that he is Indifferent, and yes that makes him racist. It’s the same racism that I and all white people must learn to train ourselves out of because it is taught to us. He’s evil in the same way I’m evil and you are evil. We grow up being indifferent because our white world trains us so.

        We don’t need Joel to save the world, but to acknowledge something like “My farm doesn’t concern itself with the plight of urban black Moms but other farms and people do and I think that’s important” still gives a nod to the importance of the WHOLE food system needing to change.

      3. Jack Spirko several degrees worse than Salatin IMO. He will randomly go off into tirades about “minorities and poor people whining” on his podcast (more frequently nowadays) and it just completely turns me off.

        Yeah I know he isn’t referring to a specific race or using direct slurs or anything but we all pretty much know what he means and what he’s saying.

        I actually emailed him once to try to get him to stop bringing up this entirely unfair, unnecessary, and inappropriate subject. (Seriously, I’m a non-white poor who lives in the city, is he talking about me?)

        He immediately turned it into a free speech issue and accused me of being a SJW and blocked me.

        He may be entirely unaware of it, but he regularly says some pretty racist shit on his show, and I can’t really listen anymore.

  8. I think you are having a different conversation to Dr Harper Jack.It’s you own agenda you are promoting.

    I’m having trouble with this.

    “I have noticed that all of the people so concerned about things like, “we need more transgender people in permaculture” or other such idiocy are bureaucratic types. They want control, they want to tell others what they should do. Now let me be clear I don’t care if a person is transgender, gay, female, I think they should do what they most want to do.”

    This statement affects me,I am one of those people that would like to see more trans gendered people in PC.Either you are calling me out as a person who is an idiot and a bureaucrat and someone who wants control.Or you are wrong.I am putting it to you that you are wrong.

    I have a body of work that stretches from the early nineties and dozens of successful projects.Again I would remind you that PC is a tool that many people share and divisive comments like this only seeks to diminish the value of the tool.Using Holgrem’s principal of integrate and not segregate,your statement is not inline with PC practice.
    Best wishes

    1. If you want to see more transgendered people in permaculture what are you doing about it? I think what JJ Spirko is saying is people who make statements like that tend to want to other people to do something about it. I’m black and female and would like to see more people of color in permaculture, but I try to spread the word and offer support for anyone whose interested in permaculture. There’s no board or governing body in permaculture, that’s oppressing certain groups and keeping them out of permaculture. When I go to permaculture meetups I’m the only person of color there usually. So maybe the better question is what needs to be done to involve more underrepresented groups in permaculture?

  9. The irony is that I’d never even heard of Dr Harper before the likes of JJ Spirko and the other guy who publicly stated that he’d like to beat her death with a crowbar started ranting about her on the Regrarians Face Book group, I’ve now spent alot of time reading her posts, and have just ordered her book. So thanks for that guys!

    1. Wow, my first death threat. So, that’s what happens when some people read critiques about systemic racism and normative whiteness? They just want to kill? Hmmmm….

      My work has also been posted on some white supremacist hate group as well who decide to target a post I wrote about trying to parse out how systemic racism operates vs. individual bias. They said they felt sorry for my white husband for being married to me. That was interesting response too.

    2. I will happily go on Public record saying that I have seen on numerous times Jack Spirko make disgusting homophobic,transphobic and misogynist comments.he is the very worst of permaculture and regenerative agriculture.He has in my opinion no ethics and certainly no class.His techniques and ideas,which are all available on you tube speak volumes for his ineptness and the lack of understanding of the science and ideas he promotes.Quite frankly I believe him to be a racist as well as a scam artist who preys upon those who do wish to create a more resilient and less damaging lifestyle that is connected to the earth.His views are the extreme and should be taken as such.yes he is a fragile white male,with a penchant for threats.It speaks loudly to the scared little child that he is,and for that I pity him.Jack if you read this and wish to pursue the matter please contact Minter Ellison Australia and ask for Tony harrington to handles my legal affairs.
      Thanks for reading.

  10. Hello,

    I’ve only ever read about Salatin’s practices or learned about them second-hand – never actually within any of the things he’s written. So this is all news to me. Would you mind sharing the links/peer-reviewed articles you discussed having shared in the original post (unless I’m missing it and you’ve already posted them somewhere)? Do you believe his farming practices themselves are racist/sexist, or some of the policies he’s developed in pursuing them are racist/sexist (e.g. not hiring female interns, accepting that pricing will be unaffordable for impoverished communities). Thanks!

  11. Here is Joel Salatin ‘answering a question’ from a vegan in the audience at one of his talks (when I say ‘answering a question’, the guy doesn’t even get a chance to ask it before Salatin launches into his tirade…) Granted this may have been taken out of context as we don’t see what preceded this incident, but the evidence on offer seems to speak volumes about his debating style, attitude and general manner as a public speaker… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVAuLwFZ3H8

  12. The author has an obvious ideological axe to grind, and is not interested in honestly representing anything she states. Her obsession with race, and profuse use of race-baiting jargon, reveals a neo-Marxist, identity-politic belief system that is deeply racist and obscurantist. She makes radical, unsubstantiated claims about a man who she does not know, a man who has more integrity and understanding of the world than she ever will fathom, much less attain. I spent 5 months working with Joel Salatin on his farm in 2008. I’ve known him personally for 13 years. I’ve read every book of his (except the most recently published), read a myriad of articles by him, and listened to countless hours of his lectures, debates, and interviews. There is not a shred of his framing of food sustainability that is “white supremacist libertarian, sexist, and neoliberal capitalist.” Not only is he not sexist or white supremacist, but he is not neoliberal. He is a classically liberal capitalist, according to the classically liberal value that “all men are created equal” (and don’t for a second think of giving me nonsense about the use of the word ‘men’ to represent ‘humanity’ in this 250-year-old quote from our great nation’s Declaration). The author attempts to substantiate her viewpoint by referring to “the documented history of Salatin’s publicly outspoken views that are racist, xenophobic, and sexist”, without referencing any of that history directly. Instead, she links to lengthy articles filled with the same obscurantism she exhibits, as if showing us that there are other people just as idiotic as she is somehow legitimizes her lies. The only specific accusation she can make against Salatin is that he says he isn’t “really concerned about Black moms in the inner city struggling to feed their children.” This, again, is given without reference or context. I will email Joel to see if he actually made this statement, but if he did, I’m positive the context will make it clear that he does in fact care about whether or not moms (inner city, black, or otherwise) struggle to feed their children. The author could have contacted Salatin about that quote, to see if he can clarify (or just deny it if it’s a fabrication), but the author doesn’t state that she even attempted to do so. This author is not interested in clarity, much less facts.
    The author correctly states that “up until recently, he did not allow women to intern on his farm,” and thereby concludes that Salatin “has a masculinist sexist framing of gender” and “a sexist framing of food and sustainability.” These statements reveal the author’s agenda as much as anything: The author pretends to be well informed about Salatin and the community Salatin has surrounded himself with, by stating that “I have read a lot of critiques of Salatin,” and by making bold claims about her knowledge of his conscious and subconscious intentions and beliefs. Yet Salatin has answered time and time again in many publicly available articles, books, and interviews, this oft-made accusation of sexism based on the previous absence of female interns on his farm. His answer is that the farm did not have the resources to accommodate women with lodging that gave them appropriate privacy, and that his personal convictions were not in favor of asking women to cohabitate with men in close quarters. The year I interned with Salatin, in 2008, was just as the farm began to reach greater financial success, at which time it had the resources to provide their first two female interns with their own accommodations, which, I might add, were superior to the cramped and unairconditioned little space used by the men. These two women, now personal friends of mine, met with great success in the internship program due to their high degree of competence. I never observed any distasteful or unequal treatment of them, nor did they ever hint at having received any. Rather, one of them enjoyed the farm so much that she chose to stay after the internship as a paid manager on the farm. Since then, the farm has met with even more financial success and thereby was able to pay for construction of new quarters both for men and women.
    But none of this is of any significance to the author. She wants only to confirm her sexist and racist prejudice against whites and males. She attempts to ride the deserved popularity of a true leader by attempting to tear him down. She hopes to gain readership by making hate-filled comments about a well-known figure, instead of taking the intellectual effort to write something with any actual substance. No doubt she does so in part out of jealousy for a visionary who has accomplished social changes that she can only dream of actualizing. By these pathetic tactics she demonstrates to us that her intellectual vapidity is unworthy of the “Dr.” in her title.
    Then, the author has the nerve to conclude that “if these things are not nipped in the bud or called out, it could produce the next Dylann Roof.” This is a lowbrow and presumptuous attempt to exploit the horror of a tragedy that happened to members of my own community here in Charleston, SC, in order to give a veneer of moral importance to the author’s fatuous socio-political dogma.
    Then, she adds insult to injury by describing those who are outraged at her campaign of spreading blatant lies with the moniker “white fragility.” It could not be more obvious that we are reading from a bitter, radical racist bent upon framing everything in terms of the false dichotomy of blacks against whites. It her attempt to virtue-signal her superiority as an awakened individual, the author only revealed her own deeply seated prejudice and uncritical fanaticism. This article is, in short, not only a load of crap, but an evil (but futile) attempt to obscure one of the few lights in our culture that is truly wholesome and good. These attempts to confuse and deflect truth do not worry me. Truth is not fragile; lies fall flat with time. But meanwhile, Dr. Amie Harper, you should feel profoundly ashamed.

  13. Those of you who are spending your time insulting or threatening this insightful, compassionate, eloquent woman, I have one question to ask you: how is this making the world a better place? You literally just look like rude bullies to the rest of us who don’t feel the need to tear apart experts who have a different perspective than you do.

    Dr. Harper, you are a wonderful person and I am so incredibly grateful for the work that you do and for your presence in the world. Thank you so much for everything that you do.

  14. Austin Fitzhenry, thank you for providing an updated example of white male conservative fragility!

    (European person identifying as white, cisgender and male writing this comment)

  15. Speaking as a white (cis female) person here:

    It’s a little astounding the level to which you missed Dr Harper’s point in her essay. Much of her work I’ve seen has been about how white supremacy works in insidious ways, and how white fragility helps keep it in place. And your dissertation here has been a massive case of Proving Her Point.

    I’ve spent most of my life considering myself an ally, but I ALSO spent a large portion of my life not understanding exactly how I was complicit in perpetuating white supremacy–and let’s be real, I know I’ll continue to find problematic corners of my brain that need to be unpacked. Implicit bias is real, it frames everything in terms of how we think and interact with the world, and unless you sit back, listen, and spend a really long time on genuine self-reflection, you’re not going to see how deeply interwoven this implicit bias is.

    Dr Harper outlined what she sees of Salatin’s work that illustrates his implicit bias, and called it out for what it is. In turn, you took it upon yourself to attempt to “put her in her place.” And along the way, you were utterly unaware that you were further proving her point.

    In the future, in these types of interactions, I’d encourage you to hold off before making such reactionary statements. If seeing implicit bias called out makes you this reflexively angry, don’t you want to reflect on *why* it provokes that reaction in you, instead of putting on blast a scholar who knows what she’s talking about? Dr Harper isn’t saying Salatin is a bad person or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he doesn’t deserve a platform or success. She’s saying he needs to reflect on his place and his level of privilege in the world, and how that informs his thought processes and decisions. Isn’t that something we should all be doing in order to bring about greater understanding and justice for all?

Add a Mindful Comment (No Trolling Please)