Updated on June 17, 2020 at 6:17 p.m.
The oldest cliché of the food world is a simple one: Food brings people together. It’s a warm maxim that could serve as the slogan for a farming cooperative or a brand of prepackaged frozen meals. At the dinner table, the saying implies, a kind of rare democracy exists. After all, everybody needs to eat.
Somewhere between the principle and its application, though, comes the uncomfortable realization that the terms of the gathering may not be equal. This past week, that quandary has been illustrated most clearly in the news about Bon Appétit, the food magazine Condé Nast has been publishing for nearly three decades. Last Monday, the publication’s white editor in chief, Adam Rapoport, resigned after a photo of him impersonating a Puerto Rican man was shared online. Though it wasn’t a workplace getup, the former editor’s Halloween costume gave visual coherence to Bon Appétit’s alleged record of discriminatory behavior toward its employees and contributors of color.
In a “long-overdue apology” published last week, the Bon Appétit and Epicurious staffs admitted that they “have continued to tokenize many BIPOC staffers and contributors in our videos and on our pages,” and that “black staffers have been saddled with contributing racial education to our staffs and appearing in … photo shoots to make our brands seem more diverse.“ Such inequities persist across the food industry, whether at media organizations or in restaurants or at various points in the food-supply chain. Rapoport and other Bon Appétit figureheads’ actions are not themselves revelatory or particularly interesting. Racism is as banal as it is dangerous.