I’ve been meaning to write about the “Buy Local” trend for a while. You know which one, the pandering about eating locally grown/produced foods, buying clothes made within the community, etc. The reasoning behind it is quite logical, it makes sense in a sustainable kind of way. You support your local community, you support yourself (help create jobs, do your part to reduce carbon footprint, etc.).
But as much as it makes sense logically, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It only, mostly, tells White people’s story.
See, I am not going to say anything novel here, but there is a sweeping wave of xenophobia, racism and anti-immigrant backlash going on in the Global North/Western world. We are constantly reminded that immigrants are the scourge of society, draining resources, bringing their foul to otherwise pristine (read: White) environments. We are the unwanted, the rejected.
Then, these immigrants, these Othered individuals, are faced with purchasing decisions. Contrary to what the politically active want us to believe, these purchasing decisions are not carefully crafted, thought out to make an environmental or social impact. They are mostly made out of survival needs, especially considering that these minorities are also struggling, for the most part, to navigate difficult jobs, long working hours and a generally unfriendly landscape. We buy stuff because we have to. We buy food because we need to feed ourselves, not because we fancy ourselves Che Guevara wannabes striving to change the system of inequalities. Oh yes. That system that constantly tells us that we are not wanted. That we should go back to “our own countries” (whatever that means, in the case of second or third generation minorities). So, perhaps we have heard about “buying local.” Perhaps we are mildly aware of what that means. We can vote with our hard earned cash and support our local community. Yes, this community that time and again told us to leave. That made fun of our lifestyles, our poorly crafted language skills, our appearance. We can support that!
We can also go to stores that sell products from “back home” (again, wherever that is for those of us who might have even been born here but have been constantly reminded that we still do not belong). We can buy the foods produced by people who look like us, who talk like us, who cook like our grandparents did. We can have, at least for a fleeting moment, a sense of belonging, a sense of community. A sense of being part of somewhere. Somewhere that is thousands of miles away, with a carbon footprint that makes the “Buy Local” crowd cringe.
But that’s what the “Buy Local” crowd hardly ever considers: how the rest of their actions and political stances almost always alienate an entire class of people. Because hey, “Buy Local” to support MY job and well being. You look too different and your food smells, so I am not sure I can support YOU.
Red Light Politics speaks a bunch of truth on her blog, where you can read “Buy Local” in its original context.