No more FED by Water
This blog post is to state my opposition to the recent online actions of London restaurant FED By Water.
Following the death of Rashan Charles during police intervention and a subsequent protest in Dalston, the social media pages of FED By Water engaged in problematic posting and content sharing that worked to perpetuate and promote racism.
You can read a breakdown of the incident with further commentary here thanks to Heather Barrett, but my brief take away from the situation is as follows:
- FED By Water shared content that described black protesters as animals
- The FED Twitter account ‘liked’ a tweet that suggested ‘black people should stop killing black people’
- FED By Water used the term ‘All Life Matters’ to assert their position of concern for animals, therefore diminishing Black Lives Matter
I emailed the owner of the restaurant with the following brief questions:
Do you understand the problem of saying All Lives Matter in response to Black Lives Matter? Do you understand why people think this is a racist response?
(It should be noted that I misquoted the Facebook update in my email to the owner. The status read ‘All Life Matters’ not ‘All Lives Matter’)
I received a response asking if I could come in next week to talk face to face with the owner. I responded that I do not have time to travel to the restaurant and would be happy to discuss my concerns via email. I am yet to hear a response to that request. UPDATE I have received an email to further the discussion and the owner has asked me to keep that private.
I am still prepared to talk the owner and have always maintained an open dialogue with him regarding any concerns I have. However, I feel this situation requires an immediate public statement of position from me as a vegan with a notable platform and as somebody with a menu item named after them on the restaurant menu.
There is no room or space for the use or promotion of racist language or terminology by vegan businesses and any instance of this behaviour should be challenged, resisted and questioned. I believe that Black Lives Matters is a crucial, grassroots movement working to resist historic and ongoing systemic oppression of black people and I will continue to support the movement and speak up against people inside and outside the vegan community who use actions or language to diminish the movement. This support of the movement includes ongoing questioning of my own behaviour, language and actions.
Until now I have been happy for FED By Water to carry a menu item named after my blog, however I have this morning asked the restaurant to remove my name from the menu. I do not want to be associated with an organisation that posts hurtful and negative content. I also see the request to remove my name as a symbolic gesture to assert my support for black activists and black people more generally. It isn’t a grand action, but I feel it is the very least I can do and it might prompt discussion and consideration from people aware of who I am.
My expectation is that the management of FED By Water will meet with local black activists who have reached out in the hope of explaining why the language used online was harmful. I am available as a vegan activist with a visible platform to lend my support or voice to this situation if requested.
Extra note: It is not my intention to attempt to lead the resolution of this incident, but rather position myself as an ally and state my position. I appreciate that as a white, cis-gendered, non-disabled man I benefit from privilege that in turn oppresses people.