Monday, March 30, 2009

The Ghetto Burger

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The ghetto burger can be found at Ann's Snack Bar in Atlanta, Ga. Ann's has been in business since 1971. Her restaurant seats eight people. Other than the fact that this burger is clearly a heart attack on a plate what I find immensely troubling is the name it has been given.

Daily we socially exist with the lie that we are a classless society.  It is assumed by many that most are existing comfortably at a middle class level.   Even in our current recession depression, the lie persists.  It is a way for us to avoid discussing the degree to which we are truly divided by class.

Class is more than the possessions that you own, class is also understood as patterns of behaviour.   Much of our society is based on an ability to conform to beliefs or patterns of behaviour and when someone deviates regardless of how functional said action may be in the communities in which they live the behaviour is invariably disciplined and deemed low class.   In this way class becomes a tool in which we use to discipline and enforce conformity.

What is troubling about this burger is that it is named the ghetto burger.   Ghettos primarily consist of people of colour and therefore this food has been deemed food for poor people of colour.  Food is very much a class issue even though it is an essential of life.   What someone is able to consume is strictly dependent on income regardless of likes, dislikes or nutritional quality. 

How is it that a burger can become ghetto food?  A burger is an inanimate object, incapable of action or agency and yet it has clearly been associated with a specific class position.  What does it say that this high fat, high cholesterol food, is understood as food for poor bodies of colour?   A salmon steak which is high in ammino acids would never be called ghetto food.   There was a time when lobster was considered low class food and it was fed to prisoners on a regular basis.

Food is a class issue.  Often what the poor are able to consume is that which we cast off.   We don’t export boneless skinless chicken breasts, we export high fat dark meat to third world countries.   I routinely refer to the price differential between a head a broccoli and a box of kraft dinner to point to the fact that class position often dictates whether or not someone is eating food that is not only able to provide energy but essential nutrition.

We really need to start to think about the connection of food and class.  Considering that we know that food is a basic human need how can we continue to justify such poor nutrition in poor neighbourhoods.  It should not be easier to by a bottle of liquor than a tomato.  In neighbourhoods that are considered ghetto there are not a lot of grocery stores and therefore people residing in this neighbourhoods must travel in some cases 10-15 miles to get to a grocery store.  These neighbourhoods are populated with checking cashing business (legalized loan sharking), liquor stores, gun shops, pawn shops, fast food restaurants, and convenience stores, nothing in the aforementioned list aids and improves the quality of life.  

The food that we provide to food banks is often expired,  and high in carbohydrate.  What does it say if when project share comes calling all that you can think to do is donate food from the back of your cupboard that you weren’t planning on eating anyway?   It says that your concern for the poor is non existent. 

It is time understand food is a class issue.  People that do not receive proper nutrition are more susceptible to illness and disease.  Children who are impoverished have difficulty learning.  Investing in good health and nutrition is a very easy way to improve the quality of life of many.   How hard would it be to subsidize fresh fruits and vegetables?   We need to encourage community gardens, and subsidize  low fat lean meats and healthy proteins.  A society is only as strong as its weakest members and clearly we have built a careless house upon the sand. 


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