it's still time to abolish the police; the privilege of scooping your own beans
Welcome to Digestable, your mouthful of things happening in the world.
Content warning (CW): mention of police violence
Eighteen months ago, when millions took to the streets demanding an end to policing and police funding, it seemed that Minneapolis, home of George Floyd, was taking the biggest steps to act on the public outcry.
One crucial step was reducing no-knock warrants, the kind of unannounced entry that precluded Breonna Taylor’s murder.
But last week it became clear that Minneapolis’s changes in 2020 haven’t stuck:
As Dan Greene notes above, not only did the Minneapolis PD continue to do a thing it was not supposed to do—murdering 22 year-old Amir Locke—and abusing power it shouldn’t even have.
Here’s some more about Amir (CW: pulled from an article with an upsetting image at the top):
Those closest to him repeatedly described him as “a good kid.”
“You took a good kid who was trying to make the best out of his environment, and surpass it and succeed and he was doing it,” said Reginald McClure, a close cousin of Andre Locke who works in law enforcement in Texas. “He was figuring out life, but he was doing it safely."
Amir Locke was born in the St. Paul suburb of Maplewood, his mother Karen Wells said, with “a headful of curly hair.” He grew up in the suburbs, where he played basketball in middle school and tried out for his high school football team.
“But he broke his collarbone, so that didn’t last,” Wells recalled.
His true passion was music, and he had a natural talent for it, his mother said. Locke enjoyed hip-hop, and speaking about “the realities of what’s going on in the neighborhoods,” Andre Locke said. He also wanted to work with young people, his mother said.
McClure also recalled Amir Locke as having “a big heart.”
As this tragic incident reminds—police and policing cannot be trusted, reformed, or transformed—this is a thing that doesn’t keep us safe, and it must be abolished.
Here are some beautiful organizing resources by Ricardo Levins Morales, for the work ahead.
Take care, friends.
The Second Look
Half-baked cultural criticism from Gabriel Coleman.
There’s a shop down the block from my house that I’m in an interesting relationship with. It's called The Source Bulk Foods, a franchise of a zero-waste food store in the UK and Ireland. I go there often for staples and dry goods: oat milk, muesli, rice, lentils, oil, vinegar, etc. It serves the same role in my life that Brooklyn’s Greene Hill Co-op did, a place to replenish essentials without accumulating a ton of plastic packaging. But the more time I spend at The Source the more I realize that it’s really just a faux-op: a for-profit business using the visual identity of a health and environment conscious cooperative as, well, packaging.
Here’s what the shop is like: four rows of beautiful bins line the walls. Grains, beans, and flours on your right, chocolates and mixed nuts on your left, oils and vinegars in the back corner, and an oat milk dispenser right in front of you. Everything is kraft paper brown. They only have pantry items, no buckets of tofu or stacks of eggs as I’ve seen in similar shops, but enough to fill your tote bag. They offer little rolling discounts if you become a “member:” 10% of your last purchase at The Source and a random (?!) discount at checkout at Bushwick’s comparable Precycle. You go to a bin and sink your scoop into the bin of green lentils and bam, that’s the sales pitch: you’re participating in the work. The employees are refilling bins next to you as you empty them, other customers have left pre-labeled glass jars in a bin for you if you’ve forgotten yours. You leave the store feeling the satisfying weight of the yogurt containers and bottles you’ve filled. And then you check your receipt.
Let’s think logically: if a customer elects to forgo packaging and bring their own container, they should be paying less than if they bought a comparable pre-packaged product right? That’s what I’ve learned from bring-your-own-mug discounts at least. And if a customer elects to fill that container themself instead of letting a machine or an employee do it for them, the labor savings should result in a corresponding price drop right? Well not at the faux-op!
Let’s run some numbers: a 1 liter tetrapak of oat milk at Lidl costs €1.29 while filling my own bottle at The Source costs €2.40. But okay Lidl is the cheap supermarket and The Source stocks the premium Minor Figures oat milk and if you buy the tetrapak from Minor Figures it costs… €1.91! Never mind that cows milk costs fucking €0.85, I bring my own glass bottle to the shop and fill it up with oaty-water all to pay an extra fifty cents?! The same is true of every product: the cheapest fruit and nut mix at The Source: €2.99 for 200g compared to €1.85 for the same product at Lidl. 500g of Lidl’s premium muesli is €1.99 but the cheapest muesli at The Source will run you €4.47! And it isn’t just this store. When I was in Brooklyn in December my good judy Travis and I bought some tofu at Precycle. At P&C a prepackaged block of Ithaca Soy costs you $4.75 but scooping the same wet tofu out of the bucket yourself at Precycle cost us upwards of 5 dollars.
So it would seem these bulk shops aren’t actually about reducing waste or getting people quality food. Instead they’re here to turn a profit on the trendiness of the zero-waste “lifestyle.” Our food system is so fucked that providing bulk pantry staples is somehow a market niche. These for-profit businesses, instead of providing a discount to their shoppers by reducing wholesale costs and providing part of the labor, charge you for the privilege to scoop your own beans. And the worst bit is, though these stores evoke the feel of a cooperative, there’s no bargaining, no AGM, no accountability to the eaters that rely on them.
The Big Shop
Providing bulk food to people is easy and the infrastructure is all around us. I was reminded of this walking to work this morning as I passed a Guinness worker exchanging kegs on the sidewalk in front of the local pub. It is cheaper and more efficient this way, and it only requires a bit more intention in the exchange. For me, cutting down on waste isn’t a “lifestyle” as much as a safety provision. I can’t really afford to shop at The Source but I keep begrudgingly handing them my money because tetra-paks turn my stomach. I feel like I have to choose between financial security and ecological security every time I feed myself and the fact that I make someone a profit either way doesn’t leave me feeling optimistic.