I appreciate inquiry. Greatly. But I don't have time to respond to most of it. Instead, I've compiled a list of pieces you can read about food and complex cultural issues, including food appropriation, that I'll regularly ping to you when you ping me. (Also, follow these folks below on social media for more insight.)
This doesn't mean I'm never open to a question, but it does mean you can use these resources to do some deep thinking before DMing/PMing/emailing/texting me, because responding to them (or even getting them while I'm running through Penn Station with a coffee in hand, trying to scroll through my email to find an errant Amtrak e-ticket!) can be a brick of emotional and intellectual labor. I'm too busy hawking and hustling to do that because, in a capitalist society, a woman, especially a woman of color who's a freelancer, has got way more cents to make up.
For editors: If a photo spread or a feature seems commodifying to you, it probably is, so rethink it. Hire a more diverse staff. Get some consultants and pay them instead of expecting free labor from writers and editors of color (or pay us by the hour as freelance consultants; I'm working on building a restaurant and media consultancy). Be patient with criticism. I've made mistakes too (and will continue to as any editor/journo does), but I try to listen.
Be aware of your own nepotism and prejudices when you scout restaurants and chefs to highlight. Be critical, compassionate and analytical when you review your coverage every month. Statistically speaking, who did you highlight? Who got the big spreads? Your current audience might love Italian food, but you also have to think about the potential subscribers you're alienating by mostly highlighting only certain cuisines, aspects of cuisines, or chefs. Be careful about how you "other" various cuisines by lumping them together or glossing over them.
When there's a big uproar on social media, try to listen instead of being defensive. Change and learning will be painful and difficult for you and your staff. Repeat to yourself: "Not everything belongs to me. Not everything needs to belong to me. And there is no absolute and easy answer that a person of color can rubberstamp-approve for me." Don't consider one speaker as the speaker for their entire ethnicity.
My parents, who run restaurants, didn't have the agency, power or venue to respond to you, the mainstream white media, like my generation does. They were too busy trying to assimilate so they wouldn't get flak from mainstream American society. They turned the other cheek not out of Jesus-like generosity, but because the other option was starving. They had only one viable choice that was well-fed: make money and be perceived as good American citizens, like the citizenship test demanded.
So aren't you glad you're getting a broader snapshot of your audience, including an improving dialectic involving not only the praise, but also the (largely still silenced) dissent -- and also conversation that is neither praise nor dissent, but ultimately still productive? Look at social media as a free (and sometimes really direct) consultant.
Required Foodpropriation Reading as of March 2017 (in no particular order but that of my pre-coffee brain)
1. "Craving the Other" by Soleil Ho, Bitch Magazine.
2. "Who Owns Southern Food?" by Tunde Wey and John T. Edge, Oxford American.
3. "Dear Sean, We Need to Talk" by Michael Twitty, Afroculinaria.
4. "Why a Pho Video Boiled Over Into Controversy for Bon Appetit" by Andrea Nguyen, Viet World Kitchen.
5. "Beyond Talk: The Search for Real Solutions in the Conversation About Food and Cultural Appropriation" by Cathy Erway, Civil Eats.
7. "When Chefs Become Famous Cooking Other Cultures' Food," by Maria Godoy, NPR's The Salt.
8. "Food, Race, and Power: Who gets to be an authority on 'ethnic' cuisines?" by Lorraine Chuen
9. My writeup on The Sporkful's coding series, "Who Is This Restaurant For?" for Paste Magazine
10. "The Problem With 'Thug' Cuisine" by Bryant Terry, CNN.com.
11. "Cheap Eats, Cheap Labor: The Hidden Human Costs of Those Lists" by Diep Tran, NPR's The Salt.
12. "The Feminist Guide to Being a Foodie Without Being Culturally Appropriative" by Rachel Kuo, Everyday Feminism.
13. "A Short Resource Guide to Food, Race, and Cultural Appropriation" by Eva Recinos, Bitch Magazine (including Malik Yakini of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network's excellent, must-listen TEDx talk).
14. "On Ferguson, Thug Kitchen, and Trayvon Martin: Intersections of [Post]Race-Consciousness, Food Justice, and Hip Hop Vegan Ethics" by Dr. A. Breeze Harper, The Sistah Vegan Project.
16. The authors listed in Decolonizing Foodways may have much to offer, though I have not read most of them.
17. "Thug Kitchen: A Recipe in Blackface" by Akeya Dickson, The Root.
18. "Why Cultural Appropriation Could Be the Best and Worst Thing for Soul Food's Survival," by Rodney Carmichael, interviewing soul food scholar Adrian Miller.
19. "Coding and Decoding Dinner" by Todd Kliman, Oxford American.
20. The Racist Sandwich podcast, hosted by chef Soleil Ho, especially the Celeste Noche episodes.
21. "Are Food Bloggers Fuelling Racist Stereotypes?" by Megha Mohan, BBC, re: Celeste Noche's appearance on The Racist Sandwich podcast.
This is not just about food appropriation; it's about the issues behind that appropriation. Listen to these podcasts and read these pieces and make the connects between dots in your knowledge.
1. The Code-Switch podcast on NPR.
2. The savvy, helpful and fun Brunch & Budget podcast, which talks about the racial wealth gap and helps you with your personal finances (also, hire Pam to help you make a plan for your personal finances over a delicious brunch! She is a financial planner and specializes in artists, creatives, freelancers and POC).
3. The awesome, enlightening and hysterical Two Dope Queens podcast.
4. "The Underlying Racism of America's Food System," a TEDxManhattan talk by Regina Bernard-Carreno, essential for any lover of NYC and New York's food history.
5. The Another Round podcast.
6. This "#AWP17 Conference Report — Katie Hatcher on “What Writers of Color Want White Editors To Know”
7. Keep subscribed to and updated on these informative and fascinating food blogs recommended by Code Switch.
8. Read Vegans of Color. Veganism has always been present in many communities of color.