Tackling the Tough Topic of Race Relations

This is a FMI authored article by David Fikes, Executive Director, FMI Foundation.

Anyone who has suffered a fractured relationship knows that the road to restoring trust, repairing ruptured connections and recovering equanimity is hard and involves some intense listening, vulnerable admissions and more than a few sessions of down-in-the-dirt honest sharing. 

And in the parlance of adages, if something didn’t break overnight, it isn’t going to be fixed overnight, so these trust-building conversations start slowly and require long term patient perseverance. 

While having a few silver linings along the way, for the most part, COVID-19 has raised the overall stress level of our entire nation. This state of heightened anxiety has served to expose some of the more vulnerable spots in the underbelly of American society. Not least among these, pandemic apprehensions have amplified the oft-subterranean racial tensions running through our culture and pressured them to erupt in some obvious and oft-unfortunate destructive ways. 

Just because something is difficult does not excuse us from tackling it.

Two conflicting truths emerge: healing takes time, talk and trust and discussing race issues is risky because emotions about it run deep and feel raw. But just because something is difficult does not excuse us from tackling it. In fact, FMI believes the tougher the topic is, the deeper the need to address it. Consequently, FMI is partnering with the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) in an initiative to facilitate food industry conversations around the issues of Racial Justice, Inclusion and Diversity. The goal of the initiative is to create an environment that encourages food organizations to have productive, transparent exchanges and work together to promote a more inclusive and equitable future for everyone in the food system. 

A significant part of the initiative’s strategy calls for a series of digital dialogues exploring how race and diversity are being addressed at food organizations in all parts of the food chain. The first of these roundtable conversations was facilitated by A’Yanna Webster,Ph.D., CEO of Winning Within & Associates on November 3 and featured panelists Jacquelyn Howard, vice president, global supply chain, The Starbucks Coffee Company, and Melissa Ackerman Melshenker, president of the Produce Alliance. A recording of this conversation is available at: CFI FMI Racial Justice, Inclusion and Diversity Digital Dialogue.