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White Supremacy, Polarized Politics, and ‘Voting Against Your Interests’ in Rural Agricultural Associations

Authors: Kathryn Anderson*, University of California - Berkeley
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Whiteness, White supremacy, race, polarized politics, rural America, agriculture, farming, environment, climate change, organizations, associations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 4:55 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Virtual Track 4
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tapping into white supremacy in order to garner support for policies from groups disadvantaged by those policies has been an effective political trick since long before Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” White privilege and white supremacy have emerged as primary explanations for why people apparently “vote against their interests” on economic, environmental, and agricultural issues, among many others. This research explores two important gaps left by popular analyses of modern political polarization in rural America: race and organizations. I use an organizational analysis to explore the processes and institutions within modern agriculture membership associations wherein racial characteristics are associated (in coded and un-coded language) with certain policies and ideologies as a way of aligning support based on social identity when arguments based on economic logic alone would fail. Using the case study policy issues of climate change, farm bankruptcies (and supply management), and farm worker justice, this research illustrates how race is used by agribusiness to coopt the democratic process within ostensibly grass-roots organizations. Analyses are based on data gathered through participant observation at organic and conventional producer association meetings and interviews with farmers and association officers.

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