Pando

Black lives matter. But brunch is just fucking eggs.

By David Holmes , written on January 5, 2015

From The News Desk

"Brunch is for jerks." "For assholes." "It sucks." "It sucks and it's phony and stupid." "It is the absolute worst."

For many years, brunch has become a stand-in for the excess of city-dwelling youths, particularly those with disposable income. The backlash has survived at least two cycles of urban gentrification, from "yuppies" to "hipsters," and it will likely outlive whatever we decide to call the next class of genteel youngs. There have always been class undertones to "brunch-shaming," but criticism of the meal has increasingly taken on a racial element, like when Julian Casablancas told GQ last October, “I don’t know how many, like, white people having brunch I can deal with on a Saturday afternoon.” As I wrote at the time, "I don’t know many, like, rock star sons of business moguls I can deal with lecturing me on white privilege."

Over the weekend, brunch once again became a symbol for racial politics in America when protesters in New York City and Oakland launched #BlackBrunch, a social justice movement to enter "white spaces" where people are eating brunch and to read the names of African Americans killed by police officers. Like other protests across the country, it was spurned by the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.

“People who have money and privilege have the leisure to brunch,” Carrie Leilam Love of Black Brunch NYC told the Washington Post. “Other people don’t.”

Certainly the same could be said of many meals taken at restaurants in big cities. But brunch carries with it an assumption of privilege unlike any other culinary exploit. In part that's because anybody who wakes up at noon to down mimosas likely doesn't have children or the need to work on the weekend and therefore is assumed to have a particularly high level of freedom and funds. In this way, the protesters targeting of brunchgoers makes a fair amount of sense.

To be clear, the prevailing reaction from many on the right has been to call #BlackBrunch an "inconvenience," a position that is both misinformed and absurd. These protesters are expressing very legitimate concerns over police violence. To complain that this is an "inconvenience" -- particularly in the face of the ultimate "inconvenience" of losing a family member in one of these tragedies -- is ludicrous.

But the larger anti-brunch movement, and the tendency of many to place undue emphasis on a simple meal as a call to action, is problematic. Further, it's indicative of a trend where meaningless symbols routinely drown out more significant causes of social injustice.

Here's what I wrote in the wake of a much more outrageous attack on brunch in the New York Times:

[Attacking brunch] is indicative of the worst kinds of urban commentary: Old privilege attacking new privilege, which does nothing to help the underprivileged. It isolates blame for the changing neighborhood on the new businesses and residents that move in. And while there are without a doubt some newly-arrived businesses and tenants that treat the traditions and long-time residents of a community with disrespect, the forces most responsible for the negative effects of gentrification are landlords, outdated zoning laws, and politicians and voters who don’t see the value of affordable housing or community land trusts.
That article was about using brunch as a stand-in for gentrification. In the case of using brunch as a stand-in for a system that allows for a troubling spectrum of police violence, leisurely weekend meals feel like an even less appropriate symbol. Moreover, condemning brunch is in no way a solution to any of the injustice on which the #BlackBrunch movement is focused. What impact exactly are a bunch of middle-class Brooklynites, few if any statistics would suggest are themselves politicians, law enforcement, or members of the judiciary, going to have on police violence?

What about a campaign aimed at reforming the Grand Jury system? Or implementing cameras and better training for police officers? Or calling out blowhards like Rudy Giuliani who use the tragic deaths of young black men and police officers alike to score political points? Of course, I suppose it's a lot easier to make a bunch of hipsters and yuppies – both white and black – feel guilty on a Sunday afternoon.

The cause of stopping police violence against the underprivileged and the mentally ill of all races is one of the most important causes of our time. But using brunch as a punchline for white privilege is a false flag. Criticize the perpetrators of these crimes. Criticize the justice system that allows them to go free. And yes, do this at any and all times, including when people are sitting down for a comfortable boozy meal.

But "brunch," like so many other heavily-publicized things that appeal to the privileged while annoying others, is neither a cause nor a major symptom of the socioeconomic problems in America. It's just fucking eggs.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]