Stereotypes Undergird Coverage of Detroit Whole Foods Opening

When does the opening of a Whole Foods generate national media attention? When the location is Midtown, Detroit.
June 10, 2013, 8am PDT | Anna Bergren Miller | @abergrenmiller
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Grist's Claire Thompson asks why this particular store opening is such big news. For one thing, she explains, outsiders think of Detroit as a “food desert.” But locals know that the city has a lot going for it, supermarket-wise, including the country's largest permanent farmers market.

Then there's Detroit's economy, which many Americans seem to have written off as a lost cause. Yet local and state politicians wooed Whole Foods with $5.8 million in tax credits and grants, in the apparent hope that the store will spur investment in nearby real estate.

The real cause of the excitement appears to be more insidious. “[W]hat seems to be causing the freakout over Whole Foods’ unlikely new location is just that: its unlikeliness, and the racist and classist assumptions underlying that assessment,” Thompson writes.

Yet Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb's claim that the new store will combat racism is equally overdrawn. “The notion that a bourgie grocery store could meaningfully address racial inequality is ridiculous,” Thompson argues. “If it has any effect at all, it could just as easily set in motion the kind of unchecked gentrification that deepens racial divisions.”

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Published on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Grist
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