Rapoport resigned that same day but not before assistant food editor Sohla El-Waylly responded by contextualizing his actions as a symptom of systemic racism at Condé Nast. El-Waylly, who’d quickly become a fan favorite on the Bon Appetit’s massively popular Test Kitchen YouTube channel, said she was “pushed” in front of cameras as a display of diversity while receiving no compensation for those appearances — unlike her white peers. In one instance I can’t forget, after a white chef recreates the late, great Leah Chase’s gumbo, El-Waylly was tasked with judging the dish. Though her technical expertise and her self-possessed demeanor are exceptional, I can’t help but wonder if she was chosen for that task for being the brownest person in the room. Sparks, who’s only appeared on the channel’s shows in passing, was nowhere to be found.
Bon Appétit has since promised changes to its mastheads that “have been far too white for far too long” but the Condé Nast leadership in charge of instituting this new future is itself too white. Recently, Condé Nast suspended video editor Matt Hunziker, for his repeated criticism of the company’s half-hearted attempts at change. Hunziker, who is white, has simultaneously been a vocal advocate for his colleagues of color who are decrying this move as an intimidation tactic.
eanwhile at the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institution whose mission statement declares “we don't flinch from talking about race, class, religion, gender, and all the other biggies,” there are growing calls for the resignation of its founding director John T. Edge. In its 20-year history, the organization hasn’t winced at its own lack of Black staff, especially in positions of power. Most recently, the organization's only staff person of color—the history scholar and writer Cynthia Greenlee, a Black woman who served as deputy editor—handed in her resignation. It’s clear to me that if you’re euphemizing systemic inequalities as “biggies”, you were never ready to face them, let alone keep a steady gaze.
Calls for Edge’s departure are at least a decade old, but they were reignited earlier this month when he joined chef and writer Tunde Wey in a conversation organized by the James Beard Awards about the role of food writing in social movements. The conversation culminated when Wey pressed Edge, as he did in a column over four years ago, to resign. “You have to strip yourself of the marginal benefits of this appropriation willingly, with grace, or unwillingly by force and with shame,” Wey wrote in 2016.
The time for Edge’s graceful retirement had long expired when founding SFA member Ronni Lundy collected signatures insisting Edge step down three weeks ago. Outside of SFA, some voices, mostly Black writers, reverberated the calls. But as of today, Edge still remains seated at the table, inviting others to join while he sits at the head.
In the context of this fight’s round and its recognition of the scope of the battle against systemic racism, Edge’s standoff is not surprising. Neither is the anger of Bon Appétit fans, who’d poured in over a billion views to the magazine’s YouTube channel and lit up the comment section with praise. These days, their comments are phrased as ultimatums and promises of unsubscription unless significant changes are made towards rectifying the inequity the magazine perpetuated.