White Bread America
By Paula Sophia Schonauer
When I was a kid I ate sandwiches made with white bread. I remember the commercials declaring the wholesomeness of white bread showing white kids eating the bread and washing it down with milk. My mom cracked white eggs to make birthday cakes with white flour. She served white rice, made spaghetti with white noodles.
I was a teenager before I saw a brown egg, an adult before I ate brown rice, and I’m sad to admit I’ve only recently begun eating whole wheat pasta. I’m learning that the foods I ate growing up — foods that had been deemed healthy and wholesome — are really bad for me. A diet comprised of too many white foods is dangerous, adding to the growing number of diabetics, contributing to the epidemic of obesity. I’m learning that a varied, diverse diet comprised of many different textures and colors, organic foods not subjected to over processing, is the best way to eat.
It makes me wonder, though, why we became so obsessed with “wholesome white foods,” why grocers felt compelled to package only white eggs in cartons, why flour had to be bleached, milk homogenized and pasteurized. Yes, I’m sure some decisions were made for health and safety regarding the preservation of mass produced goods, but there seems to be some underlying pathology regarding this obsession with white food.
Is it a coincidence that the rise of white food in the first half of the twentieth century accompanied the compulsion to pasteurize and homogenize society, to reinforce the old laws that marked definite boundaries between white people and everyone else? It’s a travesty how polite white society has run from diversity for generations. From the “white flight” into the suburbs during the 1960’s to the constant Tea Party banter against President Obama; a lot of white folks seem afraid, clamoring to restrain the complexity of our multicultural society.
In 2011, new census figures showed the majority of babies born in the United States were nonwhite — 50.4 percent Hispanic, Black, Asian and other minorities compared to 49.5 percent white (source — ABC News “Hate Groups Grow as Racial Tipping Point Changes Demographics”).
This major demographic shift predicates the elimination of the white super-majority, an obvious indicator of a massive cultural change, a change we are now only beginning to experience. But as the changes in society become more pronounced (i.e. the election of the first black President of the United States), we can expect these raucous groups of frightened white people to raise the alarm louder and louder, trying to hold back the inevitable shift of the United States into a truly multicultural country.
As I try to eat better, I’m learning I’d become addicted to the excess sugar and salt of white food products, those simple carbohydrates that have been spiking my blood sugar, producing short periods of manic energy followed by complacency, inducing an artificial sense of well-being.
Maybe society is going through a similar process as we plunge into a future without a dominant race. The conservative white voices in this country call for a renewal of old fashioned values, wanting to return to a simpler time when things seemed black and white, when wrong and right seemed as obvious as day and night, when kids ate white bread not knowing they were poisoning their future health.
No matter what, I’m travelling toward a future I didn’t anticipate as a child. As my addiction to white bread dwindles, as my taste for variety and complexity grows, I’m on a journey toward embracing a wider diversity. Yes, there’s going to be some nuts out there, a whole lot more fruit, but the added fiber will be good for digestion, good for contemplation as I ponder the adventure of the next few decades.