As a kid, I loved McDonald’s. It was a happy place where I could eat a happy meal. Each bite of chicken nuggets, hamburger, filet-o-fish, and french fries transported my stomach to the far flung continent and made me feel more American.
The first Guam McDonald’s openend on June 10, 1971. It was the largest McDonald’s in the world at the time (later surpassed by McDonald’s in Moscow and Shanghai). A second McDonald’s opened in 1975, and a third in 1986 on the Naval Base, exclusively for the military. Now there are nine McDonald’s on our small island, serving ten thousand island residents daily.
McDonald’s is no longer a happy place; instead, it is the final link in a long chain of death: from the destruction of Amazon rainforests to grow soybeans that feed chickens and cattle, to the cruelty and torture of these same animals in mass slaughterhouses in the US and Canada; from the slave labor of tomato workers in South Florida to the pesticide laden lettuce fields of California; from the endless amounts of high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and unhealthy ingredients to the obesity epidemic.
McDonald’s embodies the invasive US colonial food system. McDonald’s disrespects the earth and our native bodies.
In November 2011, Kollin Elderts, a 23-year old Hawaiian, was shot dead by Christopher Deedy, a 29-year old White-American, in a McDonald’s at Waikiki. Deedy was a Federal agent who was in Honolulu to provide security for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. APEC is a multinational corporate and governmental collaboration that ensures the continuation of a McDonald’s world order.
The Deedy trial is happening in Honolulu as I write this. If you haven’t heard of this trial, it’s because some bodies of color are more visible than others.
Like McDonald’s, Skittles conjures up happy childhood memories for me. Skittles captured my imagination because every child on a tropical island wants to “Taste the Rainbow.” And once I had a taste of those sweet sugary shells, I was hooked. Skittles became my favorite American candy; it is also the most popular chewy candy among young people worldwide.
Ironically, Skittles candy was invented in England in 1974. In Victorian England, “Skittles” referred to a popular pub game played with nine pins and a wooden ball, similar to bowling (one possible origin of the word “skittles” comes from a word that means “to shoot”). Thus, the word “skittles” became synonymous with pleasure. In 1979, the British candy was imported to the US. Skittles is now produced and marketed in the US by the Wrigley company (a division of Mars, Inc.).
When Trayvon was shot and killed, Skittles became synonymous with childhood innocence. Bags of Skittles were left at memorials, carried at protests, and even bought in bulk and resold to raise money for Trayvon’s family. In turn, Skittles has seen a spike in profits.
Skittles’ ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, apple juice from concentrate, less than 2% – citric acid, dextrin, modified corn starch, natural and artificial flavors, coloring (includes yellow 6 lake, red 40 lake, yellow 5 lake, blue 2 lake, yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, blue 1 lake, blue 1), ascorbic acid (vitamin c).
The negative health effects of these chemical, carcinogenic, and genetically modified ingredients are too numerous to list, but some include diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity, high blood pressure, allergies, and gastrointestinal problems. In short, Skittles are not so innocent or pleasurable.
Trayvon’s last meal was a bag of skittles. Kollin’s last meal was at a McDonald’s in Waikiki. While one trial is much more well-known than the other, both cases have sparked intense discussions about racial conflict, judicial injustice, and gun violence in the US. Tragically, the bodies of these young men of color were not only dehumanized by their assailants, but their bodies were also dehumanized from within, by the undigested food in their stomachs.
In addition to holding our children, siblings, friends, and loved ones a little tighter and a little longer before they leave the house, I beg that we also teach them about the dangers of McDonald’s and Skittles, about the racial violence lurking in our foods. Teach them how to eat healthy and nutritious foods. Remind ourselves, at each meal, that even our bodies of color deserve to be respected.