Carondelet High School for Girls in Concord, California is coming under fire for proposing to celebrate Black History Month by serving fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon for lunch. However, their plan was foiled when parents and students from the predominantly white school became outraged at the blatantly Jim Crow-esque meal plan.
Besides the obvious issue of perpetuating stereotypes, the deeper problem lies in the intent. “The path to hell is paved with good intentions” as they say, and this is a clear cut case. The issue is not that black people, or all people for that matter don’t love chicken and watermelon, the issue is that it not only preserves stereotypes but it is seen as a quick way to appease blacks without actually having to do the work of addressing race issues and meaningfully reflecting on the importance of black history. Don’t get me wrong, this problem isn’t unique to Carondelet High, it’s an epidemic. In 1997 Fuzzy Zoeller made a similar remark about what Tiger Woods would pick for the Masters celebratory meal. A few years ago NBC caught heat when Questlove tweeted a picture of NBC’s special MLK Day lunch menu, which included; fried chicken, collard greens, and cornbread among other things.
Clearly, there is a lack of black history being taught if these schools and major corporations don’t have the foresight to predict that they might be overstepping boundaries. That they’re opening themselves up to offend folks by offering fried chicken and watermelon as a way to “celebrate” black history, when there is such a hurtful past attached with those foods. It’s not that black people don’t enjoy soul food, but when it has historically been used as a tool to humiliate and dehumanize black people, it’s hard to feel the love. By fooling ourselves into believing that we are now living in a post-racial society, we have become so desensitized to race issues that we fail to realize when we cross the line. Our society as a whole needs to work on being more conscious and aware of our actions. Or perhaps just learning from history and avoiding these blowbacks all together.