Dmitriy T.M. and Claire C. sent in a link to a photo of an NBC cafeteria menu in honor of Black History Month (that’d be February) that featured stereotypical African-American foods:

It’s not the first time.

Many argued that the menu was offensive because it reproduced stereotypes, but I think this interview with the chef that devised the menu complicates the story a bit:

Honestly, I think the main problem here is that Americans live in a racist society and so we have no idea how to celebrate Black History Month (how about with relaxer?).   The rest of the year, we make fun of black people for eating fried chicken. And yet, these are traditional Black southern dishes. So how exactly do we celebrate the holiday?   Do we pretend to valorize the same traditions that we make fun of during the rest of the year?  It makes no sense!  But it makes no sense because we’re still racist.  And we need a Black History Month because we’re still racist.  So, what to do!?

Perhaps the lesson to take from all of this is:  Undermining racism is hard work.   A month dedicated to Black history is a (flesh-colored) band aid, at best.  If we don’t do the other stuff (e.g., challenging the web of racist institutions that preserve class and race privilege), then no amount of fried chicken will make the difference.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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