Emily B. sent along this notice for a UC Davis cafeteria Martin Luther King day menu:

On the one hand, the cafeteria is making an effort to mark MLK day and, to be fair, the food choices are traditional “soul food” familiar to (especially Southern) Black populations and the South more generally.  On the other hand, preparing foods associated with Black people is about the shallowest possible way to celebrate such an important man.

The conundrum — do we or don’t we, as a cafeteria, acknowledge Martin Luther King day and, if so how? — is a familiar one.  Can one do so without reproducing stereotypes and appearing on blogs like these?  Or should we just pretend the day doesn’t exist?

The truth is, in a context of ongoing racial inequality in which stereotypes continue to harm, organizations such as these are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  That’s how racism has such staying power: it makes it such that all choices resonate with its ugliness.

See also: wrong ways to celebrate Black History Month and how not to include racial  history in school curricula.

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