Monday, January 18, 2010

Food Can Be Racist?

Last Friday, the Denver Public School system planned to serve a special lunch in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. The menu consisted of southern-style chicken, collards, and a biscuit. One parent complained that the menu was stereotypical and insensitive. Although the lunch sounds like typical fare you'd find in nearly any Southern home, officials scratched the delicious-sounding lunch to avoid being painted with a racist brush.

I wonder, when did food become racist? Typical southern-style food is not considered culturally Southern, but culturally black? I guess the Irish are falling down on the job. They should be complaining when corned beef & cabbage shows up on menus across the country every March 17th. The Germans should be offended when Oktoberfest specials show up every October. Damned stereotypical sausages and sauerkraut. Is there any end to what offends our delicate sensibilities?

We have elected America's first biracial President, a true African-American. Black men and women are in prestigious positions throughout the government and private industry. Equality isn't just Dr. King's dream any longer. We are living in Dr. King's dream. I'd have to say that race relations are pretty good in this country if we're actually spending our energy focusing on whether or not food is being used in a racist manner.

I watched the old movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" for the first time recently. I was shocked by the movie. Not because a white woman was marrying a black man, but because their courtship was shockingly brief. I would guess that most people in my generation would have the same response.

Are there still racists in this country? Sure, but as a majority, we've moved beyond race because it really doesn't matter. Oddly enough, it generally seems like that the most racist people are the ones screaming the loudest about race.

Dr. King was a wonderful man. He shone a spotlight on the civil rights struggle. His methods were peaceful, but effective. I got chills when I stood at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of his famous I Have a Dream speech. At the root of it, he only wanted what all humans yearn for: freedom and equality. He wanted what every parent wants, a better world for their little children. He had the courage of his convictions and he paid the ultimate price for his beliefs. A coward took his life, robbing society and robbing his family. Anything done to honor a man like Dr. King is a beautiful thing.

According to the Archives Department of the King Center in Atlanta, the Southern-born & raised Dr. King had a favorite meal. It was fried chicken, collards, cornbread, and sweet potato pie. Sounds like a fabulous meal to me. And it sounds remarkably similar to the special lunch that was going to be served in Denver schools.

But who knew that Dr. King was such an insensitive racist?!

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