Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Lunch is not Racist

I ate dog meat. No, not dog food; dog meat. The flesh of a canine killed and prepared in a local dish. So did President Obama. The difference is I didn’t do it on purpose.

While living in the Philippines I had a dish prepared with dog meat served to me on at least two occasions that I know of. In both cases I found out about it after the fact. Now I’m a world traveler and pretty much an omnivore, but I draw the line at eating dog meat because I am a dog lover. Like most Americans (and Frenchmen) who love their dogs, my hairy little companion is more like a child than a pet. I would no more eat a child than I would a dog; not on purpose. No matter how many times my Filipina wife explained this to people someone always missed the memo.

I say that to illustrate the point that culinary customs vary widely across the globe. You have to be prepared for surprises (some unpleasant) when traveling abroad – especially if you have the nerve to get away from tourist zones. What is normal for you may be taboo in a foreign land. And what is repulsive for you might be a delicacy to your host.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

I read this article this morning and nearly choked on my coffee. Teachers in Portland were being taught to be aware that a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be sending subtle racist messages.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” Gutierrez asked. “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”

The message seems to be that our American meal choices should be “more inclusive” so that foreign students will not feel left out.

Politically Correct Gone Amok

That is insanity. A person’s meal choice is just that, a personal choice. Nobody has to change their diet selections so that the person across the table feels “more at home” in your country. In fact, it would be insulting. “Yes, Pedro, because you look Mexican I am only going to eat tacos while you are here.”

It is an insult. I know because I have endured such incredibly crass treatment for years. While I was in the Navy I was one of the few Black people in Reactor Department on a massive nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.  One most ships the nuclear operators are 90% White. Over the years I developed a thick skin to avoid reacting when, once again, my White shipmates came racing back from the messdecks to announce to me that “they’re serving watermelon today!”

I cannot say if it was a racist impulse that caused them to think such news was desired or welcome – in most cases, I assumed a benign impulse. But it was irritating to have them think watermelon and fried chicken are staples of my diet just because I am Black. (Actually, spaghetti is; I love that stuff.)I was aware that a few of them said it with malicious intent.

Whatever is on your plate is no one else’s business; not the school’s or the government’s. It should taste good to you, be nourishing and filling. It should not make you feel guilty because the Somali at the next table grew up eating something else.

Guilt is the Issue

The above article (relinked here) had this passage: The Tribune noted that the school started the new year with "intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives," to help educators understand their own “white privilege,” in order to "change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance."
The goal of this whole program is to make White Americans feel guilty for every little things you say, do or possess because you are somehow undeserving. And it simultaneously wants me and all minorities to resent every mouthful of food you take as if somehow every swallow causes some brown, black or yellow person to starve to death.

The only way to overcome this insanity is to embrace our uniqueness, both as individuals and as a nation. America does not exclude anyone; not their culture, their religion, their fashion or their food. You can find a restaurant somewhere in the country serving every known cuisine on Earth here in America. You might not notice kosher foods at Wal-Mart, but it is there. You might not have any idea what durian is (it's the big green one, common to Asia) but those who want it can often find it when they want it.

The final nail in the coffin of this politically correct nonsense is this; McDonald’s is popular in most countries in the world. Those who don’t have it yet, are in line to get it, even in Muslim countries. American food is universal. Like much of our culture, people often prefer it to their own traditional foods in a short time. Not just “Mickey D’s”, KFC, Subway, and Taco Bell are all global fast food chains now with more opening every day. People want what we have. That is the opposite of racist.
Teachers and students; eat what you want and enjoy it. If anyone gives you grief about it, tell them to go overseas. I am certain they can find a burger anywhere, even in India.