What Does That Sign Say

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Last Thursday, in support of Black History Month, the cafeteria at NBC headquarters served for lunch what could be described as a soul food meal. By the look of the menu, it looks like it would have been a delicious meal. Who could pass up a meal that most Blacks have eaten for generations? Well, Questlove of the Roots passed up on the lunch and at the same time took a picture of the sign that had the Thursday special and immediately posted the pic on Twitter to question why NBC would promote this meal. The Huffington Post jumped on this right away and the story grew legs and it was being regarded as a slam toward Blacks. If only Questlove had done some investigating he would have discovered that the soul food special was the idea of one of the cooks, Leslie Calhoun who said she had been trying to get a special for BHM for the eight years she been serving at 30 Rock. Oh, Ms. Calhoun is Black. So, what happened? NBC embarrassed of the controversy immediately removed the sign and apologized if anyone who was offended by it. To use a line from Battlestar Galactica: “All this has happened before, and will happen again.”

To put this in perspective, let’s jump in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and go into the past to 1997. In April 1997, during an interview at the Masters, Fuzzy Zoeller started praising the soon-to-be-winner of the Masters, Tiger Woods when he commented that he hopes Woods doesn’t request fried chicken and collard greens at the Masters Champions Dinner the following year. This was a big issue in the spring of 1997 because you had this Black guy who was really a “Cabliasian” about to win the Masters and this White man decided to tarnish the moment by making a joke about what kind of food shouldn’t be served at the dinner. Of course, the media was the first to spread the comments and eventually Black activists made a big stink about it until Zoeller apologized for offending Woods and Black people. This could have been the moment when people of color could have said, “we aren’t offended buddy; we love our collard greens and fried chicken.” Instead, we came out looking embarrassed of what we eat and we’re still embarrassed.

If you’re Black in America, you’ve been stereotyped. The food, the clothes, the slang, the jewelry were used to confirm the stereotypes labeled on Black people. Fried chicken and greens are stereotypical foods associated with Blacks. It was seeing the chicken and greens on the sign that made Questlove question if someone was being funny about food we are known to eat. Let me be the first to say that we need to shake these fears that White people want to laugh at us and embarrass us because we are different. Sure, there are still Whites that are racist but that’s a fact of life. We can’t worry about the lost souls, we have to deal with the ones that want to deal with us. I’m sorry but I love my greens, I love my fried chicken breasts, I love my dressing, I love my macaroni and cheese, I love my chitlins, I love my cornbread, I love my sweet potato pie, I love soul food and if Whites are going mock me for it, pass me my Kool-Aid first. (sike, I don’t drink Kool-Aid, but it is part of my childhood) No, really if you love your soul food, you should not be ashamed of it.

Ok, Doc Brown’s DeLorean is still in April 1997, so let jump in and go five months into the future to September 1997. The movie Soul Food is released to favorable reviews. The movie was about a Black family who had its ups and downs but was able to get together to enjoy some soul food on Sundays. To Black people, it was a positive example of how our families can get together and enjoy the food we grew up eating on Sundays, on Mother’s Day, on Thanksgiving on any day when family wants to get together. Ms. Calhoun spent years trying to get NBC to acknowledge meals that Black people have enjoyed and perhaps others would too, yet it took Questlove moments to wreck it because he thought Fuzzy Zoeller had reared his ugly head out of the rat hole to stick it to Black people again. NBC handed it all wrong because by taking down the sign it said that the meal was offensive. We as Americans need for Blacks and Whites to stop this tap dancing when it comes to the differences between the two races. Let me eat my fried chicken and greens and not feel embarrassed about it and I will let you honor the menu during Black History Month with fried chicken and collard greens.

Update………I discovered that Questlove posted this pic in which shows that he apologized to Ms. Calhoun for his “jumping the gun” moment. As a Black man, I know he had to feel badly for smearing the efforts that she put in to get specials for Black History Month. Hopefully, NBC will display the sign advertising what’s on special this upcoming Thursday.

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~ by R8RBOB on February 8, 2010.

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