Today was Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A holiday celebrated across the country to commemorate the life of one of the most influential African Americans in history. And despite having classes (yes, Union does not cancel class due to the lovely trimester system), Union set up numerous events to celebrate the life of such an important individual.
One of the most interesting events was the chance for the faculty and students to participate in A Community-Wide Video Project in which everyone was invited to filter through the Nott Memorial throughout the day to read and record a few lines of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Very powerful, indeed.
But the day was almost completely ruined for me when I went down the West Cafeteria tonight for dinner and saw what was being offered as the “specials” for the night:
and Cajun Style Rice and Beans.
Yes, all southern foods (which I’m sure was the intention), but also foods stereotypically associated with black culture. This day, which is supposed to be held in such high regard, seemed to be turned into some type of joke because of the archetypal food provided and the negative connotations that came along with it.
I realized that something was wrong when before I had even stepped into the dining hall I could hear people in my hallway laughing and yelling in disbelief, “You are not going to believe what West is serving for dinner! FRIED CHICKEN!” Is this the type of reaction that Dining Services was hoping to ignite? I’m sure it wasn’t, and yet, that is the exact reaction that the student body had. Mocking laughter.
Yes, as a student body and community as a whole, we should be beyond the immediate association of African Americans and fried chicken, or other stereotypes, and yet, tonight demonstrated that we are not. The association is still there. And that was really upsetting to realize.
This really took a toll on the significance of the day. The last thought of many of the students leaving the West dining hall was of the racially insensitive food provided as opposed to the overall significance of Martin Luther King’s place in history.
So yes, dining services, I understand that you had some good intentions: To provide us with Southern food (seeing as how Martin Luther King Jr. was from the South) and to ‘diversify’ our tastebuds. But I’d have to say that things didn’t exactly turn out as intended.
I hope that West Dining will be more sensitive and aware in the future.