February is Black History Month and while many schools assign essays, watch documentaries, or partake in various activities to honor African Americans, one Concord, California school opted to pay tribute in a totally tasteless and misguided way.
Carondelet High School for Girls decided they were going to serve – get this – fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon. Yes, they opted to embrace racial stereotypes in their tribute to African Americans. After the menu was announced, students and parents voiced their outrage and the school realized they made a mistake.
“I’d like to apologize for the announcement and any hurt this caused students, parents or community members,” principal Nancy Libby said in an apology letter. “Please know that at no time at Carondelet do we wish to perpetuate racial stereotypes.”
University of San Francisco Professor Dr. James Taylor told the local NBC News that although their motive was well intentioned, the concept wasn’t well thought out, “Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these stereotypes of black Southern culture that come from the same place where the N-word comes from.”
As a culture, we have been scrubbing these racist images from our collective landscape and our kids, hopefully, have not been exposed to these stereotypes of yore. Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology the curator of the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University said:
“I discovered that many young people, blacks and whites, were not only ignorant about historical expressions of racism, but they believed that I was exaggerating when I described the awfulness of Jim Crow.”
Our kids may not know about the stereotypes and I, for one, would like to keep it that way, until they are old enough to understand and digest their meaning. The history of the African American injustices and the stereotypes associated with our culture’s failings should be taught as “once” not “now,” so they continue to learn from the failure of previous generations. Thankfully, parents at Concord are looking at this issue as a teachable moment, and I would say not just for them, but for us all.
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