The principal of an all-girls Catholic school in California had a lot of explaining to do this week after the cafeteria offered a special Black History Month menu of watermelon, fried chicken and cornbread. The menu sparked outrage after parents and students complained that the meal celebrated Black stereotypes, not history, in an assembly and explanatory letter.
Nancy Libby, the head at Carondelet High School, responded to the outcry by speaking to members of the Black Student Union and offering a public apology for the offensive menu.
“I’d like to apologize for this announcement and any hurt this caused students, parents or community members,” she stated in a letter. “Please know that at no time at Carondelet do we wish to perpetrate (sic) racial stereotypes.’
According to University of San Francisco professor James Taylor, the idea was well-intentioned but poorly executed. “Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these stereotypes of Black southern culture come from the same place that the N-word comes from,” he told NBC. “This is not like this food represents some heroic moment in African-American experience. What it represents is the degradation and the stereotyping of African-Americans.”
Ruth Wilson, chair of the African-American Studies Department at San Jose State University, added that the reason why this meal sparks bad feelings “is because blackface-era cartoons and plays showed African-Americans eating these foods in ugly caricature depictions.”