Racism rears its ugly head once again

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Earlier this month, area high school, Carondelet, served fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon, among other foods, for lunch intending to pay homage to Black History Month.

While Carondelet administrators may believe they had good intentions, the lunch menu created  a lot of trouble for the all-girls Catholic high school in Concord, attracting national media attention and dredging up the difficult question; Is American society still racist?

The first troubling aspect of this lunch menu, which also included black-eyed peas and collard greens, is that these foods are not necessarily “black foods” but actually Southern foods. This misconstrues African American culture as identical to Southern culture.

Despite similarities and an intertwined nature between the two, confining an entire month dedicated to one race and culture in a Southern-inspired menu insults the purpose of Black History Month.

The principal of Carondelet, Nancy Libby, apologized for the racist lunch options and took them off the menu, saying the school never wanted to perpetuate racial stereotypes. While it may have not wanted to do so, Carondelet still made an uninformed decision that reflected very poorly on the school.

Fried chicken and watermelon were actually used by the Ku Klux Klan as propaganda intending to degrade African American culture. Movies funded by the KKK, such as “The Birth of a Nation,” depicted African Americans eating these foods in a savage nature.

This is not a universally known fact, so it is understandable that Carondelet would think that the menu was honoring Black History Month. But it does not take much effort to search the Internet for foods that actually represent black culture instead of throwing together a menu based on stereotyping.

Many Americans probably share the stereotypes perpetuated by Carondelet, and many Americans might have defended the menu, arguing the school had good intentions. But good intentions do not matter when a school has already made itself seem so ignorant.

America might not have shed its racist history after watching  a well-respected high school in the progressive Bay Area unknowingly create a racist lunch menu and then have citizens come to its defense.

America needs to reevaluate the meaning of racism. It may not be as overt as it was a century ago, but it can still present itself in the form of something as simple as a school lunch menu.