We’re approaching that American holiday that’s come to symbolize two diverse cultures, American settlers and American Indians, oops Native Americans or whatever is the PC-approved term, sitting together to share a meal and offer thanks to God for a successful harvest. Agrarian societies through the ages have held similar celebrations at the end of the harvest season. The unique component of our Thanksgiving rests heavily on our national self-image of a melting pot of cultures living in harmony, where Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a place where we will “sit down at a table of brotherhood” evokes a national yearning for the America we hope we can someday be.
The more enlightened our intellectual and political elites become, the further removed from this dream we seem to be drifting. We’ve allowed our educational experts to confuse, conflate and completely confound our language into a mass of hidden meanings, ripe with rhetorical landmines, so that we hesitate before speaking for fear of offending someone, somehow, in some way through word choice, inflection or even failing to see some mysterious allusion. Just when you think this insanity can go no further, along comes a news report to prove, yes, “educated” people really can twist concepts beyond any recognizable bounds of reasonable meaning. Who knew the simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich should be avoided in classroom discussions about food, because it’s emblematic of “white privilege” and therefore a racist symbol. Yes, really, according to a Portland school official, where they’ve had lengthy discussions on this pressing topic (here). That educators in this school actually sat around having serious discussions about racial implications with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches speaks volumes about why our children keep falling further behind when compared to other children around the world. No one spoke up about the idiocy, but instead they collectively, as good followers do, centered their attention on being more aware of “white privilege”.
The other day I had a long wait at the doctor’s office, where a lovely old lady entertained me with a lively conversation about everything from homestyle cooking to motorcycle riding. This lady told me about her daughter, a school teacher, who brought a problem to her attention that she wasn’t aware of and it sure wasn’t about the racial overtones of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She stated her daughter and other teachers noticed a lot of children coming to school Monday mornings very hungry, due to food insecurity at home. This lady talked about a program to provide food for school children on Monday mornings that her son’s church started and how hard he works as a young pastor. Unbeknownst to me, Mondays bring an influx of children who haven’t eaten hardly anything on the weekend and whose primary food source is government-funded meals at school during the school week. Yes, here was an old, Southern white lady telling me about the children in need in our own community and about a problem, which I knew nothing about.
We discussed holiday meals and she informed me that in recent years her daughter does the main cooking, while she provides a few dishes that her family requests she make. One recipe she mentioned is shoe peg corn salad, which I plan to make soon. She talked about how her grandchildren frequently request that she make her special hamburgers, that according to them, are the best hamburgers ever. I inquired what her secret ingredients are for the best hamburgers ever. She said she chops up onions and stuff fine, like she would for meatloaf, then adds breadcrumbs and an egg. Her mother-in-law taught her to make hamburgers like this and she said, “You know why she added the breadcrumbs and stuff?” Coming from a large family, it seemed obvious to me. She added the breadcrumbs to make the meat stretch farther to feed more people. This is the common sense stuff, that the type of people who devote time to discussions of the racial overtones to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, will never acquire.
An afternoon chat in a waiting room provided me with a memorable meeting . I’ve been looking for a church to join for a long time, after spending decades avoiding organized religion and her’s son’s church might be worth checking out. Yes, this old lady dared to mention God in our conversation too. Her uncomplicated dedication to putting real time and hard work into community service seemed to me, to be exactly what we need more of in America. Whenever you rely on stereotypes, like the “educated types” who wax on about “white privilege”, you erect barriers to ever reaching the very goals you think you’re working to achieve.
It’s not about making race the central theme at the dinner table, but to learn to make a seat at the table and feed as many people as possible that will lead us to the fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s dream. Only by taking the time to get to know people, can you ever find out who they are. People will surprise you, if you let them. She told me that she won a motorcycle in a raffle recently, but she traded it in for a new Harley-Davidson trike. She ended our conversation by telling me, her husband doesn’t have to ask her twice if she wants to ride, because she has always loved to ride motorcycles.