The levels of tone-deafness displayed during Black History Month always seem subsequently be more ignorant, and this year has already been no exception within the first week of the annual observation honoring the historical accomplishments of and contributions from African Americans.
Case in point: A mostly white Catholic high school in suburban Boston not only willingly chose to serve fried chicken for its Black History Month event last week, but administrators also turned around and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of an African American cafeteria worker, offering a unique double-whammy of “racist” practices decried by Black students.
The head of Xaverian Brothers High School said he was sorry before deflecting the blame to a Black woman despite the responsibility for actively promulgating a racial stereotype that has its roots in slavery falling on the school located about 24 miles southwest of Boston.
“We are deeply troubled and disheartened by our failure in this instance and take full responsibility for it,” Jacob Conca said in a statement, according to the Boston Globe. “I offer my sincere apologies for the harm that our actions may have caused.”
But what came next was a stunning example of a lack of personal and professional accountability that was dripping with racial overtones.
Conca said a Black cafeteria worker at the school “asked to share a piece of her culture by creating menu items that represent historically Southern Black cuisine.” He added that Xaverian Brothers “saw this as an educational opportunity for our young men and worked with our Office of Community, Culture, and Equity to help frame the initiative.
The cafeteria worker in question has neither been identified nor made available to tell her side of the story, so the only narrative is provided by the school.
Further, it’s important to note that nowhere in Conca’s apology is the acknowledgment of the racist association of fried chicken with Black people.
The Globe reported that Xaverian Brothers even announced the main course over its loudspeakers during school on Tuesday as part of its “special meals” it was planning for Black History Month, which is tantamount to confirmation that it is likely not a single Black person in a decision-making leadership capacity at that school. That decided lack of diversity is always problematic when planning for any Black History Month observation.
Some students at Xaverian Brothers — where 3.1% of its 988 students are Black, according to the most recent statistics available — called out their school for being “racist” because of the conscious decision to serve fried chicken for Black History Month.
“Honestly, I think it’s just a big stereotype. It could be seen as a little racist,” Liam Baker, a senior, told local news outlet WCVB. “It’s the first day of Black History Month. They couldn’t have come up with a better thing than fried chicken for African cuisine? It doesn’t really make much sense.”
Another student, Michael Earls, said Xavierian Brothers must “acknowledge that their ignorance perpetuated a racist stereotype.”
However, Xavierian Brothers has apparently sought to downplay that “racist” angle, with Conca instead calling it a “negative stereotype” without stating the obvious.
“We are taking the necessary steps to both learn from this mistake and appropriately move forward,” he said.
This is America.