Eating Watermelon in Front of White People.
Until I was in my 20s, I would not eat watermelon in front of white people. I felt the sense that everyone was looking at me, wondering if I would go for the watermelon, so I never touched the stuff. Recently, I was listening to a podcast interview of a food historian at the new African American museum in Washington, D.C. The historian mentioned that okra was introduced to North America from Africa during the slave trade. When the interviewer ignorantly asked if the slaves brought it with them, the historian gently reminded him that slaves did not have time to pack. She continued that watermelon and the technique of deep frying animal were brought from Africa during the same period. This started me thinking that these foods were perhaps the only things the slaves had of home. What a comfort fried chicken and watermelon must have been. What it must have meant to pass these “comfort foods” from generation to generation, particularly when there was so little else to pass. What a particularly cruel thing to do, then, to make fun of black people for eating fried chicken and watermelon. How cruel to pass this sentiment down from generation to generation so that a slave’s great-granddaughter feels so self-conscious, she denies herself the comforts of her ancestors.
I find this all particularly weird because fried chicken and watermelon are indisputably delicious and universally beloved. It is like saying, "Those black people, always breathing air." And, to be clear, this nonsense has permeated our society so much so that even some my most progressive white friends balk embarrassed when they ask if I’ve been to Gus’s yet. Less progressive friends decline to ask at all even though it's the question of the day.
For attention and so that they are never forgotten, I have attached a photograph of slaves on a slave ship. Notice that most of them are children. Recently stolen from their mothers, somehow alive after the horrid journey, they are now going to be sold into a life of... well, you know the story – and to laugh at them for eating watermelon – to laugh at them or their children for anything. My god. #blackhistory#history