NBC May Very Well Be Racist, But This Doesn’t Prove It.

I’d like to make you all aware of a new post category we’ll be employing: “X May Very Well Be Racist, But This Doesn’t Prove It.”

It’s a phrase we at PB say a LOT amongst ourselves when it comes to the various racegates that seem to pop up regularly. After calls from Barack Obama and Eric Holder for Americans to have a Serious Conversation About Race, it seems like all we’ve gotten is a permanent racial silly season. The constant crying foul for things that aren’t actually racist fuels an even sillier backlash from people who complain: “I Guess I’m A Racist.”

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Ahmir ‘?uestlove’ Thompson tweet heard ’round the innanets. The Roots’ drummer posted a picture of a sign in the NBC cafeteria promoting a soul food menu in honor of Black History Month. Cue racial outrage.

Later, of course, it came out, that the chef, a black woman, just wanted to share a good meal. (I felt especially bad for her because she even made the greens with turkey, not pork, which is so thoughtful.) Thompson later cleared things up, explaining that he thought the sign was funny, not racist.

To say it plainly, even though I’m sure you all understand this, there’s nothing racist about marking a holiday or special time of year with corresponding food. Food is the go-to cultural exchange item — school cafeterias the nation over serve crappy tacos on Cinco De Mayo, and hot dogs for the Fourth of July.

If you want to complain about racism at NBC Universal, then take issue with the lack of diversity in the company’s upper ranks, where only 2 out of the 18 executives are people of color (and 3 of the 18 are women). A lack of diversity doesn’t equal racism, either, but it’s something — unlike fried chicken for Black History Month — that’s worth thinking about.

I’m instituting the “X May Very Well Be Racist, But This Doesn’t Prove It” category tag, because the way things are going, I think we’re going to need it for a good long while to come.

Latest posts by Shani (see all)

  • If we’re gonna question anything, let’s question Lorne Michaels’ insistance of having no more than 2 Black folks in the cast of SNL at any given time.

  • Damn typos. “insistence” LOL

  • I agree that this doesn’t prove anything, but at the very least, NBC shouldn’t have been surprised that this caused a stir, however warranted that stir may or may not be.

  • Val

    The intent appears not to have been racist. However, did this make any Black NBC employees feel uncomfortable? If so that would be the effect and if the effect of a non-racist action makes a particular group of people feel uncomfortable then maybe that makes it racially insensitive.

  • Ron

    No, but last night seeing Kenan as the butler in that end wedding skit certainly wasn’t altruism.

  • Seth in LA

    I think in this case, the primary reason for the controversy is something that happens when people who are disenfranchised suddenly become… enfranchised.

    I’m not saying that racial minorities aren’t still often on the outside looking in, but somebody like ?uestlove, may not yet realize that with 1.2 million twitter followers, he has quite a bit of power and cultural influence. A photo like that might seem funny and might be fun to share with 100 of your closest friends, but when it’s instantaneously beamed to 1.2 million phones, that’s 1.2 million opportunities for somebody to think it’s demeaning, or to think that he thinks it’s demeaning. Then a buzz starts, and then NBC finds itself defending itself from the one accusation no big company can afford to face.

  • Some black folks are become self defeating with whipping up hysteria in everything. The web has lent itself to this witchhunt mentality. It’s becoming ridiculous! If someone says a black man is articulate, watch the fire on Twitter! If someone says a black woman is inarticulate, watch the fire on Facebook! If they show a soulfood menu, it’s racism! If there are no soulfood menus, it’s racism! It’s as though some black folks are intoxicated with this “power to tweet” and will tweet in spite of themselves and their culture! And we blame white people? Come on now!!

  • Scipio Africanus

    I found that menu to be scrumptious, tantalizing, flirtatious and inspiring.

  • Hmmm. I think if “16 oz Fountain Soda” had been “Grape Pop/Kool-Aid” it woulda crossed the line.

    Alllll about nuance.

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