No doubt you all have seen the furor that has erupted over Paula Deen and her recent testimony in a lawsuit that has been published all over the Internet?
My initial reaction when hearing about is was something along the lines of; “Well, it doesn’t exactly surprise me, she’s no different than a whole lot of people in the United States…”
Then I thought about the different ways that Lil Wayne and Emmett Till might react to Paula Deen and her commentary?
Then I saw Black American CBS News commentator Nancy Giles on TV making the following statement: “…and on top of everything else she STOLE all of OUR recipes anyhow”
That’s when the light bulb went off over my head.
I thought back to the very first time that I had seen Paula Deen’s cooking show on TV. And I remember thinking to myself: “She is making soul food acceptable to the mainstream and I’ll bet that she is going to make a boatload of money doing so. How come someone Black can’t do the same thing?”
Obviously the whole topic of Culture Banditry has been one of the key topics discussed here on Soul-Patrol since it’s inception. We have mostly discussed it in relation to the historical exploitation of Black American musical artists. It is a tough issue to discuss in a public forum, simply because it is really easy for it to quickly degenerate into a hurtful and finger pointing discussion regardless of what your take may be on the topic.
Is it about money or is it about race?
Culture Banditry is about economic exploitation. And much of American History is built upon the reality of that economic exploitation.
Culture Banditry is so much a part of the fabric of what some people refer to as “American Exceptionalism,” sometimes we don’t even think about it when the exploitation is staring us right in front of our faces.
Do you think I am exaggerating?
Ask a Latino how they feel when they drive down the road and pass a “Chi-Chi’s” restaurant? I think that you might find that they feel the same way that Black Americans felt when they drove past a “Sambos” restaurant or how a Native American feels when they see the Washington Redskins playing on TV.
You see it is really easy to look at Culture Banditry and think that it is the same thing as racism.
But it isn’t.
It’s mostly about money.
Culture Banditry doesn’t care who gets exploited. It only cares about the money that can be generated. And it cares that the people being exploited don’t have the resources to prevent the exploitation from happening.
Oh they may complain in private. But they can’t stop the exploitation from happening.
For example, just a few weeks ago I was in a restaurant with my family. And I ordered chicken wings. Of course as I placed my order, I asked the young White waitress if their chicken wings were one piece or three pieces…”
She didn’t quite understand me. Then I had to explain in more detail. I said your menu says five chicken wings. I just want to know if that means five pieces of chicken wings or does that mean five whole chicken wings. Because five pieces of chicken wings really just means something less than two whole chicken wings…”
She still didn’t understand, so she got another waitress who happened to be Black to come over. The Black waitress replied; “sir each one of our chicken wings has 3 pieces, don’t worry we serve REAL CHICKEN WINGS HERE…” And we all laughed.
When the waitresses left; I said to my daughter; “when I was a kid you couldn’t give chicken wings away to White folks for free, however in today’s worlds White people love chicken wings so much that they sometimes consider a single chicken wing to be 3 pieces of meat.
And when they started doing that they made chicken wings too expensive for Black folks to eat anymore….”
My daughter laughed. My wife laughed. I laughed.
Clearly we recognized the Culture Banditry at work. However I am not in a position to stop it or prevent the economic
exploitation from flourishing into the future.
Of course Paula Deen is one of the reasons why in 2013 White Americans love chicken wings so much. She and other Culture Bandits have gotten rich popularizing food recipes that were once the staples of the decendants of Black American slaves.
Is that racist? Or is that just good business?
Perhaps the great NYC philosopher Sonny Corleone said it best in this speech to Michael Corleone and Tom Hagen?
Sonny: [laughing] What are you gonna do? Nice college boy, didn’t want to get mixed up in the family business. Now you want to gun down a police captain. Why? Because he slapped you in the face a little? What do you think this like the Army where you can shoot ’em from a mile away? No you gotta get up like this and, badda-bing, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit. C’mere. You’re taking this very personal. Tom, this is business and this man is taking it very,
A Teachable Moment?
The topic of Culture Banditry continues to play a large role in the daily lives of most Americans, simply because if we are to have a future, we as Americans need to be able to have an honest conversation about exactly how the events of the past have brought us to where we are in the present.
This will give us the information that we need to have in order to plot out exactly what kind of a future we want to have as Americans.
My hope is that this whole Paula Deen story will be helpful in creating an environment where Americans can start having honest discussions about this topic. I agree with “Sonny.” This is about business, it’s not personal…”
That my friends would be a helpful thing indeed!!!
Bob Davis is co-founder of soul-patrol.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.