Monday, December 21, 2015

what's the matter with all of these children?



thedailybeast  |  University dining halls aren’t exactly famous for serving gourmet dishes, but Oberlin students say their meals aren’t merely bad—they are racially inauthentic, and thus, a form of microaggression.
It’s one thing to quietly gripe about the quality of dorm food (students have likely been doing that for centuries). It’s quite another to accuse the dining room staff of stealing from Asian culture because they didn’t prepare the General Tso’s chicken with the correct sauce.
And yet, here’s what one Oberlin student had to say about the dining hall’s sushi bar:
“When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture,” student Tomoyo Joshi told The Oberlin Review. “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”
Cultural appropriation, readers will recall, allegedly occurs when people borrow the traditions of another ethnic or religious group. Liberal students at a Canadian university, for example, recently shut down a free yoga class for disabled students because yoga has its origins in Hinduism, meaning it doesn’t belong to white people and they shouldn’t practice it. This kind of thinking is actually bafflingly illiberal—who’s to say that culture itself belongs to anyone?—and yet it’s usually left-leaning students waging weirdly nativist campaigns of forced isolation on foreign cuisines and customs.
The culinary critics at Oberlin, however, aren’t just mad that the cafeteria has appropriated their culture—they’re mad that it’s been appropriated poorly.
“It was ridiculous,” student Diep Nguyen told The Oberlin Review (the “it,” in question was a Banh Mi sandwich with the wrong bun). “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”
For one thing, the Banh Mi sandwich is itself the product of the blurring of cultural boundaries: French and Vietnamese.
For another, there’s something deliciously ironic about Oberlin students—some of the most privileged people in the world, as evidenced by the $50,000 they pay annually in tuition—whining about the bun-thickness of meals prepared by lowly paid cafeteria workers.