CHANCELLOR | We Are Not a Monolith

In the Comedy Central show “Key & Peele,” there was a sketch about Black Republicans where a series of speakers arose, stating that the Black community is diverse and not a monolith. A monolith is a group of people seen as uniform and indivisible. The current cultural practice has been to treat minority coalitions as one group lumped together. Given the plethora of different cultural identities within the Black community, categorizing African Americans within the monolith leads to the harm and disappearance of Black voices and perspectives. 

The best local encapsulation of the monolith problem was earlier this month in a collaborative post on Instagram  by Cornell Dining and Black Students United to celebrate Black History Month. Throughout this month, there are four nights of special dinners highlighting the different cuisines of African people dispersed worldwide. Nine dining halls participate across four nights, each with different cuisines, from Ghana and the Gold Coast, East Africa, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, North Africa and Jamaica, to name a few. However, there was a cuisine that was notably left off the list: soul food. This African American cuisine consists of delectable eats such as fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread and yams. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. People in the comments section of the Instagram post echoed the sentiment. Given that African Americans fought for Black History Month to recognize their culture and history, Cornell Dining, even when collaborating with Black Students United, completely ignored Black culture.

The offense continued, with many of the cuisines having overlapping elements. Ghana and the Gold Coast cuisine was offered at Becker House on Feb. 8, but Jansens at Hans Bethe House served a general West African cuisine the same night. When looking at a map, you can see that Ghana is part of West Africa. This was not the only case of overlap. Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and Jamaica all have their own cuisine nights, but there is also a general Caribbean cuisine night, which all these nations are part of. Cuisines from Caribbean Islands such as Cuba and Puerto Rico were included, even though these cuisines are not considered to be part of Black cuisine. Cornell Dining created a localized monolith of African Diaspora students, erasing African Americans during a celebration of Black History Month.