The Corner

The Case of the Racist PB&J

The latest in crazy courtesy of the Portland, Ore., government schools: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are sort of racist. From the Portland Tribune:

Verenice Gutierrez picks up on the subtle language of racism every day.

Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” says Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, a diverse school of 500 students in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood.

“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”

Guitierrez, along with all of Portland Public Schools’ principals, will start the new school year off this week by drilling in on the language of “Courageous Conversations,” the district-wide equity training being implemented in every building in phases during the past few years.

As noted by Education Action Group, a critic of government schools and the unions that dominate then, Portland’s approach has been heavily (and expensively) influenced by Pacific Education Group (PEG), a loopy-left outfit that is much bothered about the alleged problem of “white privilege,” i.e. the normative presentation of cultural assumptions, habits, and ideals that are in its view a little too pale and un-diverse. If you asked a 1930s white supremacist what was characteristic of white culture and lacking in non-white cultures, you’d get the same answers that PEG offers: “self-reliance,” the belief that “hard work is the key to success,” “rational, linear thinking,” the primacy of the nuclear family, monotheism, “adherence to rigid time schedules,” the belief that one should place “work before play,” etc. Also, apparently white folks have a culinary tradition that insists “bland is best.” Hard work, punctuality, rationalism, bland food — apparently white culture is fundamentally Swiss, though it is almost indistinguishable from Japanese culture. (I’ve never encountered a PB&J in Switzerland; can’t speak for Tokyo.) Punctuality-challenged Frenchmen and fire-eating Cajuns are outside of whiteworld, presumably. 

There is a great deal of spirited debate about the idea of “acting white,” the belief that black students fail to value things like academic achievement, command of standard English, etc., because those things are seen as being inherently white and that striving toward them makes nonwhites feel somehow inauthentic. Here we have a group of highly paid education consultants making essentially the same argument: Showing up on time for class is a white thing, one that goes along with the belief that “hard work is the key to success.” Insisting on punctuality is an act of cultural insensitivity. 

The fundamental difference, according to PEG, is between “white individualism” and “color group collectivism,” and educators can bridge that chasm by, e.g., instituting “group celebration of student achievement (vs. individual honors).” That’s the thing about government schools: Send your kids to a collectivist institution, they’re going to be taught collectivism. 

This wisdom came to the Portland schools at a cost of about a half-million dollars. Consider the language a bit: “Americans eat peanut butter and jelly,” we’re told, but what about “Somali or Hispanic students?” Presumably most of the students in Portland government schools who are of Somali or Hispanic origin are Americans, too, and it is part of the American genius that people of Somali origin can become American in a profound sense that one cannot become Chinese or Punjabi, no matter how deeply one tries to assimilate into those cultures. “Americans eat peanut butter and jelly.” Sure, and they eat sarson ka saag, too. And — heavens to Betsy! — pita. 

If Portland educators need oddball views about the racist nature of wholesome foodstuffs, Slate hasn’t put its evergreen Thanksgiving “preference for white meat is racist” column behind the paywall yet.

Government-monopoly schools are probably the single most destructive public institution in American life. Think hard about to whom it is you are entrusting your children for 13 years.



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