In February, a state-run media outlet in China mocked Gary Locke, who was signing off as U.S. ambassador to that country. “Gary Locke is a U.S.-born, third-generation Chinese-American, and his being a banana — ‘yellow skin and white heart’ — became an advantage for Obama’s foreign policy,’ ” the editorial read.
…Matt Thompson, our Code Switch teammate argued that eggs might make more sense as a descriptor of East Asian folks who “act white”; after all, it’s their presumed cultural performance that’s front-facing and that folks are responding to. We looked at him and blinked. “Dude, we’re talking about racist food here. You’re really overthinking this.”
…Why are foods the stand-ins for all this racial ostracism?
Well, food is easy. There’s a platonic apple in your head. (And it’s red, unless you’re one of those deviants who hears apple and thinks it’s green. You go have a seat somewhere.) And if kids are the people who are tossing these epithets around, it probably makes sense that these are all foods that are in kid’s lunchboxes.** Twinkies. Oreos. Apples. Bananas.
To a kid, racial classifications are that simple. And viewed in that light, food is actually a more complex metaphor — it’s almost synaesthetic. This whole phenomenon implicitly relies on people using “red,” “yellow,” “brown,” “black” and “white” — color markers — as fair and clear descriptions of race.
If we’ve been reduced to simple colors, then it follows we’re reducible to junk foods
Being called an oreo was probably the BANE of my existence when I was growing up. When kids, both black and white, said that I “talked white” or “acted white” I ALWAYS asked them exactly what that meant by that and nobody ever had a response that made sense. I guess when we’re kids (or tragically ignorant adults) race really does get dumbed down to basic colors and the correlations our society has come up for each. Then when our understand of race starts to get a little bit more complicated when we’re confronted with people who exist outside of stereotypes, like an African American Republican (using the example from the article), we more simplistic comparisons and take a lazy step up from colors to food.