Peanut butter and jelly: symbol of white privilege

(The following appeared on Planet Moron on September 11, 2012.)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

OUT: A common and economical lunch choice.

IN: An ethnonormative example of white privilege.

Fortunately, the thoroughly modern administrators of the Portland, Oregon school system can see right through the thin veneer of those who claim a PB&J “is just a sandwich” and expose it for what it is:

A sandwich with issues.

The problem came up when a teacher used a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as an example in the classroom. As local Principal Verenice Gutierrez points out,

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?”

You might be thinking, “Exactly, what if they suffer from gluten intolerance or maybe are trying to lose a few pounds on Atkins?” But that’s not it at all. Principal Guttierrez offers an alternative to illustrate the real problem:

“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.”

Really, you have to stop being such a racist and treating everyone equally.

First, you need to assume that people who aren’t white are not Americans. In addition to ridding yourself of the racist assumption that anyone who is a citizen no matter where they are from “is as American as me,” you will also really be helping to streamline some matters in Arizona.

Second, you have to assume minority students are only familiar with their own ethnic food. You see a Chinese student? No way she’s even seen a PB&J sandwich, never mind eaten one. Italians? They’re probably wolfing down plates of ravioli for lunch or something. Irish? A couple of pints of Guinness will do it for the drunk bastards. Estonians?  Who knows, but it’s important we be as condescending to them as possible, too, so they don’t feel left out. White kids? Probably a mayonnaise sandwich on white bread with some more mayonnaise for good measure. Show that kid a taco and he’ll probably become confused and disoriented at the unfamiliar and exotic corn shell placed before him.

In totally unrelated news, Salsa surpassed Ketchup sales 20 years ago.

We simply have to break through the kind of rank racism that assumes a huge, inclusive, diverse, and dynamic, but ultimately common, culture binds us all together as individuals and instead assume that a person’s race or ethnicity is determinative of their behavior. For example, one of Principal Guttierrez’s initiatives:

Encourage “black and Latino” boys to join separate, segregated “drum groups.”

Do you think that perhaps setting up a drum group for minority students simultaneously plays to hideous racial stereotypes and is itself, racist?

“When white people do it, it is not a problem, but if it’s for kids of color, then it’s a problem? Break it down for me. That’s your white privilege, and your whiteness.”

You whitey white white whiteness white guy, you!

What if you feel that way but aren’t white?

  1. That’s just not possible as no minorities think that way.
  2. You don’t want to know.

Regardless, Guttierrez has a plan:

“Our focus school and our Superintendent’s mandate that we improve education for students of color, particularly Black and Brown boys, will provide us with many opportunities to use the protocols of Courageous Conversations in data teams, team meetings, staff meetings, and conversations amongst one another.”


Equity training aside, Scott School must teach the same number of students with fewer teachers and resources. Down five full-time positions this year, including two reading specialists, Gutierrez is trying desperately to do more with less.

At least they have their priorities straight.

One Response to Peanut butter and jelly: symbol of white privilege

  1. garnette says:

    I thought that peanut butter was no longer allowed in the schools because of peanut allergies. Egads, now they are going to use them as a teaching aid.

    I seem to remember when they began to introduce different ethnic references into math problems. Forget about trying to teach how to add apples and oranges, they focused on the references to the point of forgetting what they were trying to teach.


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