Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives & Duluth
Here’s a question about race and intergroup relations which might sound too glib but which is really quite serious.
What route is more likely to increase respect and perhaps even affection between and among wide varieties of people?
Is it the campaign currently underway in Duluth aimed at combating racism by putting up signs all around town and producing viral videos in which whites are accused of being incapable of seeing “white privilege”? A multimedia road show, in other words, which claims that whites are blind and obtuse about racism for reasons of their own race alone.
Or might Duluthians better appreciate the polyglot which is our state, nation and world by regularly watching “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” a show in which more than two dozen ethnic and other cuisines—and the often non-pale men and women who prepare them—are celebrated on the Food Network dozens of times a week?
As is almost always the case, I vote for the food.
One of the posters in the “Un-Fair” campaign, co-sponsored by almost 20 organizations including the city of Duluth itself, features a young white woman with “Is white skin really fair skin” emblazoned across her forehead. Unsurprisingly (which is not to say acceptably), this has resulted in a handful of jerks writing repugnant letters to the Duluth News Tribune and spray painting repugnant epithets on billboards. But what in their other-world bubble did organizers expect? That such art and captions would only provoke in benign ways?
By no stretch, by the way, is the point here that only rank bigots, or bigots of any kind, are the only people displeased and offended.
As for “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” I challenge anyone to emerge unscathed by good, even toasty feelings for brothers and sisters all around the globe—be they “of color” or colorless, carnivores or vegans—after watching host Guy Fieri drool over African, American, Asian, British, Cajun, Caribbean, Cuban, European, French, Fusion, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Indian, Irish, Jamaican, Jewish, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Peruvian, Scottish, South American, Southwestern, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines. Sure there’s overlap, and this list from the show’s website should have specifically included Eastern European, as Guy had a good time making sausage at Kramarczuk’s in Nordeast, but you get the well-served idea. Consider it whet privilege.
Actually, I would take this proposition even further, as I continue to stand by what I wrote 16 years ago now:
Nowhere in Minnesota are relations between black and white, rich and poor, better than they are at my local Old Country Buffet at 66th and Nicollet in Richfield. I don’t want to sound like a human bean counter, I argued at the time and still, but every day there’s at least as much variety among the patrons as in any college catalog filled with photos of students from nearly every known racial, ethnic, and sexual genus. And on top of that, never in my experience has anyone offered anything but a polite “excuse me” when grabbing chicken or dripping gravy.
In the matter of getting along and prospering, I’ll take my chances any day with all-you-can-eat restaurant chains rather than with well-intentioned but out-of-touch folks who somehow think that dividing a community is the best way to unite it.