Leni-isms: My Daughter, My Muse

17 Sep

As you might recall, my twelve year-old daughter Leni has been a constant muse for my writings on race and race relations.  From the time she asked me at age six whether new friends I spoke about were black or white, or whether my father, her “Poppy,” was a Black American, to recently insisting I would like a certain singer on American Idol because he was black, and that all of my friends on Facebook are black, Leni, I think, continues to be intrigued and at times perplexed by what she calls, “my obsession with black people.”

So, in honor of Leni’s continued curiosity, and desire to reach out and understand and connect with me through this whatever you call I am doing here–which is, I suppose my own journey to understand my desire to connect across color lines, to care about making connections, and to tred through this territory, not being afraid to make missteps, and coming out in the end, hopefully a better person for it–I am now coining Leni’s musings as Leni-isms.

Here are two Leni’isms for today.    1.  When Leni heard hip-hop artist, Drake on the MTV Music Awards declare in his acceptance speech that he was Black and Jewish, she pronounced him to be Blewish.  Black + Jewish = Blewish.


2.  When driving past a KFC last night, Leni said, “I don’t know why people say black people like fried chicken.  Everyone likes fried chicken.  It doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t know…” I began to try and come up with an easy answer to a complicated question.

What do you mean you don’t know?” Leni asked, “You’re the Buddha of the Blacks.  You’re supposed to know everything about black people.”

I had to chuckle at that.  She does think I know everything about black people just out of my caring to relate to people of color, her proof:  this blog, the books on race and race relations that sit on my bookshelf, my obsession with Michael Jackson…

But her question deserved an answer.

“I know, you’re absolutely, right, Leni!” I answered.  “Everyone does like fried chicken.  I added, “but it can be true that certain foods can be attributed to certain groups of people as part of their culture, religion or ethnicity–I don’t know, like fried chicken seems like more of a Southern thing to me.  The problem comes when people start to generalize and stereotype, or when negative connotations come out of it.”

“I mean Jewish people eat matzoh, bagels and lox, brisket and chopped liver (I don’t eat meat anymore, and always hated chopped liver) and things like that, but if someone started calling you names, like, you bagel-loving Jew, or you fried chicken eating black, that’s where it becomes a problem.  There was a lot of bad imagery back in the early 1900’s I think it was, that depicted caricatures of black people eating watermelon that were very negative–that’s bad.”

“I know.  They say black people like fried chicken and kool-aid, and I don’t get it, but the kool-aid is true.” Leni said.

“Kool-aid?  I never heard that one.”

“Yes, kool-aid, it’s true,”  Leni assured me.

“What do you mean it’s true–how do you know?”  I challenged her.

“I just know.  Just like I know a lot of other things.”

Well, I never heard that, and like I said you always get into trouble when you start to stereotype people and say everyone from one group likes a certain thing or behaves a certain way.”

As we continued our drive, I thought, okay, I have to research this.  Where does the notion come from–that black people like fried chicken, watermelon and kool-aid.  So, today I googled the phrase “black people like fried chicken,” and just like the article I am about to post from Yesha Callahan, writer, blogger and Daily Editor of Clutch Magazine, I didn’t come across any scholarly answers or Wikipedia articles that could tell me exactly where this notion came from, but I enjoyed Yesha’s observations in her article, so I will now let her words and images speak for themselves.

And, thank you, Leni, for being a constant companion, on your Mom’s journey.

Click for two more WJSS posts inspired by Leni:  Whose Ghetto Is It? and Leni Continues Role as My Black Entertainment News Alerter


Click here for Yesha Callahan’s article:




SOURCE:  www.yeshacallahan.com, Black People & Fried Chicken – A Love Affair in Advertising, May 8, 2012



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