I generally avoid outright political material on this blog and perhaps this is not really political either though it has certainly been turned into an area of overlap! At any rate, it appears now that apple pie is racist. So, at least, says Raj Patel – noted academic often referred to as the Rock Star of Social Justice. Perhaps I overstate Mr. Patel’s case. His concern with apple pie in particular arises from the popular conception of the dessert as a distinctively American treat – As American as Apple Pie! But, he insists, any nostalgic connections of our national identity to this bread and fruit concoction relies on a sort of cultural amnesia regarding apple pie’s colonial roots. Shucks – even the traditional artistic representations of a hot apple pie, perhaps accompanied by a fired earthenware pitcher of fresh cream, resting on a gingham cloth atop an ornate walnut table with hand chiseled details – hearkens back to a New England era that reeks of land stolen from the Native Americans and labor appropriated from African slaves!
Well, OK. I guess apple pie is off the menu. But, by the same logic, so is turkey – at least insofar as I understand the historic recollections of the first Thanksgiving. And why stop with food? Never let your children play on swings hung with chains. Chains, after all, featured pretty prominently in the whole slavery debacle. And how about boats? Those patriarchal, racist colonials got here on boats and slaves arrived the same way. All you boat owners have some ‘splainig to do! And, even if you don’t own a boat – or ever ride in one (cruise ships count!) – just think of all the goods we consume that were transported by boat! Did you think all those big steel cubicles on those huge container ships were filled with air? Wait – air! Oh no! The people of the colonial age breathed air! That’s it! No more racist air for me! I’m holding my breath starting right now! …….. Wow, that was harder than I thought. Curse those colonials for sticking me with the need to breathe air fouled by their constant wretched inhaling and exhaling!
Perhaps that’s enough to make my first point. In case you missed it I’ll try to be more clear. Slavery was a terrible unjustifiable moral wrong. There was also much evil in the treatment of the Native Americans. There were other failings as well. But it’s – I’ll just say it – STUPID to cast blame on any particular combination of fruit, flour sugar, butter, lard and water! The people who committed those evils ate many things, used many tools, and partook of the goodness of creation as all peoples of all times have done. Apple Pie is not racist. Apple Pie is not virtuous either. It’s – pie.
Second point – perhaps it would be more profitable to address the ACTUAL evils of our own time than to ceaselessly vilify inanimate objects because or either real or imagined tangential connections to the evils of the past. Slavery does still exist in the world. And I’d be willing to bet there are real present-day racists who don’t eat apple pie! If you care to make the case that some particular product we all take advantage of is the actual result of actual slave labor today – I’m ready to listen to that! But you needn’t waste my time with historic ‘pie shaming’.
Third point – and perhaps the only one I needed to make at all. Mark 7:15 (re: food)– There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church