Baking woman cooking up naughty but sweet foodAsk Rene: Overly Sensitive Or Was It Something I Said? (VIDEO)

I’m a middle-aged white woman and I have close friends of several different races. One of my friends is an African-American woman who I’ll call Betty. I recently had a dinner at my apartment with some of my friends. Betty was present. At some point, she came into the kitchen. We chatted for a few moments and then I said something to the effect of, “Are you hungry? Would you like some chicken?” Betty got a look on her face, she said no, and walked away. Now she barely talks to me. When I told another friend what happened, he said that I was being racially insensitive when I asked Betty if she wanted chicken. I served chicken for dinner as well as other meats. Honestly, the chicken was the closest thing to my hand when I offered it. I’m confused, but more than that, I’m upset if I hurt my friend, but I’m not sure what I did wrong. Can you explain? Flummoxed in Fort Collins

 

Dear Flummoxed: You’re confused? So am I! And I’m an African American woman! First off,  I don’t think you did anything wrong. You asked if I could explain.. I’ll try and then tell you what I would do if I were in your shoes.

THE BACKSTORY

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Okay, without going into too much detail, here’s a little American History 101. Fried chicken and watermelon are foods used to negatively stereotype African Americans. I found this piecehttp://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/05/22/186087397/where-did-that-fried-chicken-stereotype-come-from on NPR.com that goes into a little more depth. Essentially chicken was easy to raise and a plentiful source of protein for slaves. Then came the movie Birth of a Nation which depicted African Americans as lazy, sexually aggressive and ignorant. In one scene, designed to highlight the "dangers" of allowing blacks to vote, a group of legislators is acting out, including one who is eating, what? Fried Chicken. So The Birth of a Nation, also helped birth a stereotype.