[UPDATED with UCI Response] UC Irvine Cafeteria Sells Chicken and Waffles for Martin Luther King Day

MLKWaffle.jpg
UPDATE, JAN. 27, 5:06 P.M.:
As news traveled of Monday's MLK-themed chicken-and-waffles dinner held at Pippin Commons, one of UC Irvine's three major dining halls, university officials scrambled to soften the blow.

"Both the students who reported the incident and found it to be offensive and the food-services people are getting together on Tuesday to talk about where each side was coming from and feeling about it," says Cathy Lawhon, director of media relations for the university, "Student Affairs recognizes that this menu choice, while perhaps well-meaning, probably wasn't as culturally sensitive as it could have been. This is a teachable moment in which the chef can learn cultural sensitivity of stereotypes as interpreted through food choices."



According to Lawhon, the chef had no ill intentions. "He asked a few African-American student staff members in the Pippin Commons what would be appealing (for MLK Day). . . . Chicken was already the meat of the day, which is decided three weeks in advance. He wanted to know what would be a nice thing for people to enjoy that was MLK-themed. This was their idea, and he ran with it."

Ricardo Sparks, co-chairman of the school's Black Student Union, remained skeptical. "Why did he think it was okay that he asked a few black students," he said. "That's problematic in itself. It's the same stereotype, assuming that all black people think the same."

News that Aramark, the company in charge of UCI dining for student housing, would conduct cultural-sensitivity training for all managers and chefs, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, did little to mollify Sparks. "They've been doing that since I've been here in 2008," he said. "This is a system-wide occurrence and should be a part of initial job training."

MLKWaffle.jpg
Ricardo Sparks' Facebook page

ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 24: When UC Irvine students arrived at the on-campus eating facility Pippin Commons (which serves the Middle Earth dorms) on the night of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an exciting new dish was there to greet them: chicken and waffles, with a sign declaring, "MLK Holiday Special: Chicken and Waffles."

On the day set aside to commemorate the life of one of the few civil-rights leaders America feels comfortable enough to acknowledge, the eatery decided to do its part and serve the meal, presumably under the assumption that black people like chicken and waffles because the one chain legendary for serving the dish, Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, has locations in predominantly African-American cities and neighborhoods in Southern California. Since we're talking about academia here, let's make Pippin's line of thought into a proof: Chicken and waffles are popular among African-Americans. MLK was black. Therefore, MLK likes chicken and waffles!

The move by Pippin Commons has sparked an uproar on campus. Ricardo Sparks, co-chairperson of  UCI's  Black Student Union, was not surprised. "Yes, the OC is very racist," Sparks said on his Facebook page. "There's a bigger picture to all of this because it's more than just giving the okay to an MLK chicken-and-waffles night. There is a system that allows ignorance like this to continue. For Black students on this campus to feel uncomfortable."

This isn't Sparks' first experience with racism on campus: As a freshman, someone scrawled "Nigger" on his dorm room's dry-erase board.

Sparks and other black student leaders on campus are considering boycotting Pippin and encourage others to do the same. This comes only a week after a Laguna Beach surf shop achieved international notoriety for offering 20 percent off all black-colored items for MLK Day.

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101 comments
20ftJesus
20ftJesus

HA! Flavor Flav has just opened a chicken restaurant. Guess that's racist too.

KOI
KOI

IF PIPPIN WAS TRYING TO ASSOCIATE THE FOOD WITH MLK DAY, HE SHOULD HAVE DONE HIS HOMEWORK AND FOUND OUT WHAT EXACTLY WAS MLK'S FAVORITE DISH..HELLOOOOO. MAYBE MKL HATED WAFFLES..AND CHICKEN. OR MAYBE HE SHOULD HAVE GONE WITH SOME RIBS AND WATERMELON...OH BUT THEY ALWAYS HAVE WATERMELON IN PIPPIN.

MayhemInTheHood
MayhemInTheHood

"Why did he think it was okay that he asked a few black students. That's problematic in itself."

I get his point, but the way he says this made me laugh. I'd ask him to clarify, but apparently asking black UCI students questions is off limits. This probably makes classroom interactions with his professors both awkward and hilarious.

Harleygrl
Harleygrl

"There's a bigger picture to all of this because it's more than just giving the okay to an MLK chicken-and-waffles night. There is a system that allows ignorance like this to continue. For Black students on this campus to feel uncomfortable."**********************************************Do you suppose the black students are uncomfortable eating the fried chicken and waffles because it doesn't come in McDonald's paper bag? Or perhaps because it isn't served with a Colt 45 malt liquor? Or perhaps because it's not screamin', "Holla!" Blacks do all they can to draw attention to themselves. They scream and yell and fall out, drawing attention to themselves in any way they can. You can hardly hear the TV's in the student union TV areas, if they're in there - they talk so loud you can't hear the TV, they run back and forth and are disruptive. If you DARE say anything to them, they want to "git all up in yo' face" over it. You can't DISCUSS anything with them, they'll just start talking right over the top of you. That's how they win their arguments - not with logic. Not with persuasion. They just won't SHUT UP long enough to hear anything else besides the sound of their own voice. They're in love with it, and they can't hear anything else. Watch one of those "COPS" shows sometime, you'll see! The cop is trying to say something, they will not shut up long enough for him to talk. They will argue when they should be listening. Well, GUESS WHAT! It's the same over at the Student Union!

Harleygrl
Harleygrl

"Ricardo". That's a HISPANIC name, ain't it?

Harleygrl
Harleygrl

Next time just serve 'em some hot 'n sour soup and shrimp fried rice. Don't even ACKNOWLEDGE Martin Luther King Day. Just pretend that it's any other day, and don't capitalize "day". It's just a day. And it got NOTHIN' to do with ME, and it got NOTHIN' to do with thin-skinned idiots who think a student union cafe menu item is ALL ABOUT THEM.

minnie mouse
minnie mouse

Dang, if I'd have known it was chicken and waffles for dinner I woulda bought a dining card off someone near by and gone for the good eats. Why are people so freaky about what's for dinner?If there was tofu and tempeh for earth day I woulda puked all over somebody's Birkenstocks.The OC is the most messed up place i've ever lived with all this cultural sensitivity BS.Too bad I can't get anything good to eat within 5 miles of my house except mexican, which I can cook authentically.....UCI should hire Sodexo to provide food service- they rock and make all kinds of ethnic food for the different seasons etc.

TallTallTrees
TallTallTrees

I don't care what holiday, race, culture, religion, or region you are from, CHICKEN and WAFFLES ROCK!!! And Ima white girl.

Rog
Rog

I propose that UCI's Black Student Union rename itself the Chicken and Waffle Crybabies because that's probably how they'll be remembered in the future if they ever try to file a *legitimate* complaint. I hear the chef involved is going to be required to attend some kind of cultural sensitivity training. That seems fair so long as the people who filed this complaint agree to enroll in Grow-the-F*ck-Up training.

peterant
peterant

probably going to have chinese/asian food during chinese new year. all the asians at uci will be offended aka half the school lol.

well at least pippin has better food than mesa commons.

Publius
Publius

The well-known Harlem soul-food restaurant "Amy Ruth's Home-Style Southern Cuisine" (113 W. 116th St. New York NY) has special dishes named after note-worthy African-Americans. Their Chicken and Waffles special is 'The Reverend Al Sharpton.' Similar fare can be found at almost every soul-food restaurant in Harlem. It's such a well-known dish that Wikipedia has an article about it.

Racism is in the eye of the beholder ...

Darling Brings
Darling Brings

Black people: give me your ideal MLK day menu, I'd love to see it. Then I will point out how every item on it is racist.

Darling Brings
Darling Brings

So what wouldn't offend? I propose they have NO dinner at all on MLK day. You can starve.

rocketsauce
rocketsauce

I have a bigger problem with people being so damn uptight about chicken and waffles. Who gives a shit people! The reason we continue to have racial conflict is because you morons can't just let shit go and move on. MOVEON and love one another.

Linux
Linux

I would love to know what the "Black Student Union" would have suggested for a menu. Especially the student that filed a formal complaint. Post your PC menu on here for us PLEASE! Wouldn't want to offend your delicate sensibilities.

Blues_bob
Blues_bob

Apparently not one of the black student leaders has ever eaten at Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. It's brings people of color together.

Lrn2_spl
Lrn2_spl

I don't know why the hell this is getting such an uproar. Fried chicken and waffles is just a damn good serving of food, and I'll damn well thank MLK to get that serving.

TBAugust
TBAugust

This is ridiculous. As long as it doesn't happen to you or yours oh well! Doesn't make it right.

Nubian_diamond4
Nubian_diamond4

To have fried chicken associated with African American culture is ignorant of the student association to allow. They could have done better to show the schools celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday. There is more to the African American culture than friend chicken and for those who are taking this lightly shows your lack of social justice toward the African American community or any other culture for that matter.

Nigel
Nigel

Did anyone thing that maybe they're serving chicken and waffles to commemorate MLK day because he was from Atlanta, Georgia, and the dish is historically, a Southern one?

Mandeeuk
Mandeeuk

I had haggis yesterday for Burn's Day (Scottish holiday). Damn my mother for perpetuating the myth that Scottish people love haggis. Except it's not a myth.

Tdecome
Tdecome

This was done on purpose. What a disgrace and not surprise at all.

CARMENHERNANDEZ79
CARMENHERNANDEZ79

I THINK THIS IS VERY OFFENSIVE AND DERROGATORY ! But very typical of the OC crow, which I dislike and can't wait to move out.

Iamgoingawol
Iamgoingawol

I'm black and you know what? This is not something to fume over. There are serious issues out there, but yet we waste time tackling minor sperceived slights against us to make it seem like we are actually attacking racism at the roots. This is like pruning a weed but not bothering to do the hard work of going after the trunk.

Plus, I actually can imagine it was sparked by some ironic college kids who thought it'd be ironic and humorous, much like a 20 year old wearing a "World's Greatest Gramdpa" tee-shirt. Seriously...get over it.

jimmy
jimmy

As an African American I see where this is coming from. Yale University did the same thing last year, but when I heard the reasoning behind it, it made a little more sense. You see... the head chef is African American and simply wanted to honor Dr.King with a southern dish that they thought the students would enjoy. The head chef is certainly not racist, but admittedly should have reconsidered specifically tying it in with MLK day (which intrinsically has nothing to do with food).

Sngers12fs
Sngers12fs

no one has a right to not be offended.

Boo_hoo
Boo_hoo

Black people and pulling the race card. wah wah. Now if the kitchen director was black, would we still have this crying? Probably not.

Xicano
Xicano

Why in America do we rest so much weight upon intent... people are quick to say "Well I'm sure that was not their intent" or "Ya, I shouted the N word but it was a temporary lapse in judgment and I'm not a racist". These do not change the fact the people are decoding their representation in a manner which discursively leads them to believe that this was a racist LINE OF LOGIC... the same logic pointed out below... that fried chicken is a staple of the black community so offering it on for MLK day seems like a homage to the black community... STOP!... that is treating the black community like a monolithic group denying the many multiplicities within the black community... why is ok to reduce the black experience to a unit of study in K-12 or a day/month of recognition or a food... I am not saying we need simple inclusion to apease me... I want institutionalized diversity which becomes normalized the way that whiteness is... this is why we flock to extracurricular clubs, organizations, classes, cliques, academic disciplines where our diversity is institutionalized... but then we are just attacked for countering the American principle of inclusion through self-segregation... even more audacious is the notion of reverse racism which assumes that the attitudes and beliefs of people of color carry with them asymmetrical power dynamics... but we know that it is only the attitudes and beliefs of whites which carry with them the social power to subjugate and oppress people... so reverse prejudice or ethnocentrism yes... but reverse racism... NO!!!!

junior
junior

Do they serve falafel on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahma-dinner-jacket's birthday?

SeidonOp221
SeidonOp221

Reading this, it looks like truly a dumb idea. But I think it might be important to investigate and distinguish "bad" or "stupid" ideas from "racist" ones. It certainly is possible that the menu decision was race-based, but more likely--I would guess it was just a stupid idea. It may even have been intended to be respectful to the day, but if that was the case--clearly missed that MLK Day is not a CULTURAL holiday, but rather is supposed to be a celebration of an individual (no different than George Washington's or Abraham Lincoln's birthdays). I say this though--because attacking a decision as racist, when it was really just stupid, will do more harm than good. Walls will go up, and sides will be taken--when in reality, the person just needs to understand why the idea was stupid, and why MLK is NOT a holiday like Cinco de Mayo.

Cowpokette5
Cowpokette5

i grew up in santa ana in the 40's after the war. i see nothing's changed.

birdiegray
birdiegray

I found a site where you can get coupons for restaurant called "printapons" they are on all over the news, search online

Bajatelcalzon
Bajatelcalzon

hmmm I wonder if this dinning common will be having a farm field for "hispanic heritage month" and have the students pick their own fruits and vegetables...Looking fwd in picking my own meal and celebrating it by means of indulging on my freshly picked fruits and vegetables.(satire)

James
James

So they decided to serve up some southern comfort food for MLK. Big whooping deal. Some people will see Racism no matter what. Racism requires intent. There was no intent to defraud, degrade or insult. Time to get off the pity party train and eat some waffles.

Jiminy Cricket
Jiminy Cricket

In general, the country doesn't take MLK Day seriously enough.

MLK isn't just about African Americans. It's about walking our talk as a nation. Are we the cradle of liberty? Are we one nation under God? Are all men created equal? Big talk. And complete BS from 1776 to 1964. We're a lot closer to walking our talk now, and MLK is the biggest reason.

Mary_of_the_light
Mary_of_the_light

This is ridiculous. The dinner should have been fired chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and some nice juicy watermelon for dessert.

Diablo Blanco
Diablo Blanco

Working together we can create a world where no one is offended by anything ever again. But then what would the Identity police do?

Even the word "Watermelon" would get these fool's thong in a bundle

EastCoaster
EastCoaster

It's really quite sad that people are still so narrow-minded. One would think that in this day in age and in a state like California, that people would be more open-minded. Your ignorance makes you appear unintelligent and boorish. Furthermore, that you would lump every individual into one catergory is just wrong. We should all take a moment to get to know one another, rather than making assumptions and passing judgement.

Xicano
Xicano

why must we "move on"? Perhaps because it is too contentious and people are forced to examine their own privilege? That's bull shyt. While we should not let these kind of situations hold us down and prevent us from transformation, lest we forget we loose sight of where we have come from. I'm sure this, as most controversies, will pass but don't be so rash. It is our ability to remember which connects us to our past and allows us to learn and grow. Mere chicken and waffles are quite arbitrary... it is the connotations of their being included on a menu for MLK which harkens such deep seeded feelings. And for those who say: "Stop playing the victim" I say... "Once we stop being victims we have no need for resistance against the regimes of discrimination and oppression." Why don't you stop being so uptight about resistance?

Xicano
Xicano

So what are you suggesting? That the BSU student's would have chosen the same menu?

Xicano
Xicano

Because of the racialized connotations...

Xicano
Xicano

I'm sick of white's playing the "racial naivete" card as though they were completely ignorant to the connotation of offering chicken and waffles for MLK day. Bullshyt... you also have philosophers who feel that we are all merely thrust into social dynamics which are already mapped out and we as social actors who react to the predetermined social dynamics... subsequently, any racial microagression is merely coaxed out of us... take ownership over your actions and words... but i guess ignorance is bliss...

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Interesting that you say that, because on Washington's birthday (now President's Day) all the stores have "white sales".

Dr. King was born in Atlanta. If you want to celebrate his holiday with food, how about you serve up some Varsity grub. (I wondered why this wasn't on the food blog, until I saw that there was no discussion about whether the fried chicken was any good.)

jas
jas

Actually, no, racism does not require intent. In fact, most people you corner about being racist or bigoted will deny they are. There is such a thing as internalized racism.

Linux
Linux

I'm not suggesting anything. I would just like to know exactly what menu they would have picked. What menu would have honored MLK and not offended them.

I worked for an African-American chef many years ago and he was fond of serving classic southern recipes he remembers his mother making. He would have served Chitlins (Chitterlings. Never could get a taste for these things. Fried with hot sauce not to bad.), Collard Greens, Potato Salad, Ham Hocks /w Pinto Beans, Fried Chicken, and Sweet Potato Pie and not batted an eye. Of course the BSU student leaders would have possibly had a fit over that menu also. Maybe they are all from California and never ate anything from the Southern states. That could be the only thing that explains their ignorance of Southern food and how it honors MLK and his roots.

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