New York Times food writer Ramin Ganeshram is under fire for penning a horrifically offensive children’s book that portrays an enslaved family as happy and joyful.
Check out the book’s caption on Amazon.com;
Everyone is buzzing about the president’s birthday! Especially George Washington’s servants, who scurry around the kitchen preparing to make this the best celebration ever. Oh, how George Washington loves his cake! And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem–they are out of sugar.
This story, told in the voice of Delia, Hercules’s young daughter, is based on real events, and underscores the loving exchange between a very determined father and his eager daughter, who are faced with an unspoken, bittersweet reality. No matter how delicious the president’s cake turns out to be, Delia and Papa will not taste the sweetness of freedom.
Tagging on a half-hearted line about a “bittersweet” reality is extremely offensive and reductive. It was not a “bittersweet reality” because there was nothing sweet about it. It was a system of mental, economic, physical and psychological oppression that African Americans continue to fight today.
And though the story of Hercules is a true one, he was far less content with his state of life than this book suggests. He actually ran away to freedom, leaving his daughter behind. From The Atlanta Black Star;
Hercules was not in fact a “happy or joyful” enslaved person, he actually escaped to freedom on February 22, 1797 – Washington’s 65th birthday – which the president celebrated in Philadelphia. According to a diary entry of Louis-Philippe, the future king of the French:
The general’s cook ran away, being now in Philadelphia, and left a little daughter of six at Mount Vernon. Beaudoin ventured that the little girl must be deeply upset that she would never see her father again; she answered, “Oh! Sir, I am very glad, because he is free now.
Just last year black Texas mother Roni Dean-Burren took major publisher McGraw Hill to task for describing African slaves as “workers” who migrated to America.
“This is erasure,” Dean-Burren said in an interview with The Washington Post. “This is revisionist history — retelling the story however the winners would like it told.”
The fetishizing and idealization of slave times is very common. From Paula Deen to South African “colonial” weddings to plantation retreats, many long for a time when black oppression was law and whites grew wealthy off of unpaid black innovation, culture and labor.
We must never forget that our ancestors fought hard — sacrificing their lives for the freedom we enjoy today.
Ladies, what are your thoughts?