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An incredibly dopey war between Mother Tribune and one of the Chicago Now bloggers has broken out. Let's see where it went wrong.
Teresa Puente, who runs the CN blog Chicanísma, asks: Why is Rick Bayless, who is obviously white, considered the expert on Mexican food in America?
It's not a terribly good post. She should have tried to answer her own question, which is good practice generally. Here's a skeleton for a better post:
1) I noticed that Rick Bayless is described by people as the best Mexican-cuisine chef in America. I thought that was odd (that would be the entirety of the original post).
2) Here's why, as best I can figure and drawing on Bayless's history, people would think that.
2b) I went back to Bayless's restaurants and ate the food and also ate food at Mexican restaurants run by Mexicans, and here's what I thought. Oh, and also I asked some foodies and here's what they said.
3) Thus it is great/unfortunate/irrelevant/just interesting generally that 1) is the case, drawing on various points about the relationship between minority and majority cultures in America as it relates to arts and foods and so forth.
(If you're going to address something like power relations between ethnicities w/r/t aesthetics in American culture, you are obligated to come correct. You sort of owe it to everyone.)
Then Phil Vettel calls Puente a racist. Because that's always a pro move. Calling someone a racist means that people will pay really close attention to your argument plus you automatically win. (Vettel's argument, run through a pique filter, would actually make sense.)
And not to get all Village Elder about this (thanks, Phil Vettel, for the piquant phrase), but anyone here ever heard of colonialism? Read anything about rock and roll? Watched Spike Lee's masterpiece Bamboozled? Listened to Graceland, or Public Enemy?
"Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant shit to me / He's straight up racist / That sucker was simple and plain / Motherfuck him and John Wayne"
I think what Chuck D means here is that white people adopting and selling aspects of minority culture is an age-old controversy, and even when it's thoughtfully done and ultimately encourages the crossing-over of worthy things, it's a cultural flashpoint for legitimate reasons, and if you're part of the dominant culture you have to remember that. If that means being more patient with dumb questions than you might otherwise be, tough shit.
Puente's post wasn't very good, because it was bad writing and not thoughtful. But putting her on blast for asking - asking! - one of the oldest and most fundamental questions in American culture betrays its own ignorance.
*Usage shamelessly stolen from First Draft.
[Ed. note, seconding Kevin Pang: “RT’ing a post does not mean I endorse any one side, and certainly doesn’t constitute a “flame war” as you suggest.” This should be assumed for all Twitter users generally.]