Georgina Guedes

White sauce or white privilege?

2015-09-25 13:14

Georgina Guedes

This week’s silly story that’s garnering headlines (and now a column) is the story of Stuart Lynn, a man in the UK, who ordered a mild curry in an Indian restaurant and when he got home, noticed that his receipt stated “white ppl” next to the “mild” classification. He assumed this meant that in the Valentine restaurant, white people are ridiculed for preferring less incendiary curries.

His response has been described as “horrified”. To hear him tell it, he is certainly outraged. He won’t be going back to that restaurant, and he wants the world to know that he just felt like a mild curry “for a change”.

The restaurant’s management has claimed that “white ppl” is actually a kind of coconut white sauce that’s used for reducing the burn of hotter dishes when they are requested as mild. There is a great deal of media scoffing about that excuse, but to me it’s largely immaterial.

White people wronged

What really matters about this curry customer’s complaint is that he, as a white person, feels wronged by having an assumption made about him by people of a different colour. Well, gee, that really smarts, doesn’t it? Poor white guy.

Here’s the thing. In general, I subscribe to the belief that there isn’t really such a thing as reverse racism. The thinking on this is that to be racist, two traits must exist: privilege and power. And the disbelief in reverse racism also requires the acknowledgement that anger is a justified response to historical (and ongoing) oppression.

Of course, that doesn’t make hatred or generalisation that flows in the opposite direction to the standard racist deluge acceptable. Of course it’s not a good thing either, but we should all be working at reducing the valid bases for that kind of racial judgement, rather than whining about reverse racism when that kind of thinking does occur.
No white people were harmed in the making of this curry...

However, in the case of the curry story, the generalisation wasn’t particularly harmful. Yes, we should all be trying to shy away from generalisations as a rule, but to assume that a white person doesn’t like curry isn’t harmful to the standing of white people.

 As a chilli-lovin’ honkey, I’m not offended by the characterisation (lots of my friends don’t like it hot), and I don’t think that I am being either demeaned or approved of as a result of my food preferences.

In fact, in the case of Mr Lynn, his running to the media about the perceived slight says a lot more about his own privilege than it does about prejudice on the part of the restaurant management.
His horror that someone of colour might have the temerity to judge him, his public assertion that he can handle a hot curry, he can, he can, all smack of attempts to restore himself to a position of imagined superiority, rather than to fight for the cause of equality for all.

So, yes, let’s all do our best not to judge and not to demean, but if we’re in a position of historical power and still benefiting from the spoils of our dominion over other races, let’s not whine too loudly when someone makes a harmless generalisation about our food preferences, shall we?

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.



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