DPS menu for MLK birthday hard for some to digest
By Jeremy P. Meyer
The Denver Post
Posted: 01/13/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
Denver Public Schools apologized Tuesday for what it called a "well-intentioned but highly insensitive" attempt to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Friday's DPS lunch menu, headlined "In Honor Of M.L. King," offered students "Southern Style" chicken and collard greens — a meal that some say is an offensive caricature of black culture.
In a statement issued Tuesday night and posted on the school district's website, DPS spokesman Michael Vaughn said the meal was "highly insensitive in light of certain hurtful cultural stereotypes still harbored in parts of our society."
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the greatest leaders and civil rights heroes in our country's history," Vaughn said. "We are working with all of our schools to ensure that our students appreciate the enduring legacy of Dr. King's work and life and the extraordinary importance of his message in our community today."
In December, Jennifer Holladay, mother of a Denver kindergartner and former director of Teaching Tolerance — a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center — saw the lunch menu for the next month and noticed the menu listing for Jan. 15. Holladay said she was instantly upset.
"Denver Public Schools are great because they are so diverse, but this sort of thing undermines the positive things that kids can get in school," said Holladay, who is white but whose husband is black.
"I am an anti-bias educator, and this is the type of thing I work with all the time," she said.
"It's a teachable moment for DPS and for people across the country. These caricatures can slip in without any malicious intent."
She said she called DPS food service to complain, left messages but never heard back from anyone in the district.
Nate Easley Jr., the school board president, who represents northeast Denver, said he thinks there are bigger problems facing DPS than what is on the lunch menu.
"I don't think people woke up in the morning and said how can we offend people," Easley said.
"As a black man, the things that offend me more is how we are doing with kids in the district," he said.
"It's not having kids graduating and doing well. The outcomes of the district are more offensive to me than someone trying to do the right thing and being offensive."
Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14176531#ixzz0cVTWfAlI