‘Racially insensitive’ lunch menu lands all-girls’ Catholic school in media spotlight

Credit: Carondelet High School

The “racially insensitive” lunch menu chosen to celebrate Black History Month that landed a private all-girls, Catholic high school in the national media spotlight has prompted upcoming diversity training for faculty and students.

The controversial choice of fried chicken, watermelon and cornbread for lunch at Carondelet High School in Northern California sparked immediate outrage and offense when announced on the school’s public address system Monday, the Contra Costa Times reported.

Principal Nancy Libby sent home two letters to parents last week apologizing for the “very unfortunate incident” and said a “communication breakdown” allowed the menu selection to be approved and announced before school officials could stop it.

“I’d like to apologize for this announcement and any hurt this caused students, parents or community members,” Tuesday’s letter read, according to the Times. “Please know that at no time at Carondelet do we wish to perpetrate racial stereotypes, and we indeed work diligently to do just the opposite.”

According to the article:

The Black Student Union, which is run through De La Salle High School — the neighboring boys’ Catholic school — and includes members from both campuses, wanted to do something to celebrate Black History Month, according to [communications director Christina] Ditzel.

Libby’s letter was not specific about how the menu decision was made but mentioned that “adults made mistakes causing this situation and that we were doing our best to learn from those mistakes and to bring that knowledge to the CHS experience.”

“Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these stereotypes of black Southern culture come from the same place where the N-word comes from,” University of San Francisco professor James Taylor told NBC Bay Area. “This is not like this food represents some heroic moment in African American experience. What it represents is the degradation and the sterotyping of African Americans.”

According to the Times, the dishes were removed from the lunch menu and Libby has planned “a diversity assembly for faculty and students later this month.”

Read the statement published Thursday on the school’s Facebook page:

Dear Parents, Students and Carondelet Community,

Carondelet High School has garnered significant media coverage this week regarding a campus announcement about the School’s celebration of Black History Month. Unfortunately, that announcement described a menu that was racially insensitive, and students, parents, community members, and media outlets are concerned about this insensitivity. We are, too. We would like to share with you the statement we are posting on our website, Facebook and have given to the media today.

We are saddened and distressed by part of our daily announcement on Monday regarding Black History Month. That announcement described a menu that was racially insensitive. Our normal procedures would have caught this insensitivity before it was planned or broadcast to our student body, but those processes broke down and the menu was planned and publicized without administrative knowledge or permission.

We are addressing the communication breakdown and using this incident to raise awareness about cultural sensitivity and diversity, so such incidents never again occur in the Carondelet community. Cultural insensitivity of any kind is inconsistent with the mission of Carondelet High School, which is dedicated to educating, challenging, and enabling young women to integrate gospel values in their lives.

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