Wokeness at the Table

by Kerry Dougherty

Do you wake up every morning wondering what mundane aspect of ordinary life will suddenly be declared racist and evil?

Me too.

Gird your loins, here’s the latest: Table manners.

Do you teach your children and grandchildren good manners? You know, napkin on lap, elbows off the table and the proper use of utensils?

Congratulations. You’re a colonizer.

How dare you suggest that your children shouldn’t eat with their hands? Why, you’re barely better than a slave owner!

Yep, that’s the thesis of an article in “Parent’s Today,” a publication that I didn’t know existed until this weekend when an article, “Why The Way We Teach Kids Table Manners Is Actually Kind Of Racist” went viral on social media.

The contention of the author, Joshua Maharaj, “a Toronto-based chef and activist,“ is that telling kids to keep their fingers out of their food is, well, I’ll let him tell you:

“The message that eating food with your hands is an unmannered way to eat is a real problem for me because it is dripping with the control and shame of colonization, which is particularly dangerous in an educational context. Suggesting that a child who eats with her hands has no manners is an echo of European colonial powers looking to tame the wildness out of the people they controlled.”

Oh please, make it stop.

Look, it’s fine if some cultures want to continue to eat with their fingers, despite mountains of evidence that hands and the digits on them are covered in pathogens.

Even as a regular hand washer, I prefer to put a little distance between my fingers and my food.

Apparently, this author is unaware that 2 million to 10 million bacteria live on our fingertips and elbows. And hands are especially prone to spread germs when they’re damp.

I know that Indians use flatbreads to pick up their food. It’s their culture. No judgment. When I’m in an Indian restaurant, I do the same. In fact, most of us tend to observe the manners of the culture where we live or visit, so as not to give offense to the locals.

But to insinuate that Western kids are being taught some sort of racism when we tell them to use a fork or spoon at home and in public amounts to searching for racism where none exists.

Look, I don’t care if your children learn to use a fork, chopsticks or fingers to eat.

But with my own kids and grandkids, telling them not to shovel food into their mouths with their hands was and is a way to keep lots of bacteria out of their mouths. Oh and it ensured that they could dine out without making people at nearby tables look away in disgust.

That does not make me a colonizer. Or a racist.

But nice try.

This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.