New York University student Nia Harris took to Facebook to express her outrage over the college dining hall's black history menu which included racist, stereotypical foods supposedly associated with blackness.
On Tuesday, Harris detailed walking into the dining hall and seeing a menu by the entrance that included ribs, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. These three items were not much of a problem. She brushed them off only to notice that beverages were red Kool-Aid and watermelon water.
Watermelon and Kool-Aid have been used as negative connotations to paint black people as lazy, silly, dimwitted and childlike.
The New York Times reported that Harris confronted Weinstein Passport dining hall’s head cook demanding to know why the menu included these stereotypical foods. She was reportedly told that black workers planned the menu, and her concerns were dismissed forcing her to send an email to university officials.
The administration was not very helpful. In an email, which Harris shared in a Facebook post, school officials said the Kool-Aid was actually fruit punch, which Harris denies, and the dining hall served fruit-flavored water “all the time.” Watermelon, however, has not. After Harris raised her complaints, university president Andrew Hamilton said food service provider Aramark was in charge of the food and beverage choices.
"N.Y.U.’s dining administrators will insist that Aramark put in place a mechanism to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s episode, such as consulting the existing student advisory body and campus cultural groups about the menu for special events,” Hamilton said in the statement.
Aramark has placed the blame on two workers who violated standards by planning the menu on their own.
“We have zero tolerance for any employee who does not adhere to our values or contradicts our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Aramark said in a statement Wednesday evening. “Employees at N.Y.U. who acted independently and did not follow our approved plan for the celebration of Black History Month have been terminated and are no longer with the company. We are extremely disappointed by this regrettable situation and apologize to the entire N.Y.U. community and communities everywhere for their insensitive and offensive actions.”
Harris considered the firing of the workers invovled to be a victory and told the Times that “it’s also very important that we had to publicize it in order to put the pressure on them to do the right thing, because I feel like had I not publicized it, this could have gone a little bit differently.”