Food Blog Thug Kitchen Is Run By White People Who Think The Word “Thug” Is Funny

The creators of the vegan food blog Thug Kitchen are white and excuse me but I’m completely unsurprised. The Washington Post is saying that it doesn’t matter, and Roxane Gay is bringing up the important point that it speaks volumes that a lot of people heard “thug” and immediately thought “black.” And I get that, and I agree.

But personally, when I first saw the blog, I saw someone writing in a voice that was intentionally “black”-sounding and putting the word “thug” on it. And I thought, I don’t know who this person is, I can’t tell from the way they write who they are or where they come from, but I sure hope that it’s a black individual, because otherwise this is an offensive faux-patois they’re using to be funny, and by so doing, they’re saying that black vernacular is funny.

There is a problem with that. Lindy West called it “hipster racism” years ago, using a quote from Zooey Deschanel as an example:

“‘Haha. :) RT @Sarabareilles: Home from tour and first things first: New Girl episodes I missed. #thuglife.’ See, it’s hilarious, because we aren’t thugs—we are darling girls, and real thugs are black people who do crime!”

So I don’t know. I get it when Akeya Dickson says that “in effect, their actions are all thug in the way that they completely pilfered black culture and capitalized off of it.” Here’s my litmus test: As a white person, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t make a name for myself by writing in a way that people would even come close to associating with a stereotype of blackness. I wouldn’t then slap a word like “thug” on it, because I’m prescient enough to know that a lot of people see “thug” and think “black” and I don’t want to perpetuate that. I sure wouldn’t do it anonymously, for years, and capitalize on it. It’s the fact that the Thug Kitchen bloggers refused to share their identities for years that, to me, speaks to their self-awareness on this issue and makes the whole thing offensive.

This is coming out at the same time that YouTube vlogger and writer Franchesca Ramsey is calling out Shane Dawson’s blackface videos on YouTube. Well, actually, a lot of black YouTubers have been calling out blackface videos, as well as videos of white “pranksters” targeting black neighborhoods to get an aggressive reaction out of black people that they can use to perpetuate a stereotype on YouTube for years, and it’s fallen on less attentive ears than complaints about Sam Pepper’s misogyny have. Are we clear now, after the last few months, that America’s racial past is not just the past? That on top of the fact that black people continue to be the main targets of police brutality, economic oppression, and sexual violence, white people have continued to commit and excuse cultural aggressions that we decided were offensive decades ago?

I don’t want to be prescriptive about what’s offensive to black people, especially when there have been several black people saying that they don’t find Thug Kitchen’s tone to be an offensive appropriation, or, maybe, approximation of black culture. But the “big reveal” of the whiteness behind the blog merits the discussion of intent.

[Washington Post]
[Twitter]
[Jezebel]
[The Root]
[Daily Dot]

[Image via YouTube]