Oberlin Students Push To Bar Serving Sushi As “Cultural Appropriation”

Formal_Seal_of_Oberlin_College,_Oberlin,_OH,_USA.svgWe have seen students rise in protest over what they believe is “cultural appropriation” in schools offering yoga or students wearing dreadlocks or serving Mexican food. Now students at Oberlin are fighting to stop the school from offering students sushi. Now, with the support of celebrities and alumni like actress Lena Dunham, the students have denounced the practice and want the school to stop students from eating sushi as “insensitive” to Asian students.  The sushi controversy arises at the same time that Oberlin has seen the protests from students demanding sweeping changes to the faculty and curriculum as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.  It is a sad statement of our times that common complaints about bad college food must now be stated in the language of racial or cultural victimization. It is not undercooked rice (a complaint by Oberlin students) but the appropriation of their culture or a “micro aggression” as it was labeled in 2015 at Oberlin by students.

The students insists that the sushi is not being properly prepared and, as one student Tomoyo Joshi objected, “if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”

Does that mean that Asian people can serve bad sushi? College food is notoriously known to be lacking a certain quality and are rarely cited as places for fine cuisine. I have no problem with students objecting that the pizza, tacos, or sushi is really bad. What I resist is the notion that bad food is an act of racial or ethnic insensitivity or “cultural appropriation.” I am half Italian but I do not claim cultural appropriation or microaggression every time I encounter bad pizza or pasta (which is most of the time). As for my Irish side, it is hard to truly denounce bland Irish food as non-authentic. No microaggression. No colonial effort of cultural appropriation.

In the end, there is such a thing as just bad food.

53 thoughts on “Oberlin Students Push To Bar Serving Sushi As “Cultural Appropriation””

  1. This old New York subway rider is thinking about the ads for Levy’s Rye Bread and wondering what the protesting students would do about those

  2. Horuss -this reminds me of the Nazis as well. They told restaurants what they were allowed to serve. Every thing had to be authentically German or at least the name of a dish had to be changed to German. So ma

  3. When they start serving chicken’s feet you know they have appropriated Chinese food. This is just silly. College food is generally bad (at least it was when I went to college) and the sushi is not going to be any better. Anyone remember ‘mystery meat’?

  4. Absurd. And ignorant. What kind of food is Oberlin “allowed” to serve without allegedly appropriating some culture? If Oberlin barred students of Japanese ancestry and then served Japanese food, the students might have a case. Since Oberlin is a German name, does that mean they can serve only German food without being accused of cultural appropriation?

    Many Japanese restaurants are now owned by Korean families, are they guilty of cultural appropriation? How about Steve Ellis – founder of Chipotle Grill? Culturally appropriating Mexico? Do Oberlin students boycott Chipotle?

    One of our nation’s (sadly fading) strengths is its “melting pot” nature. A lot of each culture is tied up in its food, and wide popularity of various ethnic foods lessens the “foreign-ness” of its people. Over time, foods and cultural practices tend to merge and blend, making for a really rich diversity (hey, the Holy Grail!) in the American diet. Very little of the “ethnic” food in the US is still pure from the standpoint of its country of origin.

  5. I despise this cultural appropriation crap. Steve Fleischer, I’m sure that this all is not as well thought out as “German”, that would be white culture with the hot dogs, etc. Oh
    And how about the well tempered scale as well. Let us see how well the Oberlin music department will do once one has to sort through all the musically cultural appropriations!

  6. When I was in Oberlin I asked about the two different Chinese restaurants on the main drag to see which was better. The young student told me one of them was more authentic so I hope they are protesting the other establishment for being less authentic. And my real questions is when do they start serving dog?

  7. Where the frig is Oberlin College?
    Went in dumb, come out dumb too.

  8. Hmm .. no more hamburgers, frankfurters, brats, potato salad, cole slaw, or apple pie. How are we supposed to have a picnic?

  9. This absurd kind of thing by our allegedly bright young people reminds me of a nascent American version of Mao’s cultural revolution. What the hell is wrong with people that they must take concepts like “cultural appropriation” to such absurd extremes? With any luck these young people will grow up and start using some common sense.

  10. I’m a Liberal and I find this incredibly stupid. So, only Asians can eat sushi in these people’s eyes? Can I no longer eat pizza in their eyes because I’m not Italian? Exactly what foods would be considered “American”? Exactly where do these people draw the line with this BS? Madness!!!

  11. What about American “beer”? Anyway, since when is sushi “Asian” My Japanese friends say it originated in Japan. According to the logic of these dimwits at Oberlin the Italians shouldn’t eat pasta because it originated in China.

  12. Taken to its logical conclusion, Germans everywhere ought to be up in arms that Americans have “appropriated” Frankfurters and now call them hot dogs.

    Do these self important cultural scolds ever listen to themselves?

  13. As a progressive who happens to be a minority, the idea of cultural appropriation irritates me. We are one people separated by distance and time however we share common ancestors whether from a biblical or scientific perspective. It was intended either by God or the Universe for us to separate and then find each other again. All people should be able to celebrate the history of all of our ancestors, whichever we should choose too. So long as it’s not done in a mocking way or to make a profit without giving due credit an Irishman should equally be able to celebrate the achievements of the native Americans as I should be able to cheer the achievements of a Nobel prize winning cousin (if I had one), just not present it if it were my own invention. No reasonable person will assume the university invented sushi. If they want to put their own spin on it so be it. People have the right to criticize it as inauthentic, but to criticize it solely on the grounds that it is cultural appropriation holds us back as a collective community. I hope future societies will be able to celebrate the achievements of all human heritage even those cultures that “die off” so they may too continue.

  14. As a human being, I find Lena Dunham, who appropriates the facade of a normal human being, offensive and an affront to my sensitivities? Where can I file my grievance, and, can we send her some place where she is fed a steady diet of really crappy sushi?

Comments are closed.