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. Question to the protesters. What menu items would be allowable? The charge they make against sushi could be made about any menu item. All in this country came from another country. Shoot, when one visits other countries, they find that a the same menu item can differ from one location to another. How many people like their mama’s potato salad but not the potato salad made by others. Who is right and who is wrong? ……………… Answer: no one. It is the diversity of personal likes/dislikes at work. It is one of the ways many of the ‘older generations’ celebrate the diversity of the peoples of our great country. Diversity can be used to unite us. Unfortunately, too many are using it to divide.

  2. I am wondering if any of the students protesting ‘cultural appropriation’ understand American History. Appropriation is defined as “Incorporation by joining or uniting”. This is what the America of my youth was about: Learning about different cultures and embroidering the best of each culture into the tapestry of America. Diversity was not celebrated ………………. except by those who wanted separation by ethnic, racial, religious backgrounds. I am a child of the late 50s and became ‘legal’ (21) in 1962. We worked hard to make people aware of the similarities between peoples and to be curious and enjoy the cultural differences. How on earth are campaigns such as striving for the elimination of “cultural appropriation” suppose to mak us a better and more unified people? …………. she asks as she shakes her head in both sadness and disbelief.

    1. Nancy – we have gone from the idea of the great melting pot to the great salad bowl.

  3. insisted on “fish Fridays” two decades after Vatican II. One Friday, everyone who had eaten fish in the cafeteria became quite ill. I never ate college cafeteria fish again. For the next two years, every Friday I stuck with a grilled cheese sandwich.

  4. Thinking back, the food they punished us with at the Criminal Justice Academy was a cultural appropriation of the traditional food of aliens and the undead.

  5. This is not only ridiculously stupid, but they ought to be thankful that they have sushi to eat. When I was eating dorm food in college, we had “pucks” (hamburgers), “tube pucks” (hot dogs) and “wheat pucks with motor oil” (pancakes with maple syrup). Our nicknames for these foods much more accurately described how they tasted than their “real” names.

    Bozos. Complete and utter bozos.

  6. Uh Oh, no corn, sweet potatoes, squash, or turkey to mention four. Darn, I was looking forward to thanks giving this year.

    No Ramen noodles to stretch a student’s budget, no coffee to fuel an all-nighter.

    I am going to find it personally painful to have to give up beer.

    As far as I can tell, I think we have been reduced to wonder bread, gas reddened tomatoes, and ground beef, all mixed up from a thousand different cows and pink slime. Yum!

    Well, we still have bourbon to raise our spirits and enhance our cultural understandng!

  7. As a former Oberlin student from the 70s, I find all of this disgusting. We were the most integrated student body I had ever seen and with few tensions. We studied hard, practiced hard, partied hard, and prepared for the next part of our lives. We were proud to be “Oberlin.” Now students complain and miss opportunities to grow and be a part of change in the world. I’m starting to sound old…

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