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Critics: Maine Black History Month Menu Perpetuates Stereotypes
02/27/2014 04:06 PM ET  

A Black History Month dinner at the Penobscot County Job Corps in Bangor featuring fried chicken and watermelon perpetuates "ugly stereotypes" dating back to minstrel shows and slave days, critics say.

Some staff members at Penobscot County Job Corps in Bangor say they were offended by the school's decision to serve what they describe as a racially-charged menu for a Black History Month dinner.

Residential advisor for the corps, Stephen Falloon, says that on Tuesday staff received an email detailing a lunch menu in honor of Black History Month, which he says "started with fried chicken. And then I thought, 'Please don't let this email end in watermelon.' Which it did."

Falloon says he and another staff member then wrote to job corps administrators with concerns that a "stereotypical" menu featuring fried chicken and watermelon for a Black History Month dinner might perpetuate "ugly stereotypes" dating back to minstrel shows and slave days.

"What I find rather amazing about this is that the person who does diversity training and counseling on the Penobscot Job Corps campus, which is roughly 25 percent African-American, seemed completely unaware of the stereotype," he says.

Falloon says the dinner went ahead, even after adminstrators were made aware of its potentially controversial nature, to the dismay of staff.

The incident mirrors one earlier this month, when administrators at a girls' school in Concord, California were forced to issue an apology after parents and students complained about a similar menu for a Black History Month event.

A call to Penobscot County Job Corps was not immediately returned. But according to an email sent to staff, the dinner was meant to be a "Black History Month Diversity Meal" and not meant to offend anyone.

This story was reported and written by Jennifer Mitchell.



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