White Allies — What Desserts are You?

Editor’s Note: For the second week in a row, woohoo, we welcome back white ally Carrie Basas. This blog post emerged out of a late night online conversation when we both should have been writing other assignments.

By Erin Okuno and Carrie Basas


Dessert and flower table centerpiece [photo copyright: fakequity, do not use without premission]

It is summer and we’ve had several serious posts so it is time to talk about something a little less serious — DESSERTS! Don’t expect a lot of how-tos, let’s make things better, or really anything serious out of this blog post. This is in jest and good fun so don’t get all crumbly like a dry cake.

Snowflake cookie— We’ll start with an easy one. Are you a snowflake cookie, pretty to look at and pretend to be cool, but as soon as the conversation gets heated in talking about race the frosting on you melts into a white glob of stickiness.

Oatmeal cookie with raisins— You enjoy being crunchy and healthy. You talk about health justice for POCs and community gardening, have a few friends who are POC, but in the end, tend to gravitate toward fairly safe and sometimes boring choices. If we were throwing a culturally responsive potluck, you’d show up with some more oatmeal cookies or a kale salad. For talks about race, others need to come to where you are— the middle.

Trifle cake— You understand race, equality, and like to have woke-offs to prove how down with the people you are. But you forget that people are complex and issues don’t come in neat packages or layers. The term intersectionality and multiplicity of identities are too much for your taste buds to handle. Stop thinking in layers and mix up that cake to get a more delicious bite; equity work requires us to think in complex ways and not in layers/silos. 

Berry Chantilly cake— You’re covered in a thick white coating of whipped frosting. You ooze luxury and deliciousness (in cake form only— no cannibalism). When people think fancy, they think you. And how could they not? You can be found at all the big fundraising events. Inside is another delicious layer of white cream between layers of white cake, you bring in people of color and display them like diversity bits into your cake. Remember diversity isn’t equity, sticking people of color into an all white environment doesn’t yield equitable outcomes, equity takes harder work and sometimes means baking a whole different dessert. (Unrelated trivia: Chantilly cake originated in Hawaii at Liliha Bakery.)

Creme brûlée— When race comes up, you’ve got a bit of a hard exterior. It’s been a bit burnt, shall we say? You started out all sugary on the outside but apply some heat and you were cracking. Deep conversations about race feel like a spoon has been jammed into that thin exterior. You’re soft inside. We know. Unlike the snowflake cookie, you can stand the fire. It’s just not where you want your whole time to be and if you feel the heat, you’ll turn it back on others. Do what is right and soften that hard exterior, get to know people who are different then you, break that shell and share a little about yourself and let others see your soft-sweet creamy insides, but remember your job is to mostly listen.

Fortune cookie— You’ve got it, or so you hope. Now, you’re on a mission to tell others how to be woke and equity-fancy. If we asked your white friends, they’d say that you have an extensive collection of multicultural cookbooks AND you tell them often about how they need to do better for racial equity, as they are eating something you made with fair trade chocolate. We love this advocacy but don’t avoid doing your own work by handing out overly simplified social justice warrior one-liners. If it fits in the cookie, it ain’t equity — equity is harder to achieve and doesn’t fit on a little slip of paper.

Magic bars— Think of people dumping everything and everyone together and hoping they come to some tasty resolution without any hard work or difficult stirring. Is this you? Mix in a few choice terms like equity, diversity, gender-neutral pronouns, but really when we ask you to take a stand or for an opinion, you just spout more -isms without substance.

Cake donuts— Like a plain ordinary everyday cake donut you don’t pass yourself off as an expert, you sit dutifully in trainings and engage just enough to be engaged, but when forced to rise up and confront racism you’re hollow like the donut hole. As you sit through the diversity and equity trainings start to engage and do some deep thinking. If you need to do more deep thinking find a poc owned donut or coffeeshop and buy yourself a donut, sit down and reflect on what you learned. If you want to buy yourself another donut this time eat it while reading a book by a poc author and invite a few friends (poc or white allies) to discuss it with you (don’t make your poc friends do all of your thinking though).

Vanilla soft-serv (twist optional)— You are coming in hot with all of these equity words. Or should I say cool and smooth? The words are flowing so fast that it’s hard to keep you from hitting the floor like some ice cream soup that we’ll clean up at the end of this discussion. Engaging is good but pace yourself. Be aware of how much space you’re taking up or risk running over the edge of the cone of community.

So, what’s the ideal dessert? Just like in life there is no one ideal. The good news is you get to taste your way through race, equity, and diversity work, lick a little frosting along the way, and occasionally get a stomach ache from eating too much. Take some time to savor the lessons you are learning, explore new desserts including from communities of color, dig deeper and learn important food history, how food is colonized and decolonized, and how food stories relate to the present and future. When you do this we’ll be a richer and more connected community, and you can put away those snowflake cookies for some true poc-homemade desserts.

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