Leni-isms: My Daughter, My Muse

17 Sep

As you might recall, my twelve year-old daughter Leni has been a constant muse for my writings on race and race relations.  From the time she asked me at age six whether new friends I spoke about were black or white, or whether my father, her “Poppy,” was a Black American, to recently insisting I would like a certain singer on American Idol because he was black, and that all of my friends on Facebook are black, Leni, I think, continues to be intrigued and at times perplexed by what she calls, “my obsession with black people.”

So, in honor of Leni’s continued curiosity, and desire to reach out and understand and connect with me through this whatever you call I am doing here–which is, I suppose my own journey to understand my desire to connect across color lines, to care about making connections, and to tred through this territory, not being afraid to make missteps, and coming out in the end, hopefully a better person for it–I am now coining Leni’s musings as Leni-isms.

Here are two Leni’isms for today.    1.  When Leni heard hip-hop artist, Drake on the MTV Music Awards declare in his acceptance speech that he was Black and Jewish, she pronounced him to be Blewish.  Black + Jewish = Blewish.


2.  When driving past a KFC last night, Leni said, “I don’t know why people say black people like fried chicken.  Everyone likes fried chicken.  It doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t know…” I began to try and come up with an easy answer to a complicated question.

What do you mean you don’t know?” Leni asked, “You’re the Buddha of the Blacks.  You’re supposed to know everything about black people.”

I had to chuckle at that.  She does think I know everything about black people just out of my caring to relate to people of color, her proof:  this blog, the books on race and race relations that sit on my bookshelf, my obsession with Michael Jackson…

But her question deserved an answer.

“I know, you’re absolutely, right, Leni!” I answered.  “Everyone does like fried chicken.  I added, “but it can be true that certain foods can be attributed to certain groups of people as part of their culture, religion or ethnicity–I don’t know, like fried chicken seems like more of a Southern thing to me.  The problem comes when people start to generalize and stereotype, or when negative connotations come out of it.”

“I mean Jewish people eat matzoh, bagels and lox, brisket and chopped liver (I don’t eat meat anymore, and always hated chopped liver) and things like that, but if someone started calling you names, like, you bagel-loving Jew, or you fried chicken eating black, that’s where it becomes a problem.  There was a lot of bad imagery back in the early 1900’s I think it was, that depicted caricatures of black people eating watermelon that were very negative–that’s bad.”

“I know.  They say black people like fried chicken and kool-aid, and I don’t get it, but the kool-aid is true.” Leni said.

“Kool-aid?  I never heard that one.”

“Yes, kool-aid, it’s true,”  Leni assured me.

“What do you mean it’s true–how do you know?”  I challenged her.

“I just know.  Just like I know a lot of other things.”

Well, I never heard that, and like I said you always get into trouble when you start to stereotype people and say everyone from one group likes a certain thing or behaves a certain way.”

As we continued our drive, I thought, okay, I have to research this.  Where does the notion come from–that black people like fried chicken, watermelon and kool-aid.  So, today I googled the phrase “black people like fried chicken,” and just like the article I am about to post from Yesha Callahan, writer, blogger and Daily Editor of Clutch Magazine, I didn’t come across any scholarly answers or Wikipedia articles that could tell me exactly where this notion came from, but I enjoyed Yesha’s observations in her article, so I will now let her words and images speak for themselves.

And, thank you, Leni, for being a constant companion, on your Mom’s journey.

Click for two more WJSS posts inspired by Leni:  Whose Ghetto Is It? and Leni Continues Role as My Black Entertainment News Alerter


Click here for Yesha Callahan’s article:




SOURCE:  www.yeshacallahan.com, Black People & Fried Chicken – A Love Affair in Advertising, May 8, 2012



8 Responses to “Leni-isms: My Daughter, My Muse”

  1. Diana Fox September 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Hey Wendy-interesting blog. “Obsession with black people” eh? That statement in itself is so interesting and reveals the still-segregated nature of our society for so many who live in worlds that overlap only occasionally. The fried chicken and watermelon thing come from slavery days–hence the connection with Trinidad and other Caribbean islands where Ketucky Fried is big along with other fried chicken establishments. Chicken parts and watermelon were slave foods. Along with a host of others–that’s how chittlins became part of the diet, and easy/fast growing greens like collards in the South, callaloo in Jamaica. Slaves cooked on outdoor fire pits and did not have stoves except in the big house where those domestic slaves (the minority) could eat baked chicken and other foods. Fried chicken and greens cooked in pots of water were slave staples, and of course images of slaves as happy from the American south to the Caribbean to Central and S. America were the normative form of propaganda. In the post-slavery, Jim Crow era, these images were produced and reproduced replete with thick lips and oggling eyes. The Kool aid thing comes later, as a high sugar, inexpensive beverage available in the ghetto, as prevalent as the corner liquor store. It becomes increasingly difficult when people like food that they are also stereotyped about, and I am aware of people purposely not eating some of these foods just because of what they represent, like ’em or not. Good she’s questioning. Perhaps one day through her exposure “obsession” will be replaced by “love” and understanding. Thanks for being brave enough to share/write.

    • Wendy Jane September 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      Hello, Diana, Thanks so much for your comments/historical perspectives. I was beginning to find some articles on-line about chicken and hogs being considered foods borne out of times of slavery, and that chicken was first cooked with Scottish-Irish influences, and then altered with spices and other cooking methods by slaves during those times. And, yes, I am all too well-aware of the Jim Crow era stereotype images of black people eating watermelon. Funny, the kool-aid thing I had never heard of before. I, too have known, or heard black people say that they feel self-conscious eating watermelon or fried chicken at times–that they don’t want to feed into the stereotype.

      Thanks for noticing the term “obsession” and how yes, our lives still don’t seem to intersect that often–white people and people of color–not as much as we’d like to think. That is something I’ve been pondering a lot more lately, and am inclined to seek out more over-lapping through this blog–to ask questions, to make connections, to come to as you say more of an understanding on all sides.

      I am grateful and admire Leni for her curiosity. I believe it comes from a place of love, and wish to understand, and yet, she’s twelve and her point-of-view is growing, as she grows. I know I don’t have all the answers, and am glad that she helps me to look inward, and outward, for the answers.

      Thank you again for your insights and thought-provoking comments.

  2. Myrna September 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    I’m so glad you have such a good relationshipp with your girls and that you encourage them to be insightful….Kudo to you, my friend.

    • Wendy Jane September 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

      Thanks, Myrna. I feel lucky to have my girls–of course, some days Ms. Leni wants nothing to do with her Mama–the sign of a true teenager, right? But, we are close, and I love when we are able to share such moments.

      • davey September 17, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

        To me it seems that your trying to come up with an anwser to questions that doesn’t really need an answer. Why can’t a person be curious about a culture ….we all have certain curiosities about cultures. I like the Asian culture but don’t feel the need to defend it kids will always ask question ……just because the want to learn and they are always studing parents and adults ….your lucky she is asking question and is open and able to ask you question ….I remember in grammer school some of the classmates wanted to touch my hair …..why…… cus they wanted to learn more ….nothing wrong with that…..so please keep encouraging her to keep her asking question

        • Wendy Jane September 17, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

          Hi Davey,

          I do think it is great that she is curious–did it seem like I was trying to defend something–defend black people? Hmmmm, I thought I was trying to make sure she doesn’t buy into stereotypes, and to open up a discussion on how stereotypes evolve. Thanks for your feedback! I will do my best to encourage Leni’s curiosity, as I love when we can engage in these kind of conversations.

  3. Sherry Gordon April 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    Dear Wendy Jane,

    Hello, there, Wendy Jane, my so, so very dearly special and precious white and Jewish friend and sister who you are For Always so, so very much!!!!! I just love this grand blog post article, and I think your dear Leni and her Leni-isms are just so cool and insightful and just the greatest! Also, the young and sagacious wisdom of your Darla is just fabulous as well, sister!!!!! I so very much enjoyed reading this magnificent and inspirational blog post article, sisterfriend!!!!!! It gave me such great food for thought, Wendy Jane!!!!!!

    Wendy Jane, I absolutely love yummy, delectably delicious Jewish food!!!!!! I wish Iowa City, Iowa where I live would have more Jewish delicatessens like where I am originally from in Cleveland Heights, Ohio and even in other areas of Cleveland!!!!!! I miss so!!!!!! I have a very difficult time around town finding Passover, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah greeting cards for my local Jewish friends, the Iowa City/Coralville Rabbi and his dearest and darling wife!!!!!!! The Rabbi is retiring on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 after many decades of service as a man of God in the Iowa City area, sister. I am going to his retirement party on Saturday, June 13, 2015 at this marvelous synagogue, sisterfriend. I can barely wait and I am filled with such eager anticipation, Wendy Jane!!!!!! I love the services at the synagogue so, so very much, my white and Jewish sisterfriend, Wendy Jane!!!!!!! I am a very open-minded, liberal and progressive Christian, sister. I definitely don’t believe that people have to be Christian and I truly feel, think, and believe there are very many, many paths to God. I think that it is like how some people like taking a certain route and going down certain streets to get to a particular destination whereas other people like to take other routes and other streets to get to the very exact same destination, Wendy Jane!!!!!! Christians definitely do not have a monopoly on our Good God, sisterfriend, all religions and faiths have such good in terms of defining and describing our Good God, sister!!!!!! I don’t take the Bible literally, Wendy Jane!!!!!! There are very, very many things which I don’t understand as a Christian like the concept of the Trinity and how some people say that Jesus is the Son of God because I get confused and wonder how would God choose one person alone as God’s special son. My dearest and darling white and Jewish sisterfriend who you are For Always, Wendy Jane, I think that you are a wondrously wonderful white and Jewish woman of our Good God, and that you do very much indeed have God’s Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit!!!!!! I feel God’s Holy Spirit every time I go to the synagogue and also at the great and holy services as well, my precious sisterfriend!!!!!!

    Wendy Jane, I absolutely love bagels!!!!!!! The Rabbi, his wife, and I often go to the bagel cafes around town to get and eat yummy bagels!!!!!! I love chicken and watermelon the way some say black people tend to do but I don’t care for chicken wings because there isn’t enough chicken meat on them-they are too bare!!!!!! I love chopped liver-I love how you shared, sister, that you do not like chopped liver as a Jewish person, I am that way as a black person because I do not like chitlins and I have never ever eaten chitlins!!!!! Sister, I am the only black person I know who doesn’t like chitlins!!!!!!! I can never get past the horrid smell when my family growing up would cook them, sister!!!!!! My mother, maternal grandmother, and maternal great-grandmother would try really hard to get me to eat chitlins, and other family members but I absolutely refused, I just could not get past that atrocious smell-UGH!!!!!!! (SMILE!!!!!!!)

    Wendy Jane, this fantabulous blog post article has given me such joy and blessings!!!!! Thank-you so as always For Always for this!!!!!! Please have a very fantastically, fun-filled Friday, my sister, and a wondrously wonderful weekend, my friend!!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my white and Jewish sister, with Peace and Love To You For Always with Blessings and Even More Blessings To You For Always my white and Jewish friend,

    Your lesbian black friend and sister For Always in solidarity, Sherry Gordon

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. More Leni-isms: “Run Like A Black Man” | Wendy Jane's Soul Shake - October 4, 2012

    […] you’ve been reading along, you know my twelve year-old daughter, Leni, is a muse for me when it comes to writing on race and race relations.  Here’s her […]

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