Why Stanley Crouch is Wrong About Black People and Soul Food

29 Dec

soul foodThe hyperbolic sensationalism of Stanley Crouch’s article “Soul Food is Killing Black America” is laughable on its face. And the initial silliness I felt when reading the title was solidified by the nickname Crouch gave the filmmaker who is developing the soul food documentary – “Braveheart”. Just call me “Chuckles”, then. Because this is the funniest and most self-negating piece of trite I’ve read all week.

First, the notion that filmmaker Byron Hurt is somehow brave for “tackling” an issue which has been addressed a multitude of times is just daft.  Wasn’t the movie “Soul Food” based on the Sunday coalescing of black folks around a table of collard greens, fried chicken, corn bread, and ham hocks? And didn’t untreated diabetes kill Big Mama?

It seems that Crouch is nicknaming Hurt Braveheart not because he’s actually brave, but because Hurt’s assessment of the ills affecting the black community matches Crouch’s own assessment. We tend to view the people who agree with us as somehow braver and smarter than the people with whom we disagree. In this way, Crouch has fallen victim to a trap laid by his own ego.

But the larger issue is whether Crouch is right about soul food being kryptonite to Negroes. Crouch laments, “This is a common problem. There is no joke in the film about the frightening degrees of black illness from consuming too much ethnic food dripping in grease and containing too much fat, sugar and butter. Worst of all, people consume too many ethnic imitations in fast food places that are so prevalent in black and Latin neighborhoods.”

Maybe that’s true, but even if it is, that seems more an issue of moderation than anything else.  And if black people are consuming too many “ethnic imitations”, then the issue African Americans face is the same issue that all Americans face; limiting our intake of processed foods. Again, this is not a black thing. It’s not even a soul food thing.  It’s about eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods, and it’s probably also about leading sedentary lifestyles – an issue not addressed in Crouch’s article.

Additionally, in recent years several soul food restaurants have cropped up to meet the needs of African Americans who prefer less fat or even vegetarian alternatives to traditional soul food. But even at its worst, soul food is a rich part of our history  and if eaten in moderation and prepared with organic meats and veggies, it can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Is the soul food slathered in hog grease good for us? Of course not. But I doubt authentic Italian cuisine is actually good for you, what, with all its richness, creams, butter sauces and pastas, but you don’t see Italians making documentaries about how bad Italian food is or how stupid Italians are for eating it.

Soul food is not a problem for black America but self-negation, especially the variety espoused by Crouch and “Braveheart”, is debilitating. Not every issue that negatively impacts black people can be pigeon holed as a black issue. Now, we can of course discuss the issue of alleviating the health consequences of poor diets by doing things that work, such as adding to our dietary choices by creating permaculture gardens and sustainable communities, but those are real issues that require real thinkers. I suppose it’s much easier to grab headlines by insinuating that black people are just too stupid or too lazy to sort the good food from the bad.  “Put down that chicken wing and grape soda!” Yeah. OK.

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32 Responses to “Why Stanley Crouch is Wrong About Black People and Soul Food”

  1. klownboy December 29, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    I understand your point in disagreeing with Crouch – and I particularly love the Italian food comparison. Nice post, by the way.

    However, I do see where Crouch is coming from. Some of us black people have said among ourselves that “our food is delicious, but it could kill you”.

  2. Anonymous December 29, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    My grandma (RestInPeace ReeRe) used to make some serious meals, but food was much different then.

    1-Natural meats (free-range chickens she raised, hogs that she raised and fed good table scraps, grass fed beef from local slaugherhouse.

    2-Everyone in the south had a vegetable garden or got their vegetables from the farmers market.

    3-Butter is healthier than partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

    4-Sugar and honey are healthier than High fructose corn syrup.

    5-Fried chicken fried in a skillet is much healthier than pressure cooker fat infused chicken.

    The problem is mega-farm industries and their shortcuts, Genetically modified foods, farm raise fish, pollution in the rivers and soils, steroid and anti-body laden meats, and all the other modern poisons we are given in place of food.

    But we know hollywierd wont let facts stop them from generalizing Black people in a negative way.

    • Carol December 29, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

      Great post, with good facts!! Nuff said, couldn’t have said it better!!

    • diana December 29, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

      This is so perfect, I love the wisdom in your post..

    • Kitty January 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

      “I agree with Anonymous” on the food issue.
      “Hollyweird” as well as other folks have a “love/hate relationship with us.(black people) they just won’t admit it..they often want to be “like us but don’t want to be us…we are copied “all over the world.” We have suffered and continue to suffer but “still we rise.” We are a “strong people.”

      • michael perry February 17, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

        even the strong need to adapt to have a better future..soulfood is bad for black people. the food soulfood is made of were leftovers that white people did not want…ignorance is not bliss when you will see our kids and older generations being risen and dying to preserve a unhealthy tradition..

  3. Charles McGee December 29, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    There is nothing as healthy as fried watermelon with whale blubber sauce. Enjoy…

    • Dr. Greymatter December 31, 2011 at 2:40 am #

      I like fried hog eggs and snot bread…Crouch is digging to low…

  4. Rene C. December 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    I completely agree. I posted a blog about this too. Please check it out: “Why Soul Food is NOT an Epidemic” http://soulfoodconnection.blogspot.com/2011/12/soul-food-is-not-epidemic.html

    In solidarity…

  5. David McGhee Jr. December 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    There’s nothing wrong with Soul Food, the problem today is we are too sedentary. Enjoy your food, but get out and get a little exercise so you can indulge yourself every now and then.

    • michael perry February 17, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

      nothing wrong with that, but eating unhealthy food everyday is very bad for you..i understand the whole argument of black tradition but races and traditions do have to adapt to have a future in any society.

  6. TheBlaqueProfessor December 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    There are two issues with Crouch’s topic and approach: 1) the topic is overdone! How many more times must all Americans be told that processed, greasy, and sugary foods consumed in excess kills the body?; and 2) Crouch is arrogant to say the least. In some ways he may have a right to his over confidence, as he has written at least nine books and has an opinion on everything from soul food to gangsta rap; opinions which are featured in a few documentaries from Jack Johnson to rap music. However, in addition to being an autodidact, he is also overwhelmed by his hubris, which is often misplaced, as it is relative to this writing. What does he eat that keeps him at the body size he has, and does the fact that he, himself, is overweight lend or diminish the credibility of his argument about soul food? Hmmm . . .

    • Carol December 29, 2011 at 11:51 pm #


    • Anonymous December 31, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

      You hit the nail on the head

  7. jamii December 30, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    I hope you find this video and others by Dr. Afrika informative about what is wrong with black people and our food choices. http://youtu.be/dE8Z7JkGMfE

    • dcmacAdmin December 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

      Agreed, if there are folks still in denial about the fact that eating dead animal flesh of any kind is bad for the body, let them do go ahead and continue to commit their own form of subtle suicide. Please, just stop rationalizing with the bs “moderation” word.

  8. Anonymous December 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Stanley Crouch is wrong, and arrogant.

  9. Ron Wynn December 30, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Interesting response.

  10. Willie C. December 30, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Reading this post and several comments about Mr. Crouch’s article remind me of the truth of the adage that none is so blind as he/she who will not see. As much as I love soul food, I am wise enough and honest enough to know that if I’m not careful, it can lead to illness and death. It’s fine to say everything in moderation and that is true but we must also be aware that in many blacks even moderation is risky because of the disparity between us and others when it comes to various illnesses. We can do like smokers and say “everyone has to die from something” and keep on what we’ve been doing, but hopefully some of us will admit that the true definition of insanity is to keep doing/eating the same things over and over and expecting different results.

  11. jaleel shakir December 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Mr Crouch is right and the bible which we say we believe and follow says in Leviticus, chapter 11: 1-8 says so plainly how we can distinguish between clean and the unclean beasts that no one can have any difficulty in knowing which may be eaten and which may not be eaten according to scripture. In verses 7 and 8 the lord says of the swine, ” though
    he divide the hoof, and be clovenfoooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat. A plain declaration and clear statement that the hog
    should not be used for food, this is from the G-D that christians say they follow.
    Remember you are what you eat!

    • Willie C. December 31, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

      That’s Old Testament Bro. We are under the New Testament as you’ll see in Roman’s chapter 14.

  12. mr.adrian December 31, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Too much of anything is bad! I dont care if its soul food or just icecream. We all need to learn how to eat in order to live and stop living in order to eat

  13. Anonymous January 2, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    OMG I can’t believe black people still defending a slave diet. I like some soul food but know I can’t eat that mess. Look at obesity among Black Americans and see why any unhealthy food is bad. Where in the new Testiment that says to disregard old Testiment. I thought Jesus said he came to fulfill the law not change it so Leviticus is clear about what Christians are to eat. Let us get over this foolishness. We have to stop eating heavy soul food, remove all fast food restaurants in Black neighborhoods including liquor stores and bars, exercise at least five days a week, drink good quality water, half body weight in onces, sleep at least 7-8 hours a day, detox adults and children off sugar, eat more fruits & stem veggies with baked organic meat if you desire meat than maybe Black Americans can start lowering high diabetes, hypertension, & obesity rates than once the health problem is corrected maybe we can start to think and stop allowing guns, drugs, & alcohol being sold in Black neighborhoods & than we can learn to stop throwing trash on the ground in front of where you live, make sure our children go to school and ensure Black History is taught in the home & at after school community programs, than maybe Black men will marry Black women because they will no longer want to be called baby’s daddy. You see I think if we free our mind our ass will follow. In order to change or improve, one must start within and that means what food you are putting in your body. So if Italians eat unhealthy food so be it but let us not make that an example to continue to eat unhealthy. I believe in regulation and moderation when it comes to food, but somethings I know I just can’t eat or I just decided not to consume. So if Crouch is saying soul food is bad for your health why is that insulting, you should be insulted by the nasty and filthy fast food holes in the Black neighborhoods or be disgusted when you see some Black Americans doing their grocery shopping and carts filled with sodas, junk food, starch, sugar products, and no green veggies or fresh fruit. I’m just saying!

    • Willie C. January 3, 2012 at 1:53 am #

      I’m not sure if your comments were directed to me or not, but since I did reference the New Testament I’ll respond. I definitely agree that if all one eats is a “soul food” diet it can be very destructive to our health. I also realize that “soul food” does not mean the same thing to everyone, so I still feel the best route for all is moderation in whatever we choose to eat.
      Getting back to the Bible reference, if Christians were meant to adhere to the Old Testament, there would have been no need for the New Testament. Jesus said in part of Matthew 6: 25 – “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, WHAT YOU WILL EAT OR WHAT YOU WILL DRINK… ” When He said in Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill”, He was clearly NOT speaking about our diet, while in chapter 6 He was. Let no man call any food cursed that has been blessed by God. Those of us that pray over what we eat need not worry about being harmed by what we eat as long as we use common sense about how much we eat, how often we eat, and when we eat. Again, everything in moderation.

      • Anonymous January 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

        Willie C, just because you read the bible does not mean we all read it, believe it…the fattest, healthiest people are in the church, waddling up and down the aisles or struggling to get up out the pews. God/the bible says your body is your temple….how come so many that read the bible over look that part and treat your temple like shit. Why bother with the rest if you have no value for the body he gave you. Bible readers are often deluded and condescending. Take a look in the mirror, not at your faces but at your large behinds. We tend to fool ourselves painting our faces in a small mirror, step away and take a look at the rest of your body or is it too painful?

      • Willie C. January 5, 2012 at 1:16 am #

        I never said everyone reads or believes the Bible or even that everyone attending churches is living as they should. That is obvious to anyone who can see, so your logic escapes me. If you are trying to make a point I don’t know what it is.

  14. Anonymous January 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Hell everybody is right.
    We eat too much
    for too long
    get too little exercise.

  15. Anonymous January 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Further that is a totally unhealthy meal in the picture. NO greens vegetables at all? Cornbread, carbs/sugar
    Corn…more carbs/sugar
    Mash Potato/ more carbs/sugar
    Fried Chicken/ fried
    Cornmeal or Flour batter/ more carb/sugar…. hell if you are not diabetic, keep eating like this and you will be, not to mention big as a house.
    I get what the man is saying.

  16. Anonymous January 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Willie old testament, new testament, King James version,blah blah blah…….hell God does not play games nor make it difficult …………why you all tripping on a book that has been admittedly rewritten several times by who knows who and for unknown reasons. This is not a book from God ……God did not rewrite it, make another version or any other crap.

    The Golden Rule is a sufficient guide for living life. Religion breeds wars. God is not about war. Religions are always saying their way is better or that only they know the REAL way of God. How many sects or religions are they? How many books from God? Everybody is NOT right and the all are at odds. Does anyone recall or admit that there were Christian Crusades. Join or be killed. That is mighty Godly.

    • Willie C. January 5, 2012 at 1:11 am #

      The weakness of your comments explains why you are anonymous. You obviously are not a believer and I respect that, and your comments indicate how little you know about the Word so I’m happy to let you keep on believing or disbelieving as you wish, and I’ll do likewise. I guess Ignorance truly is bliss so have a blissful new year.

  17. SlimBee23 April 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Ok..I am from the south..born and raised currently living in new york where everybody walks everywhere… But I want to say this, people need to stop blaming the food and become more active…you cannot exspect someone of any race or cultural backround to sit around and eat green leaves all day. Its like the world is pushing for everyone to be vegans or something. Its not about what kind of food you eat, or how much you it..Its about being active so you don’t become out of shape and gain all the weight in the first place. We as african americans tend to get lazy as we get older. I recall aunts, mama and dad pulling out pictures of “way back when” saying how good they looked or they shape they had back in high school. Had you keep your body active and in shape and hit up the gym on weekends like other raxe counterparts tent to do@ then you wouldn’t be saying how big you are now. When you don’t continue to work your body out and stay active as you where in younger yrs. You become stiff, achy and bent out of shape and the weight soon follows. People conplain about not having the time, but 30minutes aday is more than enough time to burn major fat calories. Don’t blame the food. You cannot sit somewhere stuffing your face and not espect it to just pass through your system with no effects.

    • Willie C. April 21, 2012 at 1:49 am #

      Slim you made several valid points. I would say that to say it’s not about what you eat or how much, is an oversimplification and untrue. No matter how active or inactive a person is, what they eat, how much they eat, even when they eat are all contributing factors. You can be active all day burning calories, but if you don’t eat wisely enough to boost your metabolism, and if you wait until you are going to be inactive and ready for bed before eating, you minimize the effectiveness of your exercise. I do agree that much of the problem over the past few decades is inactivity, with our young people growing up playing video games, rather than out running around playing, bike riding, and being active from sun up to sun down.Those persons lost the value of eating everything in moderation, and being active with outdoor activities, so consequently they have not taught their offspring anything except fast food, sit in front of a TV, a computer, or spend all their time on Smart phones, and ipads, playing games and texting. When all is said and done, we do need to be wise in our choices. Of course it does not help that many of our communities are saturated with fast food places, and few grocery stores that offer healthier choices. This matters when people have low income and limited means of transportation, not to mention poor healthcare to enable them to monitor their health on a regular basis, to address issues before they become life threatening.

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