This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Nadira Goffe discuss a Prudie letter: “Cul-de-sac of Confused Caucasians”
Jenée Desmond-Harris: I hope you found this question as hilarious as I did. I don’t even know if it was fake, but it was too entertaining not to answer.
Nadira Goffe: It gave me my first true laugh of the day so far. More than a sarcastic “lol.” I’m just so confused!
Jenée: So, I’m just going to assume that the potential recipient is Black and the letter writer is white.
Nadira: Yeah, considering the letter writer’s alias is “Cul-de-sac of Confused Caucasians”… I think we know the dynamics at play here.
Jenée: Can you imagine giving your neighbor some Christmas cookies and not giving it another thought and next thing you know you are getting Juneteenth baked goods on your doorstep?
Nadira: Haha, I would be so confused! And I think even a little offended! I should say that I see that the LW’s intentions were in the right place. They just wanted to return the favor. BUT!
Jenée: I mean I think this is an interesting moment because five years ago, I would have thought it was TOTALLY absurd, but now, after the old “Summer of racial reckoning,” when Juneteenth is more recognized in a mainstream way (like it’s a holiday here at Slate), I can kinda see a white person thinking “I should acknowledge this” … maybe?
Nadira: There’s something inherently cringey about someone’s niceties also playing into racial identity? I see the good intention to acknowledge it! But … I guess maybe the issue is more with the way Juneteenth is and was marketed.
Jenée: Yeah, there’s also the fact that it’s not really a GIFT holiday.
Nadira: Right! It’s an action-based holiday! On how you can make life better for Black people. Which is usually to … leave them alone and let them enjoy themselves? Or maybe take your own time to educate yourself.
Nadira: But one doesn’t give gifts on holidays that recognize oppression! Not from the oppressive community to the oppressed!
Jenée: It is definitely not an occasion to even the score on gift giving to make yourself feel politer. There are so many other options: late Christmas gift, new year’s gift, happy spring gift …
Jenée: Like I said in the response, “thanks for being a good neighbor, sorry we missed you on Christmas” gift.
Nadira: I think it does say something … not sure what exactly … that this is a holiday that came to the person’s mind. But, have they never gotten non-holiday-based niceties before? A thank-you card perhaps?
Jenée: Brilliant idea.
Nadira: A simple trip to Hallmark would give them great inspiration, I think. I appreciate the sentiment and thought, I really do. I can see it’s coming from a good place. But it does read as a tad oblivious to me. There’s not much reading the room going on there.
Anyway, I can say that whoever the LW’s better half is … they should keep them around.
Jenée: And the broader lesson is, if you feel “weird” about something, just listen to yourself! Even if you can’t articulate why, you are probably on to something.
Nadira: Yes! So true. That instinctual gut of ours is so important.
Jenée: And also, I don’t know that Juneteenth cookies would need to be in Pan-African flag colors. But now I’m nitpicking …
Nadira: I was thinking the same thing.
Jenée: Bottom line: Drop off a plant and save yourself and your neighbor the weird feelings.
Nadira: The beauty of Juneteenth is that Black people simply, erm, know what’s up? And it’s hard to articulate that to non-Black people, especially in the ways we want our own joy to be recognized or viewed by people who are non-Black. So, yeah, I agree. Get a nice succulent or vase or even a mug, write a thank you note, and you’re okay.
And if you’re hell bent on the cookies: I don’t know anyone who has objected to good ol’ chocolate chip.