How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest (2024)

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving: A Users Manual for Non-Black Guests/In-Laws and Black Folks that Don’t Have No Home Training, I.E. Culture


Shameless plug:

Hey I wrote a two time James Beard Award winning book on African American culinary traditions as passed down through our families from Africa to America: get a copy today 🙂

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest (1)

1. DO NOT arrive empty handed to Black Thanksgiving. Store bought isn’t great, but if you aren’t sure how Black holiday food works, it’s better than getting the church lady look when you bring candied parsnips over. See rule 2.)

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest (2)

2. The answer is ALWAYS sweet potatoes. Neauxp, no pumpkin, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash, nah-unh…sweet potatoes aka “yams.” (Not really yams)

3. As with our close cousin “Southern White Thanksgiving,” we don’t call cornbread “stuffing,” stuffing….we call it “dressing.” Calling it “stuffing,” is a dead giveaway you don’t know the quality of what you brought over. Throw that boxed stuff away.

4. Bruce Almighty (wink wink) didn’t create “yams,” De Lawd did, so buy the ones that don’t come in a can when you follow rule 2.

5. Macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs and bechamel sauce? Really? And it’s not even “urunge?” Neauxp…. not Black Thanksgiving approved.

6. Potato salad year round is a thing. Don’t ask who made it, just know their hands are clean. Potato salad is yellow, has paprika and eggs so don’t be confused.

7. Expect an elder to ask a young child to dance, perform, recite a poem or read from the Bible against their will for the entertainment of other elders.

8. Grace will last a while when Daddy/Grandaddy so and so or Big Mama, Nana, Grammy or M’Dear says it, so make sure you don’t starve yourself prior to arrival.

9. Black people hate it when you’re not a cheerful eater, so load up your plate. Strategy: if you’re used to white food just try to load up on stuff you’ll actually eat and tuck in the obligatory candied yams and collard greens where necessary. Save room for dessert. Candied yams or sweet potato casserole with marshmallows is NOT dessert.

10. Like any ethnic household expect people to talk about food while eating food.
You will likely be eating roast turkey, barbecued turkey, deep fried turkey, glazed country ham, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes mashed and covered with marshmallows, corn, cornbread, yeast/potato rolls, black eyed peas, rice, gravy, potato salad, cranberry sauce from the can, sweet potato pie, cornbread dressing, “fried apples” (think Boston Market apples), chitterlings, apple crisp, chess pie, fill-in-the-blank cobbler, ice cream, caramel cake, deviled eggs, “green salad,” and something almost Afrocentric..

11. DO NOT be that “other” that goes “Well it’s not just Black people that eat/do….” What the hell is that supposed to really mean??? a. You don’t think we have a unique culture unless we do “magical, innate, instinctual things y’all “can’t” do? b. You don’t seem to grasp that each culture puts it’s own spin on common themes. c. You’re showing that you believe in the “Black Box” (newsflash..we can be just as universal and influential as anyone else) d. You are desperate to have the newest college student in the family demonstrate their newfound skills in oppression deflection learned in Introduction to African American Studies. In any case, saying nonsense will get you “the look that Mr. Johnson gave Ray.” (Ask your host for the story once the Moscato gets flowing.)

12. Speaking of college…expect the student to have a newfound prejudice against pork, meat in general or cooked food, all of which will cause palpitations for the cook and rolled eyes. We are used to this, but know the “special plate,” is for the newfound #Hotep/poor righteous teacher, Natural sister/brother, or boho in the room…not for you. It may seem achingly familiar and inviting, but unless you want a “the look that Mr. Johnson gave Ray” (ask the host once the Moscato gets flowing) along with lectures on how the white man takes everything, leave the special plate alone.

13. At all costs, do not put your fork on anyone else’s plate or take food off a plate, especially that of a larger person like myself. It will be your last Thanksgiving on earth if you do. All requests must be submitted in writing two weeks prior in advance.

14. Avoid Uncle Pete. He smells like whiskey for a reason and will go up in flames if anywhere near open flame. Do not go to his car with him. He keeps his nickels and dominoes in a Crown Royal bag after he “dranks that brown.”

Sit next to Aunt Pearl. She’s the first college graduate and is sadiddy as hell and “think she better than the rest of the family.” She’s the one that looks like Prince at the award show. Sitting next to a white person will validate her feelings of personal achievement.

15. Leave all white soul food at home including green or red or pink gelatin based “salads,” casseroles and “hot dish,” see rule 1. We don’t like food that twerks, bubbles long after cooking or sounds like it cannot be cis-identified. Green bean casserole…naw gurl..

16. White Southern country food is passable but put some paprika in it and you should be good to go. And some season salt, maybe a lil’ garlic or onion powder and a dash of hot sauce….maybe some sugar…

17. Say “yes Ma’am a lot.” No first names unless you are invited to use them.

18. We love Non-Black guests. So be prepared for the “Naw we don’t do handshakes,” and deep breast hugs. Get air before you go in.

19. Your new name is “..ummm…Baby.” Or “Michael’s white Friend.” Caveat…if you’re LGBT and this is your bf/gf house, “FRIEND” means partner…and everyone will say it with a lilt…that’s as good as its gonna get. #yayequality

20. There may be a scuffle between women over who fixes which man’s plate. Do not move. It will resolve itself. If you see yourself in rule 19..i.e.. you are a gay boy…don’t be cute…let Tyrell’s Mama make you a plate, don’t make his plate or let her see you making his. She ain’t ready for all that…having you over is already a big step.

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest (4)

21. Gluten what?

22. Speaking of gluten, the ITIS (no it’s not a Black terrorist organization you need to rush home and warn the other white folks about) is what happens when carbs and that thing in turkey that makes your body conspire against your ability to be conscious.

23. Keep the rhubarb pie at the Walton’s house with John Boy. See rule 2.

24. Don’t play food anthropologist around Big Mama you will just annoy her taking food pics. We don’t do food pics for home cooked food. No….she won’t understand why you’re doing it..

25. Even if you are completely secular pepper your speech with religious statements or sayings just to humor Big Mama and dem. Say mmm-mmm-mmm a lot.

26. If you’re vegan, bring your own food and enough to share..even if nobody else eats it. Remember rule 12. The college child will take some while you’re not looking.

27. Bring extra foil…trust me. Do not bring your own Tupperware.

28. The to go plate is tradition. Leave room in your trunk. If you loved not eat it until you get home, if you didn’t share with someone who’s hungry.

Shameless plug warning two:

29. The family Pitt bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, boxer or bulldog knows YOU will give them food at the table or kiss them in the mouth. Dont. This will get you “the look that Mr. Johnson gave Ray.” (Ask your host once the Moscato gets flowing.)

30. Don’t ask questions about Shanda’s boyfriend. They are happy to have him home.

31. White people get to sit in the front room on the plastic covered furniture. Take this as a badge of honor. No one else gets to go in that room–ever.

32. The cranberry sauce must be brought to the table in the form of the can it came from for quality assurance purposes….on fine china.

33. If you see green bean, collard green or white potato cans in the kitchen or pasty grey chitlins, run like hell, those Negroes can’t cook.

34. Dinner will not start on time. But show up on time.

35. If you are Asian or Latino expect to be drafted into any remaining cooking.

36. Uncle John, who resembles his bulldog, will ask you about why white people, or “Spanish” or “Chinese,” people do certain things etc. Ignore him.
But dont ask him why Black folks do stuff..the bow tie will come out real fast. Pour him more Moscato.

37. Don’t throw shade at any other Non-Black people in attendance, this is not a competition for “cool.”

38. It’s not dinner time until the speckled roasting pan and Hamilton Beach turkey cutter arrive. (Seeing people of many colors nod in agreement.)

39. Don’t bring generic soda. Faygo, Nehi, RC, Vernors are all fine choices for soda for Black Thanksgiving. Get ready for stories about peanuts and cola. (Note: red kool-aid+soda+”that brown” is what Black people mean by “punch.”)

40. Have fun! We all family! When you come in the house, speak!!!! One of my Facebook friends put it like this: “Say Hello to everybody, Happy Thanksgiving! Then speak to everybody individually.” DO NOT play spades or bidwhist after dinner with your hosts (unless you want to be hustled), just sit back and watch the game with Uncle James and his bulldog–he trusts white people once he is drunk and has the ITIS.

Last Shameless plug:

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest (5)

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest (2024)


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