This week’s readings cover the idea of ancestral struggle (to track, to resonate with, etc) on a deeply personal level through Michael Twitty. His life follows a winding path of rejection, acceptance, and embrace of his African American identity. His personal triumph of becoming his own self-constructed identity (like his Grammy!) is representative of a larger societal movement towards re-learning the implications of one’s ancestry. The privilege of easily knowing about those who came before you makes the process of forming your own identity much less emotionally pain-staking.
Moreover, it becomes clear that the privilege of knowing ones heritage in a context not weighed down by violence, slavery, and genocide has not just emotional consequences, but practical ones, too. For Twitty, his experience in the culinary field has long been marked by the search for a personal cooking identity. His career revolves around forming a deeper understanding of who came before him, and what was left out of his history, in order to broaden the palette of what he cooks. For a chef whose ancestry is not so violent and complex, the existing historical palette is a great privilege.
I found Twitty’s descriptions of plantation tourism culture to be most infuriating, it feels to be a disservice to the true history of those grounds. As explained in Dr. Bezio’s podcast, the white supremacist culture exists as a means of othering and exclusion. In terms of historiography, the history of those enslaved on plantations has been told through the lens of white supremacist culture. This was made painfully clear by Twitty’s anecdotes about his time working as a chef and academic in and around plantations. It was painful to read that the ancestry he had struggled with for a lifetime was reduced to consistent disrespect of his career and standing in the field as a historical cook.