The 18-year-old prepared the traditional Malagasy dish of ravitoto, which was met with controversy
An “ethnically mixed” teenager was left fuming after they were accused of cultural appropriation for cooking a dish from their maternal African homeland.
The 18-year-old, who identifies as non-binary, had brought the meal to a “potluck” dinner with friends to celebrate the end of exams when the fallout occurred.
They explained that the theme of the night was “dishes from your country” – since the group was “pretty international” – so they decided to prepare something from Madagascar.
Describing themself as “Franco-Malagasy” they wrote on Reddit: “It’s important to note that whilst I am ethnically mixed, I am white, you wouldn’t be able to tell I’m from Madagascar.”
When the event kicked off, our narrator and their fellow guests took it in turns to talk through their offerings.
“I explained that I made a Malagasy dish call Ravitoto (pronounced Raftoot), a brede mafanes condiment (a very peculiar herb) and a tomato rougail (a tomato condiment) to eat with rice,” they wrote.
“This obviously surprised a lot of people until I explained how my mum’s side is Malagasy, and my dad’s side is French, but that my brother and I ended up getting many more features [from] our dad’s side, such as skin colour, lips and hair texture. This made everyone laugh and we all moved on.”
However, things took an unpleasant turn when one of the diners – to whom the Redditor referred to by the pseudonym Tiffany – became critical of their food.
The 18-year-old wrote: “[She said] how in her country (Senegal), nothing is cooked like that, how I must have gotten the wrong recipe etc.
“I tried to laugh it off but it was very irritating that she was speaking over my culture like that, when our cultures have very little in common.”
The friends contributed dishes from across the worldGetty Images
They went on to say that the pals had all had a bit to drink and the rest of the meal had gone well when, suddenly, Tiffany remarked that it would have been “perfect” if the Reddit poster had “stuck to [their] culture.
“At this point I had had enough and asked her what she meant,” they said.
“In short, her answer was that my dishes were a white-washed version of Malagasy cuisine because tomatoes aren’t native to Africa, the Ravitoto wasn’t accurate (she didn’t eat it because it has pork and she’s Muslim), and to quote her ‘You’re white so you shouldn’t even have cooked food from an African country, the colonialist vibes don’t suit you’.
They continued: “That last comment made me see a little red, the beer didn’t help, so I asked her in Malagasy, ‘Damn, for someone’s that’s from a country on the other side of the continent, you sure know a lot about MY culture, that was transmitted to me by MY grandmother and MY mother that were both born in Madagascar’, and finished in English by telling her to educate herself and have a more open mind because ‘cultural insensitivity doesn’t suit her’.”
The Redditor ended their post by saying that things had become “very tense” between them and their friends, because while the group agreed that “Tiffany shouldn’t have said what she said,” they also argued that “she was drunk so didn’t mean it like that” and said our narrator “shouldn’t have humiliated her by speaking Malagasy.”
However, the 18-year-old said they believed they were “in the right” and “wouldn’t apologise until she does.” Though they later admitted in a footnote that they “could have been nicer” and wondered: “Maybe there’s a cultural thing I’m missing, with me being a white person and her being black.”
Their account of the incident racked up more than 7,500 upvotes and 770 comments within hours of being posted on the social media platform as readers shared their take on the confrontation.
“She is a racist hiding behind cultural integrity,” wrote one user.
“Your skin colour is white, therefore you are this and can not be anything else. That is racist. Her problem came from the colour of your skin. It wasn’t the food or the cultural significance of the food, it was your skin colour.”
“Policing people’s heritage is despicable,” another added.
Scores of other Redditors shared their own struggles with being from mixed cultures or with having their ethnicities misidentified.
“My parents were both born in Mexico, but my dad is white, my mom is mixed, and I look very Caucasian. People in the US give me the ‘you can’t be Mexican, you’re white!’ s*** all the time,’” one wrote.
Another commented: “I had a friend who did an acting class in [New York] and the professor wouldn’t allow her to portray Latinx roles because ‘Latinx people weren’t white’. He told her Argentinian friend the same thing and she was like, ‘have you ever been to my country?’”
A third said: “Half-Indian here! My white, blue eyed sister got kicked out of a South Asian students union because they didn’t believe she was half-Indian. People are so annoying.”
And a fourth said: “I’m Chinese, but somehow look racially ambiguous. I’ve lost count of the number of people asking me if I’m sure that I’m not actually Latina/don’t speak Spanish, or insisting to me that there’s no way I’m 100% Asian and must be mixed.
“Unless the hospital gave me to the wrong parents, I’m not mixed.”