Charlie and the Social Justice Factory: is Harvard right to teach chocolate is racist?

If you’re white and you buy your children chocolate eggs to eat this Easter, aren't you training them to become infant white supremacists? This question is so incredibly stupid that it could only be posed by someone with a PhD.

Sad to say, even chocolate has now been tarred with the brush of “white supremacism” – at least according to the Harvard African and African-American Studies (AAAS) module E119, “Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food”. This subject at Harvard Extension School, a continuing education division at the University, now appears to have been discontinued. But its legacy lives on in high-school lesson plans.

Looking up the course’s content online, it would appear to be entirely free of any known nutrients, intellectually speaking. Particularly notable is the warning to students with chocolate allergies that the course does involve eating chocolate, especially in “Unit 4: Eating Chocolate”.

As useful as a chocolate teapot

How can chocolate be racist? You would have to ask Carla D. Martin, PhD, the designer of the course in question, founder of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, which bills itself as “a scholar-led research organisation that seeks to reduce information asymmetry in the cacao and chocolate value chain.” What does this actually mean? Having spent some time looking through their extensive website, I’m none the wiser.

I suppose this is why I never managed to get into Harvard.

A “social anthropologist with interdisciplinary interests that include history, agronomy, ethnomusicology, linguistics” and saying silly things about chocolate, which she does at length on her Bittersweet Notes blog, Martin is an academic specialising in the vital field of chocolate politics. Operating both as an “open enrolment class” for info-hungry members of the general public, and as a module for full-time students, her E119 course would set scholars back between $1,250 and $2,200 in course fees.

That’s an awful lot of chocolate coins to spend. Nonetheless, Martin says, the module proved highly popular, as “the course does not involve any traditional written papers or exams”, and instead allowed students to pass simply by turning up, taking part in quizzes, talking about chocolate with “a phenomenal team of graduate student teaching fellows … [with] expertise in Haitian Vodou, the American prison system [hopefully not actual convicted criminals?], the history of Islam, and medieval European food culture” and then producing blog posts and a “multimedia presentation”, involving things like drawing posters or imaginary new anti-racist advertising campaigns for chocolate bars.

For a certificate from Harvard.

Chocolate fountains of knowledge

What, precisely, would you be getting for your money? Well, if you head over to a special website, Chocolate Class, you can find numerous blog posts and multimedia presentations from Professor Martin’s students.

One essay, “European Appropriation of Chocolate“, condemns “Christopher Columbus, the founder of chocolate”. The Aztecs used cacao beans in their religious ceremonies and white men appropriated this ancient foodstuff for their own nefarious colonial ends. It is “only those with power who get to write history” and this fact applied to chocolate as much as to everything else.

Another student organised a chocolate-tasting for fellow students and asked them to criticise brands upon weird identitarian lines, as shown by his or her valuable account, “Exploring Cultural Appropriation Through a Chocolate Tasting”, which features sentences like the following: “When prompted to comment on the fact that the Spicy Mayans [brand of] chocolates were not, in fact, made by Mayans, a chorus of ‘UGH!’ ensued.” How could they have been made by the Mayans? Their civilisation has been extinct for centuries. It's like complaining Arctic Roll isn’t made by actual Eskimos.

Another blog post, “Misogynoir and Cocoa Throughout History”, uses the ultra-obscure 1976 comment of a random magazine editor that the black supermodel Iman resembled “a white woman dipped in chocolate” to condemn white Western capitalism wholesale on the grounds that “This association of a person with an edible object further solidifies the idea that black people are false commodities.” Meaning what, exactly? Another post, “The Consumption of Black Bodies as Chocolate“, explains:

“When we look at the history of chocolate production, we are looking at a history of African slave labor. Between 10 and 15 million slaves were stolen from Africa and brought to work in various farms and plantations that manufactured cacao … and sugar … [This] has led to the fetishization and fantasy of black bodies as representing the products that they create … In a sense, the black body has been so ‘delicious’ for whiteness to consume that it has become a deeply embedded aspect of our culture, because its consumption has been associated with the sweetness of sugar and chocolate and not the bitter truth of slave labor … Look at … the hyper-policing, monitoring, and brutalization of black youth by police. These are all current manifestations of the notion that black bodies are meant to be owned, controlled, exploited, and consumed, just like the association between chocolate and blackness … Black people are not made of chocolate, but chocolate is made of black people, in the sense that it has been historically created through their oppression and forced labor.”

According to the student, there is a tradition in Belgium of selling severed chocolate hands, which represent the right hands of Congolese slaves chopped off by their Belgian colonial overlords in the late 1800s. Horrific, if true … but it isn’t. The Belgians did chop off black slaves’ hands, but the link with the cookies is an urban myth. They actually nod back to a legend about the founding of Antwerp.

Chocolate spread of discord

Possibly the most interesting item on the website is a lesson plan for high school students. This aims to help children “to understand race and racism through the lens of chocolate”.

But how?

There is a disease called “colourblind racism”, which seeks to treat people of all skin-colours just the same, but this is wrong. People are not all the same, white people are all evil, and black and brown people are all brilliant, without any single exceptions, not even Idi Amin or Emperor Bokassa. Thank God, therefore, that Carla D. Martin discovered “how chocolate can be used as a salient pedagogical tool for constructing anti-racist knowledge not only at the university level, but for all learners, especially those who are white and middle-class.”

The best way to do this, apparently, is to make children spend THREE WHOLE DAYS watching racially “offensive” clips from one of the film versions of Roald Dahl’s classic kids’ novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, before asking them, “Who Is Willy, Really? The Racist Origins of the Chocolate Factory”.



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Slaves to their own appetites

Willy is really just an avatar of Nazi death-camp doctor Josef Mengele: “he also performed unethical experiments on them at his own leisure, such as turning them into blueberries. This treatment reflects the real violent ways that enslaved Black and Brown people have been treated by Europeans and the United States in the production of chocolate both historically and even in many ways in today’s world.”

Even worse is the way Herr Wonka transported his Oompa-slaves across to his English factory/death-camp in the first place. According to Dahl’s original account, the imperialist fiend “shipped them over here, every man, woman, and child in the Oompa-Loompa tribe. It was easy. I smuggled them over in large packing cases with holes in them, and they all got here safely.” Supposedly, this reflected the way real black slaves were once transported across to America during the days of the Middle Passage. Granted, this stuff may seem unlikely to the likes of you or me – but it must be true. After all, it’s being taught at Harvard, the world’s most prestigious university.

Do you think teachers waste their time delivering pathetic nonsense like this in China? Possibly not, but, the Harvard-born lesson plans reassure readers, once the children have learned to condemn Willy Wonka as a neo-Nazi, they will go out and begin “creating a community action project to address an issue of racial inequality in their community in partnership with a local chocolate shop/producer”, thereby remaking their society into one every bit as Communistic in its nature as President Xi’s own currently is.

And, to reinforce the learning experience further, obedient kids who have absorbed the correct lessons will be tossed a few chocolate buttons as a small reward (but only “ethically-sourced” ones – i.e., not manufactured by Ooompa Loompas in a sweatshop).

Isn’t that how we used to train dogs?

Happy Easter, Comrades! 

What is your favourite chocolate? Should you feel guilty when eating it? Tell us in the comments box below.  

Steven Tucker is a UK-based writer with over ten books to his name. His next, Hitler’s & Stalin’s Misuse of Science, comparing the woke pseudoscience of today to the totalitarian pseudoscience of the past, will be published in summer 2023.

Image credits: Bigstock


Showing 7 reactions

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  • mrscracker
    Actually, potatoes are Western in origin.
  • Peter Fährmann
    Next the western appropriation of oranges and potatoes!
  • David Page
    commented 2024-03-27 10:09:22 +1100
    When my eldest was about five a little boy called her a chocolate bar. She was upset, but I am not sure he meant it as an insult. Anyway, we laughed it off. Myself, I prefer dark chocolate. About 70 percent cocoa.
  • mrscracker
    “What is your favourite chocolate? "
    I’m actually not a super fan of chocolate. I like it but it doesn’t rock my world. One of Cadbury’s chocolate bars long ago was a favorite. It had fruit, nuts, & maybe a little rum flavor. If I remember correctly, it had a map of the West Indies on the wrapper & perhaps a pirate?
    Fry’s Turkish Delight’s pretty good too.
  • Malcolm McLean
    commented 2024-03-26 19:09:40 +1100
    Chocolate is often associated with black people. Largely because their skin in genuinely almost the same colour as most chocolate. But also because chocolate is grown in Western Africa and harvested by black workers. And there might be an element of demeaning the workers. However there is also an element of celebrating and valuing their labour. It’s fine for Harvard to make these comments, It’s the lack of perspective and balance, and the presumption to prescribe and to correct, where there is clearly no motive to promote or spread racial hatred, whilst on the part of the Harvard people, there are morally dubious political motives.

    Chocolate was taken to West Africa from America by white people. These transplanted food crops are the backbone of modern agriculture, and chocolate is just one small example.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-03-26 18:36:08 +1100
    Headline/text dissonance.
  • Steven Tucker
    published this page in The Latest 2024-03-26 14:29:25 +1100