'Black History Month Is Not For Us'

Pastry chef Simone Faure on cultural appropriation, false allyship and the misguided notion that Black History Month is for Black people.
Illustration: HuffPost; Photo: Courtesy of MadeSTL, Getty

In 2013, Simone Faure, a pastry chef from New Orleans, opened the James Beard-nominated La Patisserie Chouquette in St. Louis. She got her start going to culinary school in New Orleans and making kosher wedding cakes for The Ritz Carlton in New Orleans and St. Louis. Her schedule involves going to bed by 7 p.m. and getting up at 1 a.m. to start baking. In this edition of Voices In Food, Faure talks about cultural appropriation and how words like “allyship” are performative.

On Cultural Appropriation And Food

The idea that the people who came before us have laid out a path for us is fascinating to me. When it comes to food, I think it has the potential to heal a lot of wounds. It’s transformative when we stop taking input from the outside and we start listening to each other and realizing how much we all have in common. But we have these preconceived notions about people’s food like, “Oh, that’s odd. That’s weird. That’s gross.” Well, I’m from Louisiana, and we will eat anything that is moving. But people come from all over the world because they want to learn to cook that food. They want to work in those restaurants. They want to be diners in those restaurants. I was in Korea, and there was a Cajun restaurant. It said Cajun, and I was like, “OK, we have arrived.”

I’m a Black restaurant owner. I sell boba milk tea. I have never in my life tried to make it seem as if I invented boba milk tea or that anyone who looks like me invented boba milk tea. During the pandemic, I couldn’t frequent my favorite boba shops and I started making it at home for myself and then I started making it for my friends.

I did speak to some friends who are Asian and asked their opinion on it, and realistically, they don’t speak for the entire Asian community, but they knew where I was coming from with it. I simply wanted to offer something delicious that I loved with pastries. I think when it comes to cultural appropriation with food, a lot of times you’ll see things being bastardized and renamed in order to confiscate it almost, instead of giving homage to where that came from — that drives me absolutely crazy.

Saying you are making soul food when you are lacking the main ingredient to make soul food, which is soul — that is cultural appropriation. It’s a fine line sometimes you have to walk. I have always been a firm believer in creating things that are near and dear to me, embracing multiple cultures and learning about them and teaching about them, and giving space to people who know more than I do to be able to come in and show and teach all of us. But unfortunately, I don’t always see that playing out across the board.

‘Black History Month Is Not For Us’

Black history should be American history because we are Americans. We’re not always seen as Americans, but Black history should be taught the same way that any history is taught, but it’s not. Same with Asian American history, Hispanic American history, Native American history. Those things are taught in pockets, and that’s unfortunate. As long as that’s happening, then there will always be a need for these months.

“This country is hundreds of years old and we are still trying to convince people that we either matter or we are worthy of learning about.”

- Simone Faure

Black History Month is not for us. Our parents teach us about Black history. Our grandparents teach us about Black history. We’ve lived it, you guys. There’s nobody who’s willing to step up and teach you, so that ends up falling on our shoulders through the form of an interview or through a conversation with a friend. And it’s exhausting because this country is hundreds of years old and we are still trying to convince people that we either matter or we are worthy of learning about.

When everything has been presented to you seemingly as though it is for you, and when the people who procured it for you start to slowly piss on you and tell you it’s raining, you start looking at things very differently.

On False Allyship

Allyship is such a cushy word. “I’m an ally.” What does that actually mean? Those are conversations for white people, because for us, we’ve been saying this for God knows how long. This is not a conversation for me that I teach. The writing has been on the wall. We should have been standing together all these years.

When I hear things like the term “white guilt,” I always have to laugh at that because I’m like, where’s that guilt coming from? I have never in my 50 years on this Earth ever met a Black person who was like, “We need them to apologize.” We need them to feel sorry for what? You can only feel sorry for your own actions. You cannot apologize for anything that happened in the past. Or when white people say things like, “I’m ashamed to be white.” I’m like, really? When I see a Black person doing dumb shit, I’m not ashamed to be Black. That guilt is put on yourself.

All you can do is every day when you wake up, choose to be different. If you’re sitting at a table with a family member and that person is saying shit that you know is wrong, and you’re like, “I just don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to ruin Thanksgiving dinner” ... That’s not [being] an ally. Keep your allyship. I just need you to be OK with yourself.

We all want the same things: to be happy, healthy, and to have a really good meal. At the end of the day, we all want Netflix to allow us to give our password to whoever we want. There’s room for [all] of us at this school, at this job, in this friend group.


HuffPost Shopping’s Best Finds