Remember What Is Amazing
About Chitterlings and What Isn't
The genius of black creativity has often involved making something good of the scraps - creating a delicacy out of undesirable, discarded parts. Sometimes, though, we get so excited about the resilience and transformative power of black people's creativity that we confuse the creative energy and talent with the creative output. In hip hop this has meant reveling over the ingenuity of hip hop's creative genius for using scraps from the urban landscape to make music - presenting exhilarating dances on cardboard in the street, reusing obsolete technical-trades equipment to rebuild stereos, telling stories on street corners in ways that made people in corporate offices listen - while at the same time ignoring the toxic conditions under which such creativity occurs.
This confusion between the genius of remaking and the final product reminds me of chitterlings. There is a crucial distinction between the genius behind turning pig guts into a grassroots delicacy and the actual chitterlings themselves...food that slave owners and their families would not eat. So, no matter how well they were prepared, no matter how much creative efficiency surrounded previous decisions to eat intestines, ears, hooves, and other animal parts, the context for African Americans' use of chitterlings-or chitlins as they are affectionately called - symbolizes not just black people's resilience, tradition, and creativity but also their mistreatment.