As a kid, there were “truths” told to me. I was told that I had to drink milk. I hated milk. Turns out, kids don’t need milk. Experts even say that drinking too much milk can lead to obesity.
More disturbing than that was the idea that people needed to eat three meals a day… breakfast, lunch and dinner. I heard this my whole life. Meanwhile, I was never a breakfast person. I usually ate when I was hungry.
Turns out that eating three meals a day is a very Eurocentric idea or way of knowing.
When the Europeans came over to the United States, they ate three meals a day whereas the Native Americans ate in a less restricted fashion — a practice Europeans considered to be unrefined. In other words, white settlers believed Indigenous people to be savages because they only ate when hungry.
Historian Abigail Carroll, author of the book “Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal,” explained to me that the thrice-daily eating schedule goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages in Europe. According to Carroll:
“Civilized people ate properly and boundaried their eating, thus differentiating themselves from the animal kingdom, where grazing is the norm… So fascinated were Europeans with tribes’ eating patterns, notes Carroll, that they actually watched Native Americans eat ‘as a form of entertainment.'”
Needless to say, three meals became the normative eating behavior of the western world, especially with the advent of the industrial revolution.
This myth of the three meals ethos exposes a few things.
First, it exposes the white supremacy of it all. Many of the norms and rules we follow are not moral in nature or reasoning. They’re rooted in human biases. Our laws, traditions and ways of doing things, particularly in the western world, are rooted in white supremacy and racial capitalism. Just because non-white people do something different from white people doesn’t make it incorrect or uncivilized.
In fact, it’s recommended for people to mainly eat when hungry… like the Indigenous, who were considered savages.
Second, it exposes the capitalism of it all. As people began introducing meat into their diets, they became unhealthy. According to Carroll, breakfast was therefore positioned as the time for healthier foods. Enter the Kellogg Company with its corn flakes, fruit companies with their juices and the announcement of vitamins found in breakfast foods.
There was money to be made … and therefore breakfast became the most important meal of the day.
Lastly, it exposes the flawed psychology of the oppressor’s mindset.
Indigenous people from the Americas and Africa – the very people Europeans enslaved and murdered – were people of plenty. In the Americas or Africa prior to Europeans arriving, there was no need to compete for land, resources or people because they had plenty of it. However, as Dr. John Henrik Clarke has shared, Europe was land poor, resource poor, and people poor. Competition was a way of life for Europeans.
What it all means is that a mindset of lack and competition for resources led to the exploitation, destruction, and death of a people. For those who remain, that mindset has transferred to us. Although we descend from those with a mindset of plenty, we reflect those with a mindset of lack. This mindset dominates how we see ourselves and see our world. It is a poison — a sickness or disease injected in our DNA whereby we lose sight of who we are and only know lack.
We’re not crabs in a barrel… rather a people in need of reconditioning.
“If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do.”Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Rann Miller is an educator and freelance writer based in New Jersey. His Urban Education Mixtape blog supports urban educators and parents of children attending urban schools. He is the author of “Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids” (Bloom Books for Young Readers) released on March 7. Follow him on Twitter @RealRannMiller.