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How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving: A Users Manual for Non-Black Guests/In-Laws and Black Folks that Don’t Have No Home Training, I.E. Culture


Shameless plug:

Hey I wrote a two time James Beard Award winning book on African American culinary traditions as passed down through our families from Africa to America: get a copy today 🙂

1. DO NOT arrive empty handed to Black Thanksgiving. Store bought isn’t great, but if you aren’t sure how Black holiday food works, it’s better than getting the church lady look when you bring candied parsnips over. See rule 2.)


2. The answer is ALWAYS sweet potatoes. Neauxp, no pumpkin, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash, nah-unh…sweet potatoes aka “yams.” (Not really yams)

3. As with our close cousin “Southern White Thanksgiving,” we don’t call cornbread “stuffing,” stuffing….we call it “dressing.” Calling it “stuffing,” is a dead giveaway you don’t know the quality of what you brought over. Throw that boxed stuff away.

4. Bruce Almighty (wink wink) didn’t create “yams,” De Lawd did, so buy the ones that don’t come in a can when you follow rule 2.

5. Macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs and bechamel sauce? Really? And it’s not even “urunge?” Neauxp…. not Black Thanksgiving approved.

6. Potato salad year round is a thing. Don’t ask who made it, just know their hands are clean. Potato salad is yellow, has paprika and eggs so don’t be confused.

7. Expect an elder to ask a young child to dance, perform, recite a poem or read from the Bible against their will for the entertainment of other elders.

8. Grace will last a while when Daddy/Grandaddy so and so or Big Mama, Nana, Grammy or M’Dear says it, so make sure you don’t starve yourself prior to arrival.

9. Black people hate it when you’re not a cheerful eater, so load up your plate. Strategy: if you’re used to white food just try to load up on stuff you’ll actually eat and tuck in the obligatory candied yams and collard greens where necessary. Save room for dessert. Candied yams or sweet potato casserole with marshmallows is NOT dessert.

10. Like any ethnic household expect people to talk about food while eating food.
You will likely be eating roast turkey, barbecued turkey, deep fried turkey, glazed country ham, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes mashed and covered with marshmallows, corn, cornbread, yeast/potato rolls, black eyed peas, rice, gravy, potato salad, cranberry sauce from the can, sweet potato pie, cornbread dressing, “fried apples” (think Boston Market apples), chitterlings, apple crisp, chess pie, fill-in-the-blank cobbler, ice cream, caramel cake, deviled eggs, “green salad,” and something almost Afrocentric..

11. DO NOT be that “other” that goes “Well it’s not just Black people that eat/do….” What the hell is that supposed to really mean??? a. You don’t think we have a unique culture unless we do “magical, innate, instinctual things y’all “can’t” do? b. You don’t seem to grasp that each culture puts it’s own spin on common themes. c. You’re showing that you believe in the “Black Box” (newsflash..we can be just as universal and influential as anyone else) d. You are desperate to have the newest college student in the family demonstrate their newfound skills in oppression deflection learned in Introduction to African American Studies. In any case, saying nonsense will get you “the look that Mr. Johnson gave Ray.” (Ask your host for the story once the Moscato gets flowing.)

12. Speaking of college…expect the student to have a newfound prejudice against pork, meat in general or cooked food, all of which will cause palpitations for the cook and rolled eyes. We are used to this, but know the “special plate,” is for the newfound #Hotep/poor righteous teacher, Natural sister/brother, or boho in the room…not for you. It may seem achingly familiar and inviting, but unless you want a “the look that Mr. Johnson gave Ray” (ask the host once the Moscato gets flowing) along with lectures on how the white man takes everything, leave the special plate alone.

13. At all costs, do not put your fork on anyone else’s plate or take food off a plate, especially that of a larger person like myself. It will be your last Thanksgiving on earth if you do. All requests must be submitted in writing two weeks prior in advance.

14. Avoid Uncle Pete. He smells like whiskey for a reason and will go up in flames if anywhere near open flame. Do not go to his car with him. He keeps his nickels and dominoes in a Crown Royal bag after he “dranks that brown.”

Sit next to Aunt Pearl. She’s the first college graduate and is sadiddy as hell and “think she better than the rest of the family.” She’s the one that looks like Prince at the award show. Sitting next to a white person will validate her feelings of personal achievement.


15. Leave all white soul food at home including green or red or pink gelatin based “salads,” casseroles and “hot dish,” see rule 1. We don’t like food that twerks, bubbles long after cooking or sounds like it cannot be cis-identified. Green bean casserole…naw gurl..

16. White Southern country food is passable but put some paprika in it and you should be good to go. And some season salt, maybe a lil’ garlic or onion powder and a dash of hot sauce….maybe some sugar…

17. Say “yes Ma’am a lot.” No first names unless you are invited to use them.

18. We love Non-Black guests. So be prepared for the “Naw we don’t do handshakes,” and deep breast hugs. Get air before you go in.

19. Your new name is “..ummm…Baby.” Or “Michael’s white Friend.” Caveat…if you’re LGBT and this is your bf/gf house, “FRIEND” means partner…and everyone will say it with a lilt…that’s as good as its gonna get. #yayequality

20. There may be a scuffle between women over who fixes which man’s plate. Do not move. It will resolve itself. If you see yourself in rule 19..i.e.. you are a gay boy…don’t be cute…let Tyrell’s Mama make you a plate, don’t make his plate or let her see you making his. She ain’t ready for all that…having you over is already a big step.


21. Gluten what?

22. Speaking of gluten, the ITIS (no it’s not a Black terrorist organization you need to rush home and warn the other white folks about) is what happens when carbs and that thing in turkey that makes your body conspire against your ability to be conscious.

23. Keep the rhubarb pie at the Walton’s house with John Boy. See rule 2.

24. Don’t play food anthropologist around Big Mama you will just annoy her taking food pics. We don’t do food pics for home cooked food. No….she won’t understand why you’re doing it..

25. Even if you are completely secular pepper your speech with religious statements or sayings just to humor Big Mama and dem. Say mmm-mmm-mmm a lot.

26. If you’re vegan, bring your own food and enough to share..even if nobody else eats it. Remember rule 12. The college child will take some while you’re not looking.

27. Bring extra foil…trust me. Do not bring your own Tupperware.

28. The to go plate is tradition. Leave room in your trunk. If you loved not eat it until you get home, if you didn’t share with someone who’s hungry.

Shameless plug warning two:

29. The family Pitt bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, boxer or bulldog knows YOU will give them food at the table or kiss them in the mouth. Dont. This will get you “the look that Mr. Johnson gave Ray.” (Ask your host once the Moscato gets flowing.)

30. Don’t ask questions about Shanda’s boyfriend. They are happy to have him home.

31. White people get to sit in the front room on the plastic covered furniture. Take this as a badge of honor. No one else gets to go in that room–ever.

32. The cranberry sauce must be brought to the table in the form of the can it came from for quality assurance purposes….on fine china.

33. If you see green bean, collard green or white potato cans in the kitchen or pasty grey chitlins, run like hell, those Negroes can’t cook.

34. Dinner will not start on time. But show up on time.

35. If you are Asian or Latino expect to be drafted into any remaining cooking.

36. Uncle John, who resembles his bulldog, will ask you about why white people, or “Spanish” or “Chinese,” people do certain things etc. Ignore him.
But dont ask him why Black folks do stuff..the bow tie will come out real fast. Pour him more Moscato.

37. Don’t throw shade at any other Non-Black people in attendance, this is not a competition for “cool.”

38. It’s not dinner time until the speckled roasting pan and Hamilton Beach turkey cutter arrive. (Seeing people of many colors nod in agreement.)

39. Don’t bring generic soda. Faygo, Nehi, RC, Vernors are all fine choices for soda for Black Thanksgiving. Get ready for stories about peanuts and cola. (Note: red kool-aid+soda+”that brown” is what Black people mean by “punch.”)

40. Have fun! We all family! When you come in the house, speak!!!! One of my Facebook friends put it like this: “Say Hello to everybody, Happy Thanksgiving! Then speak to everybody individually.” DO NOT play spades or bidwhist after dinner with your hosts (unless you want to be hustled), just sit back and watch the game with Uncle James and his bulldog–he trusts white people once he is drunk and has the ITIS.

Last Shameless plug:


73 comments on “How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest

  1. I just found my new favorite Thanksgiving column:)
    Thanks for writing it!


  2. Delightful, and you’re so right. It really is cousin to Southern White Thanksgiving.


  3. hahahah this is awesome! best/most hilarious thanksgiving post I’ve seen so far!


  4. This made me laugh out loud! Mazel tov!


  5. Loved this! Especially the ‘don’t bring Tupperware.’ Mom had that rule too! Also, white people need to be told NOT to ask dumb questions like: ‘How are you related?” Tell them to wait for the stories/drama to unfold. They will find out soon enough.


  6. This is post is hysterical! Loved it.


  7. Oh my God! I wanna go!


  8. SingTravelAct

    This is the best thing I’ve ever read on Thanksgiving – or maybe on anything holiday-related – or maybe on any subject. Love it!!


  9. Holy crap, this was dead-on!

    I was the one white girl at a LARGE Southern Black Baptist Thanksgiving feast in a very small house many years ago in Denver, Colorado. It was hysterical, everything you said was true except the vegans. I ended up talking to four generations for two hours and then hiding in the basement, playing with the children when the conversations upstairs got loud and political.

    Because it was my good friends’place, I stayed until everyone went home and then helped them clean up and try to find a place for leftovers in the crammed fridge. My buddy was a bodybuilder; I’d never seen anyone stack that much food on one plate before–twice–but there were still leftovers.

    PS: Collard greens are delicious. Who knew? I’m pretty sure it was the bacon.


  10. Warm Southern Breeze

    I mus’ be Black, ’cause much of that sounds familiar. 😉 Gotta’ love that shared Southern experience, don’t you know!?! 😉


  11. Twerking! That’s what that Jell-O salad was doing! I knew that was just wrong 🙂 Love this!


  12. Omg. You hit it on the nail. Lmbo


  13. Connor McCausland

    As a white boy, know that all your advice is duly noted. Hilarious read.


  14. This is hilarious! And true. I was able to hold it together until the statement about ITIS not being a Black terrorist organization. Then I hollered!


  15. Ahahahahaha……special plate….ahahahaha!! Great post. I sent this to a few folks, including my white son-in-law who will be at Thanksgiving dinner.


  16. I come from a twerking-Jello, marshmallow/sweet potato family that doesn’t bother to hug very much. I loved this, I wanna spend Thanksgiving with folks like these!


  17. White mama to a black son — I needed this! Thanks. 🙂


  18. So, so great. It looks like I’ve done a few things wrong over the years and like I’m lucky my friends put up with me. lol


  19. So true to this white Southerner! Love it!


  20. Love this! Read it at work and nearly choked trying not to laugh out loud!


  21. Loved this! Read it at work and nearly choked trying not to laugh out loud.


  22. Have been there many times over the years. Having this about 30 years ago would have helped. Thank you for putting this into funny, beautiful words.


  23. I loved reading this very very much. But the highest joy would be that someday, I would be able to sit and listen and watch as you, Mr. Twitty, read it out loud for our listening pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Pingback: The Ultimate Southern Thanksgiving Side: Cornbread Dressing - Gnatty Savannah

  25. Reblogged this on The Wanderboy and commented:
    this made me happy. will a black family please invite me?


  26. Ha! Love this!


  27. Loved it! # 33…I almost died when I read this! 😂😂😂


  28. Loved it. Everything was on point except #5. That is exactly how we make the Mac & cheese. INCLUDING BREAD CRUMBS. Trust when i tell u there is none left. X out that old school church Mac & cheese with clumps of unmelted neon orange cheese!!


  29. What a joy to read. We have a blended family from race, sexual orientation…but you were so on point. Loved it. Keep up the great work and enjoy your Holiday.


  30. I loved this. So funny!


  31. Reblogged this on Goodness isn't nice…it's better. and commented:
    Laughter is goodness. #ThanksgivingWithBlackPeople


  32. Camille Paglia

    This is dead on! As a white woman married to a black man for more than 30 years (and who provided Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw with two black grandsons), I would add the following:

    Always offer to help, and be graceful when you aren’t allowed to. Until the family gets to know you, they will assume you know nothing about cooking. Or personal hygiene. I got extra points for being Italian-American, which is apparently not-quite-white.

    Introduce yourself to everybody, and don’t be surprised when the response is, “We know who you are, baby.”

    When someone makes a crack about white people, and everyone looks at you for your reaction, laugh. You’ve arrived when somebody says, “She’s black!”

    Thanks for a great holiday laugh. I so miss those huge family dinners in New Orleans, now that my father-in-law has passed, and my mother-in-law is suffering from dementia. You brought back to me so many happy memories.


  33. Freakin’ hilarious! Especially loved #s 13, 18, and 33. This made my weekend.


  34. Pingback: The Potato Salad Issue – Food Tells a Story

  35. As a white person who spends Thanksgiving with my adoptive black family, this was the best! I will share one for you. I was called, “the other white meat”


  36. It is 2018, it’s still relevant, and I’m forwarding as this year’s pre-Thanksgiving email. I have not laughed this hard in a minute and I only stumbled upon it looking up commentary on potato salad. I’m still laughing! Thank you so much!!


  37. Yum. (Also Vernors forever! I’m so glad it isn’t just a Michigan thing anymore.)


  38. My wife validates everything you wrote except the Mac&Cheese


    • Matt, not at all an expert

      Every Mac&Cheese I have had that was made in a black kitchen, it’s baked and comes out firm and of course seasoned, I’ve seen them just mix shredded cheese, butter, cream and raw egg into the macaroni toss it put it in an oven pan top it with shredded cheese and paprika and back it, it’s very good


  39. It would be wrong and/or racist to make more black friends with this as the goal, right? Because I want to experience this Thanksgiving. I mean, I know that’s mercenary and exploitative approach, but would it be a tiny bit better if I was quiet and polite and brought rugelach?


  40. Ha! This is like a mirror to when I’d go to my Montana cousins’ house for Thanksgiving and have to force myself to force down some jello salad…at Easter it was the same but with rabbit marshmallows and once the jello was cherry, so it soaked up through the marshy bodies like BLOOOD. 😂 I was the sole provider of soul food, for which they were unceasingly grateful, and I gnawed through the boxed taters & dressing bc I love them with my entire heart! But I love real food… And no kidding, Southern & POC is where to find that. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  41. This is asinine and insulting


  42. Tellina Warren

    I think I went to the car with Uncle Pete. Then I understood the look that Mr. Johnson gave Ray.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. His "friend" Matt 😆

    I found the LGBTQ rules hysterical “she has you here, that’s a big leap here” thank you ma’am

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Love it will share it with my culinary students


  45. Shakita Boyd

    Wow this is amazing! I actually read all the way till the end. It was funny and informative. Thank you ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Shakita Boyd

    This is amazing! I actually read all the way till the end. It was funny and informative. Thank you ☺️


  47. Kim Melton

    This is hysterical!


  48. Brilliantly funny post! Would have to figure out how to survive the meal though. I’m one of those people who really does have a problem with wheat/gluten- allergy stuff. My go to response to any dinner invitation is, “yeah, we’d love to come! What can I bring?” It’s ALWAYS two dishes, so I always have something I can eat.


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