During this trash fire of the last 16 months, I’ve watched a lot of telly, ok more Amazon and Netflix but the point remains.
Netflix’s High on the Hog was extraordinary. There has been a lot said about Black Lives Matter and I’ve not said a lot, not because I don’t agree, no one is saying all lives don’t matter, just that black lives shouldn’t matter less.
Maya Angelou said that when a person shows you who they are, you should listen. When a person tells you about how they feel, you should hear them, don’t argue, just listen.
It’s really uncomfortable to hear that what you feel you worked for, that the privilege you think you earned, isn’t all because of who you are and work you’ve done, but might be based on the colour of your skin. Or to understand that we don’t hear all the stories of our history.
High on the Hog tells the history that we don’t often hear. Of the people that didn’t and couldn’t write their stories. It’s the food that tells the story about the enslaved and how they took what they knew and built something else. It also explains why what an African calls a yam and what an American calls a yam is different.
It’s very worth watching. It’s about history and food, which are two of my favourite things and it’s going to hit differently for people from the US than for British people. Because it’s not about here, it’s about the USA, However, the enslaved were taken to the US by and with the tacit consent of the British people. Slavery didn’t stop after the American Revolution and the fact of slavery was key to the development of the USA. Yeah ok, the UK ‘abolished’ the slave trade (1807) and slavery in Great Britain (1772) but in the Empire it didn’t happen until 1833 (excepting lands held by the East India Company) and cost £20 million to compensate slave owners. When you visit the Tate, you might take comfort that Henry Tate didn’t own slaves but the sugar trade was built on the backs of the enslaved. It’s complicated and difficult. Here’s another question to ask, if the Revolution hadn’t happened and it had been a possession of the British Empire, would slavery have been abolished in 1833, I tend to think not.
I don’t have any answers but I think all of it starts when we listen, when we accept that none of this is a personal attack on us and we just listen and learn. So High on the Hog, you’ll learn about food, about history and you won’t notice that you’re learning. It’s so good, you should watch it.