When You’re White, You’re Family

When You’re White, You’re Family

A modest proposal for fixing America, top to bottom. Like, completely.

I was listening to a recent episode of Pod Save the People, and the host, DeRay Mckesson, asks his co-hosts and listeners to “ask the biggest question” when it comes to matters of social equity and the ongoing project of healing and rehabilitating our country. So, I asked myself. In a month that taught us that approximately half of Americans don’t know the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans, and that a slight majority of Americans disapprove of football players peacefully protesting systemic racism, and that a mass shooting would create a run on the accessory that made the death toll so high, I asked myself, What can we do to make white people feel safe again?

This isn’t so much a question about physical safety. Mass shootings notwithstanding, I think most white people feel safe most of the time, and certainly safer than any other demographic. When I say safety, I mean something more essentially American. Technically, I am talking about privilege.

How can we create a lasting compromise that enshrines white privilege and, through its consecration, allows us to carry on with the more important business of making America a great place to live and work for every person?

I found my answer.

We need a Constitutional amendment that guarantees that any white person can enter any Olive Garden restaurant in the United States and eat unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks, free of charge. [1]

That’s it. Free food in the restaurant, a to-go box on the way out. This would be the new white privilege. And it would be the only white privilege. That’s the compromise. In exchange for enshrining a single, delicious white privilege into the Constitution, all the gridlock and bad-faith arguments enacted in service of less tangible forms of white privilege would cease.

This is the only way it would be worthwhile for all parties. Because even though it’s been a few years since I’ve eaten in an Olive Garden, and its connections to authentic or interesting Italian cuisine are tenuous at best, the food is perfectly fine, and I would be lying if I said all this writing about OG hasn’t made me want to pop in for some chicken marsala and two or twelve breadsticks.

So, there’s an element of sacrifice in the compromise for non-white people, and it shouldn’t be understated. This law, which could be called the Barnes Act, The Compromise of 2018, or the OG New Deal, might render the Olive Garden an unwelcome environment for people who aren’t eligible for the program. But even if this state of de-facto segregation alienates a significant percentage of the restaurant’s current clientele, new businesses will benefit from that redistribution. And with 30 percent of white children living in low-income families as of 2016, having the option of a free lunch or dinner for one’s kids any day of the week is going to grow the Olive Garden’s customer base quarter after quarter.

Quick tip to parents, though. After this bill passes into law, you will need to exercise a little diligence with the dressing for the Olive Garden’s house salad (which adds 80 calories and more than triples the sodium of a salad), and enforce moderation with the breadsticks (140 calories each, and no one eats fewer than two). The calories may add up fast as Olive Garden becomes the place to soothe oneself after the tide of progressive policies that succeed unimpeded in exchange for the codification of free food for whites:

  1. Federal minimum wage of $15. That’s a minestrone kind of night. Two breadsticks, max. No big deal.
  2. Federal commitment to meet and exceed the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. Got to have the pasta e fagioli to cope with that one. Three breadsticks. Extra dressing on the salad.
  3. Medicare-for-All. A dozen breadsticks. Extra butter, please.
  4. Immigration reform that includes amnesty and a straightforward path to citizenship, based on character and contribution instead of complexion or country of origin. A bathtub full of chicken and gnocchi soup. Your snorkel? A breadstick.
  5. Prison and police reform which includes de-militarizing local police forces, ending the drug war, and eradicating capital punishment except as punishment for conviction for police brutality. An Italian-American celebrity of your choice uses hypnosis to convince you that you have been turned into a breadstick. You joyfully eat yourself.

Darden, the parent company that counts Olive Garden as one of its signature brands, employs about 165,000 people, according to their company website. They have a wide reach, but not everyone lives near an OG. The federal government will likely need to provide subsidies to Darden to open additional locations. Millions of dollars and thousands of hours would be spent training new staff and retraining hosts and waiters and bussers and other service industry professionals. But even if it required billions of dollars annually to subsidize the SSB—that’s soup, salad, and breadsticks; not Social Security benefits—the money would be there.

Because wealthy Americans wouldn’t lobby Congress for tax cuts to express their class privilege. They would express their privilege by not eating soup, salad, or breadsticks. And the less wealthy Americans who, pre-amendment, tended to vote against their own economic interests would consider switching teams. Because once your privilege is codified, once you know you’ll always have a place at the table (and plenty of zuppa Toscana to eat at said table), you can take an honest look at your pocketbook and your neighborhoods and vote for the progress most people want.

A progressive utopia, built on the buttery, garlicky back of a company with the courage to take one for the team. Congress, Olive Garden, we need you. Do it for us. Let them eat breadsticks.


[1] Furthermore, with any visit to an Olive Garden, each white person would be allowed one take-out portion of soup, salad, and breadsticks to bring home with them, or to otherwise distribute at their discretion after leaving the restaurant. There would be no policing or monitoring of this take-out portion once it leaves the restaurant.

header image: "olive garden restaurant," mike mozart / flickr


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