Rage Baking, Another Literary Controversy About Cultural Appropriation

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If you’ve never heard of Rage Baking, you’re not alone. Tangerine Jones’ initiative to drain frustration while asserting the rights and position of women of color in America has become a little-known culinary language… until now.

The terminology Jones coined became without her credit or permission a bestseller under Kathy Gunst and Katherine Alford, “two accomplished veterans of the professional food world,” as the Washington Post describes them.

It wasn’t until the original author published an essay in Medium that the world learned about the cultural appropriation she had suffered.

In the same vein as American Dirt, Jones’ years of history and investigative work as an African-American woman in the kitchen were obliterated by the name and success of two white people who know little of this community’s experience.

“In 2015, I started Rage Baking because, quite frankly, I didn’t know what else to do,” Jones explained. “I’d done all the things and I didn’t know what more I could do with my grief, disappointment and rage. Being black in America means you’re solid in the knowledge that folks don’t give a true flying f**k about you or anyone who looks like you. That you’re never truly seen or valued. That you’re never afforded your humanity in the face of unspeakable things.”

Gunst and Alford gave her every reason to.

On February 4, Simon & Schuster published Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women’s Voices, a collection of essays and recipes by women that seeks to explore how “baking can be an outlet for expressing our feelings about the current state of our society,” according to Eater.

The book says nothing about the name Jones, about the experience of women of color in the United States, and it turns the importance of racial justice onto a much more profitable issue: feminism in the Trump era.

For Jones this was, again, about white American privilege, the Privilege of Rage, as she called it.

“I turned to my kitchen because, personally, it’s one of the places I commune with my ancestors. I’m a Black woman born and partly raised in the South. Kitchens are sacred, powerful spaces to me. They are places of history and healing, of community and connection, of resistance and revolution, of transformation and truth,” she wrote.

From her kitchen table, the artist created an international digital community of “activists/community organizers, performers, creators, writers and regular folks in feminist, POC and queer circles of all shades, sizes, abilities, cultures and gender expressions.”

After coining the hasthag #ragebaking in 2015, Jones even organized a GoFundMe “to bake more and send out rage baked care packages,” wrote the basic guidelines for her art, and even involved social work in her passion for draining anger in the kitchen.

Once the book Rage Baking hit the bookstores, Jones had to face, from the trenches of a movement that grew in her home, the perpetuation of oppression, this time in literature.

“It’s been really hard to see Rage Baking whitewashed with a tinge of diversity, co-opted, monetized and my impact erased and minimized under the veneer of feminism and uplifting women’s voices,” she wrote. “If all of this research around Rage Baking had been done prior to the book’s publication and the intention was to be a celebration of feminist women’s voices, why wasn’t I acknowledged for my efforts or contacted?”

A few days later, both Gunst and Alford and their publisher published a statement assuring that their project “developed authentically and organically,” and promised to recognize the work of Tangerine Jones “as well as others who have used the phrase in their online publishing and social media activity.”

However, the apology for cultural appropriation is conspicuous by its absence, and both Jones’ followers and collaborators of Gunst and Alford’s book have jumped on the net to demand justice.

Finally, the author told Eater: “I don’t think the publishing world is ready to deal with or package black women’s anger in ways that are easily digestible and commodified.”