Many years ago I remember getting into an argument with a friend about the documentary, Waiting for Superman, the 2010 documentary that looks at the American public school system. The argument wasn’t about the specifics of the film at all. The argument was about how well-known the documentary was. I argued that because I’d never heard of it (I’m about to sound real ridiculous in a second), it couldn’t have been that popular. I arrogantly decided that because I hadn’t heard of it and because I made it a point to be up on pop culture happenings that this award-winning documentary couldn’t possibly be a big deal. I was loud about it. And I was wrong. I was loud and wrong, and you just can’t do that. I learned a valuable lesson that day even if it took me a while to acknowledge my wrongness.
I was reminded of that pithy arrogance from almost 10 years ago when I saw a Facebook post by the current mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, being both loud and wrong at the same damn time for no good reason.
Her mentions and comments are rightfully in shambles. For one, she’s plain wrong. Origin story notwithstanding, mumbo sauce, the tangy-ish kinda-sorta-but-not-really BBQ sauce that goes on wings and fries, is a quintessential D.C. offering, much like go-go, Madness, Marion Barry and Chuck Brown. Because she was late to the party (put a pin in this), she decided that it can’t be that much a part of the D.C. experience.
I’m not from Washington, D.C. I moved to the D.C.-area in 2001, and have lived in the city for the past 13 years. I’ve lived in Northwest, Northeast and six years ago, bought a home in Southeast. While I’m not a D.C. native, D.C. is my home and has been as much of a home for me as anywhere I’ve lived in my life, especially being a military brat. But before I moved to D.C., my introduction to D.C. was through many of my friends from D.C. in college at both Morehouse and Spelman College. To know folks from D.C. is to know that if you ever speak of chicken, and wings in particular, the term “mumbo sauce” is coming up. For over 21 years now, I’ve been familiar with mumbo sauce and viewed it as D.C. staple.
When I moved to D.C., I fell into the cultural practice of spending way too much money at carry-outs. From the various Eddie Leonards to Sunny’s on Rhode Island N.E. to Full Yum on North Capitol N.E., I’ve had lots of wings and fries with mumbo sauce. It’s the point now that my fries, at the very least, will always have mumbo sauce on them. And I’m a transplant. How the hell a D.C. native, who grew up in North Michigan Park (which is where I lived in Northeast) close to several solid carry-outs in both D.C. and on the Maryland-side of Eastern Avenue, is beyond me and frankly makes no sense whatsoever.
For her to imply that she only ever heard of mumbo sauce as an adult—she said “full grown woman,” I’m assuming that means “adult”—living in D.C. sounds impossible. Sure, she probably didn’t have five wings and fries every day of her life, but I’d wager most folks didn’t either. D.C. natives are familiar with it because everybody in D.C. gets some damn mumbo sauce at some point in their life. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say, virtually, everybody.
Possibly, in her family, they didn’t believe in carry-outs, but she also went to high school in Bladensburg, Md., which has a whole ass slew of carry-outs. There are carry-outs everywhere. How her entire ass circle never mentioned it or had it is beyond me. Frankly, I just don’t believe her. At all. I don’t. She may not like it and she may not have had it since that first time she gave it a chance, but going so far as to say its not quintessential D.C.? Lawdt.
Which begs the question, why the hell would she even jump out there on social media and say such a thing? I have a theory:
I’m guessing she was in the office or somewhere talking about D.C. upbringings and somebody mentioned mumbo sauce because of course, they did. It’s D.C.; even majority white establishments like The Hamilton, a fancy pants restaurant and events venue serves wings with mambo sauce. D.C. is a gentrifying ass city, but the gentrifiers love to invoke the names of culturally relevant black things (see establishments such as Marvin and The Brixton, and unaffordable-to-the-vast-majority-of-city-residents apartment complexes like The Ellington) to call back to the city’s history and heritage.
So somebody mentioned mumbo sauce, and she was like, “Nope ... I didn’t hear about mumbo sauce until I was an adult,” to which everybody was understandably confused as shit. And then they began to clown her D.C. bonafides since how the fuck are you from D.C., the mayor of the city and at no point in your upbringing was mumbo sauce present? Because she probably got clowned relentlessly, with even white people saying things like, “Wow, Muriel, even we know about mumbo sauce,” she got in her feelings. And folks who get in their feelings head to social media to state them. Hence, we get an overly ridiculous statement on Facebook implying that mumbo sauce, the D.C. staple, isn’t a quintessential D.C. item, to the point where she’s annoyed by it.
In my theory, she’s just wrong amongst the folks she’s talking to and she absolutely is. But because the convo had her in her feelings, she took it to the streets. And the streets browbeat her back, because why the fuck would she even come for mumbo sauce? There’s no point. If she feels that way, she might as well keep that shit to herself. Instead, she invited every critic of her and her policies and their impact on D.C’.s current shifting demographics to wager that no wonder she’s basically looking to whiten up D.C., she didn’t even have a real D.C. experience. And she deserves all of the criticism. Even if she’s telling the truth, which I am still amazed by, sometimes you need to just take your roasting and accept that you’re the odd man out. Now she let the city know that she’s an insider who’s basically an outsider to the population of folks who already feel their city and culture being erased.
Good job, Muriel. Way to be loud and wrong.