Seriously, all racially insensitive jokes aside, I felt compelled to weigh in on the backlash over Mary J Blige singing about chicken for a Burger King commercial, which I’ve come to refer to as ‘Chickengate’ because of how it’s being treated as such a huge scandal. From MC Hammer dancing for KFC’s Popcorn chicken over a decade ago to the countless other chicken commercials featuring black men and women shucking and jiving for that irresistible bird, it seems the painful stereotype that has been in existence since slavery days continues to sting as if it was just yesterday. And I, for one, wonder why.
This is definitely a case of negative memory association of fried chicken with slavery, lynching, the whites only segregation mentality of the old south and other relics of American Black History. But when you take the time to really consider why people find seeing black people enjoy fried chicken in commercials so upsetting, and then think about the fact that in 2012 EVERYONE eats fried chicken, I think its pretty clear to see that the only people who are giving this obsolete stereotype any kind of power are the people who make a big deal about it when something like this comes up. If Mary J Blige singing about chicken for Burger King should be seen in any kind of negative light, it should be for the fact that the commercial was tacky as hell and just overall a bad idea for everyone involved. To immediately make the inference back to the age old stereotype of ‘chicken loving blacks’ should be an insult to anyone with an ounce of capability to think for themselves. And that is in no way to suggest that we should just forget what happened in history, but to realize that it is just that, HISTORY. Yes racism is still pervasive, but if black people are going to be proud of our athleticism and musicality, which is also a very broadly accepted black stereotype, it’s about time that we take pride in and understand our culinary history as well and be able to separate that from the outdated images that were used as tools to deride us. There is nothing wrong with black people celebrating fried chicken.
Consider just how ridiculous it is to apply the ‘black people love chicken’ stereotype today, and how much it says about the people that do. I mean, who knows? Perhaps there is some ‘secret society’ that exists, determined to perpetuate the sort of ‘coon’ imagery from the old south among black people through subliminally ‘racist’ commercials like Mary’s. Do you really think it will work? Really?
I am not disappointed by Mary’s decision to do the commercial, although she’s been on the media circuit doing damage control by telling people that the commercial that was leaked was not the original concept that was described to her. Whatever the case, my disappointment was with the fact that the commercial was a stupid idea, even if it was Katy Perry singing about chicken. It just wasn’t good. I also think it’s a good idea to really have a discourse about why this particular stereotype is such a major sticking point for black Americans. I eat fried chicken and I’m not shy about it or afraid to eat it in front of white people.
Have a look at some interesting articles about this stereotype.
When Did Soul Food Become Too Hot To Handle? by Adrian E. Miller
As you were.