You know Black people love them some fried chicken, right? I just cannot understand for the life of me why we have to pretend that 1.) Black people don’t like fried chicken and 2.) White people don’t know that Black people like fried chicken.
This isn’t a license for unmitigated racism, of course. It’s just common sense from a marketing standpoint. White folks like cheese and mayonnaise, and have milk with dinner. Black people like Kool-Aid, various forms of greens and fried chicken. If African Americans consume and enjoy a lot of chicken then using African American celebrities to sell that chicken is a good idea … right?
Apparently Burger King and Mary J. Blige thought that connection was just too crispy and spicy for them.
A recent Burger King ad featuring Mary J. Blige singing the ingredients to the new BK Chicken Wrap has been pulled in large part because of complaints that the ad is racist. The ad, which is extremely difficult to find after Burger King did a major Internet purge, can be found on TMZ – or just watch it for yourself:
You can judge for yourself if Mary J. singing about spicy deliciousness from a table in your local B.K. rises to the level of exploitation and coonery worthy of anger. Personally, I didn’t think the commercial was racist at all. In fact, it was hilarious. It was just good marketing.
I recognize the long history of White Americans stereotyping Black folks as watermelon-eating, White-women chasing, lazy, fried chicken eaters. In fact, whenever I need an extra boost of militancy in the morning I re-watch this story from the “Great Popeye’s Chicken Famine” of 2009 where the White newscaster can barely contain himself from laughing at Black folks enraged about missing out on a fried chicken deal.
However, one of the most insidious elements of racism is that the majority shames the oppressed group into rejecting their own culture then absorbs it as their own. And we are often all too complicit in this game. Jazz was considered ignorant jungle music, so in order to be acceptable for a long time “upstanding” Black folks rejected jazz to the point where White guys like Kenny G could win Grammy awards. You saw the same thing happen with hip-hop for awhile … and Southern cuisine and just about anything that Black people enjoyed. Whites made us feel embarrassed about it, we capitulated and then they co-opted it. Now Black folks are almost embarrassed to say we like chicken or are in the chicken business.
I remember watching Undercover Brother battle against the “The General’s Fried Chicken” bucket and 40 oz. Nappy Meal. When the Billy Dee Williams/Colin Powell said “I used to work at the Pentagon now I help you get your chicken on!” So that’s over the top – but, we all eat the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices and don’t blink?
Then there’s that Dave Chappelle routine where he was wondering why all the restaurant cashiers knew he was ordering chicken? And how Black folks have to pretend they don’t even like chicken when their White friends are around? It’s like we’ve all got culinary Alektorophobia (and yes it is real!)
Well, I’m not playing that game anymore and neither should Burger King. Plenty of celebrities have done endorsements for Kentucky Fried Chicken: Jason Alexander, Annika Sorenstam, Jim McMahon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. How come White folks get to enjoy chicken but African Americans have to act embarrassed?
That’s a classic example of internalized racism masquerading as progress. Trust me, if the Queen of Soul was dancing around like a fool or wearing a chicken costume or smearing chicken grease on her dress I’d have a problem with it. But, all she’s doing is singing the ingredients. It’s just not that big a deal.
Hopefully, Burger King brings the ad back, or at least Mary J. Blige still gets a paycheck for cutting the video. I for one, will have no compunction about picking up a BK snap wrap with spicy chipotle as soon as it comes out. Why? Because I’m a Black person, and I like fried chicken, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson