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KFC Ad - Racism and Fried Chicken?

Sometimes you have to wonder about the 'battles' over racist issues the American media gives attention to and whether they're really worth the air time given to them.

For example, over the last few days much furor has been made over a KFC television advertisement that was intended for an Australian audience but found its way onto Youtube where it has been labelled as racist by American viewers.

I think the point of view of the Americans is best summed up in this video (below) by The Young Turks, an American Internet News Show that claims to tell the news without any pretenses.

The video includes the full KFC advertisement and the American stand point is best summarized towards the end of the commentary which essentially is the ad perpetuates a derogatory American Stereotype that suggests all 'black' people love fried chicken.



Note that this is their second 'response' video on the subject after receiving a lot of negative backlash from their Australian viewers on their initial commentary which did not explain the American context well enough for an international audience to understand their position.

Whilst I understand the American point of view, one point I feel important to make is that, it does matter that the colored people depicted are West Indian. It matters a lot. I think the advertisement goes to great lengths to make that clear.

If you say it doesn't matter, it's still a white guy giving fried chicken to 'black' people and therefore perpetuating a derogatory American stereotype, you're basically supporting another derogatory white stereotype and saying 'all black people look the same to me'.

The people in this advertisement are West Indians. That is important.

Sure if they were actually Afro-Americans, or even people of color not identified as a particular culture there might be a stronger case for the ad being racist but what the Americans are doing is super imposing their culture over an advertisement that has, literally, nothing to do with their culture at all.

Yes you can make the case that KFC, as an American based, International Franchise, would be aware of the American stereotype and therefore are being culturally insensitive but again, I point out that it is important that the colored people in this ad are West Indian.

It's only when you leave that detail out that the ad could be seen as racist - and even then, only in the American context.

But I digress. What concerns me more is that Americans, in general, believe that colored people liking fried chicken is is a negative racial stereotype? What the?

Is there some 'chicken incident' in America's history that gets American Negroes all riled up if you make a blanket statement that all Afro-Americans love fried chicken?

Apparently the negative stereotype comes from old Minstrel Shows that portrayed demeaning caricatures of Afro-Americans. This quote from MSNBC article, KFC pulls fried chicken ad after racism outcry, sums up the origin of the stereotype:

But when the ad spread via the Internet to the United States, some complained it played on a derogatory stereotypes of black Americans. Minstrel shows, which portrayed demeaning caricatures of blacks in the 19th and early 20th century, often showed them eating fried chicken.

There is no such association in Australia.

Okay. So based on that, maybe there is some solid ground for this being a derogatory racial stereotype however, in terms of negative racial stereotyping, it's not exactly up there with 'all Muslims are Terrorists' is it?

It's not exactly on a par with 'all Afro-Americans are uneducated, violent gang members who'll kill each other over wearing the wrong colors'.

There's a couple of derogatory stereotypes that you should get upset over.

People of colour liking fried chicken? At its worst it's a reminder of a derogatory stereotype but it's not a derogatory stereotype in its self.

If it was, logically, where does this leave people of color who do actually like fried chicken? Does this mean they now have to think twice about going into a KFC restaurant for fear of perpetuating a negative stereotype?

The concern for Americans here is not that KFC is spreading a vague negative racial stereotype reference internationally but that the American media that jumped on this story is once again spreading the 'stupid Americans' stereotype internationally.

This advertisement is a non-issue in terms of derogatory racial stereotypes.

As I said, it's not exactly up there with 'All Muslims are Terrorists'. You could do far worse than have your culture associated with liking fried chicken.

Unfortunately I can't leave it there because my conclusion leaves another point wide open. That is, to form an analogy, if you deliberately prick someone in the arm with a pin, is it okay to do that simply because it's not as bad as hacking their whole arm off with an axe?

Pricking someone in the arm with a pin still hurts right?

The overall point I'm trying to clumsily make is that when it comes to racist battles why do we give so much media to racism that is little more than a pin prick in the big scheme of things?

Whether you consider KFC's ad to be racist or not it hardly matters to people who are actually suffering because of real racist oppression. Maybe those battles are a little bit more like having your whole arm hacked off?

KFC bowed to public pressure and have stopped showing the ad in Australia. America you can rest easy. Your suffering is now over. World order has been restored (yes that is sarcasm in those last three sentences).

At the end of the day perhaps Australia became a little more aware of a derogatory American stereotype and America reinforced it's international, stereotypical standing as a country that can't keep out of matters that have nothing to do with them.

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