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.

2 comments:

  1. I understand the context of the add and don't see it as rascist, but as far as the Americans are concernd, if someone accidently kicks a ball in your backyard and you find out about it you have to do something about it.

    The reason we deal with pin pricks is because if we did nothing about them they could esculate to someone wielding an axe threatening to hack our arms off. If someone upsets you say so right away otherwise they think what they are doing is OK and keep on doing it.

    Why is it important that the people are from the West Indies? Is it because they play cricket with us and would probably understand the context of the add and maybe not be offended? or maybe they are not aware of the derogatory stereotype? If someone doesn't know you're being rascist towards them are you still being rascist?

    The West Indies are next door to the US in the Caribbean where a lot of Americans go for their holidays, you could probably drive a leisure boat to Florida there in an afternoon. The majority of the population is of African discent. They are probably more in touch with America than you think.

    KFC is an old American company who knew it's own would be offended by it's actions, so it went behind their back and only showed their new friends. Unfortunately their new friends didn't know it was a secret and told everybody so the old friends found out. You could call that betrayal because if it wasn't for the American people KFC wouldn,t be the global company it is today.

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  2. It is important that the people shown are West Indian because in their culture the derogatory stereo type the Americans are complaining about does not exist.

    Therefore this advertisement is about as offensive to West Indians as saying all Australians like 'Shrimp on the barbie' (A term that I find personally annoying by the way but I don't pick people up on it because it's mostly directed at Australians - such as myself - in fun).

    I guess I'm talking about context. Many people get upset at being quoted out of context so why shouldn't KFC be upset that the ad is being played out of context. When you see this ad out of context it can be interpreted as racist. Which is why the Americans find it offensive.

    Sure KFC is an American Company but that implies everything KFC does in Australia (and elsewhere) is sent back to America for approval - which I doubt happens. KFC Australia were probably just as unaware of the American stereo type this ad is supposedly perpetuating as the Australian viewing public. Or, if they were aware of it, they were also aware that Australian and West Indians don't have that stereo type in their culture.

    There's no big conspiracy here to have a joke behind the American's backs. Why would KFC do that? It's bad for business. Few companies that sell to the masses globally set out to deliberately offend their customers.

    The ad was intended for an Australian audience. No one was being offended by it or were even aware that it was potentially offensive. How can you be spreading a derogatory stereo type if your target audience isn't even aware of the stereo type in the first place?

    All I see is a guy sharing chicken with the crowd - maybe he should've got a Noodle Box crowd pleaser instead?

    It's this kind of nit picking that gives the 'politically correct' wowsers legitimacy beyond what they deserve.

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