Here’s a teevee news report from Rochester, NY about some Popeye’s running out of chicken. Like so much that happens in America, it is both hilarious and tragic. But! The people who are unable to procure their fried chicken, in this video, well they are black, which is a racial issue. And, it turns out, Popeye’s isn’t the only fried-chicken chain having issues related to black people. Is this really the America we expected after Barack Obama’s landslide victory?
Now, your editor loves himself some Popeye’s, as he is from New Orleans and Popeye’s is the local equivalent of, say, Jamba Juice. Health food, in other words. But even as a mostly (?) white person, your editor has frequently noticed that outside of New Orleans, the Popeye’s is always in the ‘hood. And the customers are usually black. Black people love Popeye’s so much that Barack Obama himself lectured black people about giving their children healthy breakfasts and not “cold Popeye’s.” This is true stuff anybody can look up on the Internet, or maybe on the Kindle.
But, when the Rochester station ran this ridiculous news report last month, the newsroom was torn. Torn! They sent out a team to a closed-down chicken drive-thru to harass people– many who made the point that Popeye’s has this cheap chicken special which is a desirable thing when you’re poor and want to eat — and then the teevee reporters felt weird because hey, all the disappointed Popeye’s customers were black. Why were these people looking for a good deal on dinner perpetuating racist stereotypes by going to Popeye’s?
Criticism is often leveled at 13WHAM that we do not feature Black people or other people of color in our stories unless they are criminals. As a person of color myself, I am sensitive to this.
So, you can imagine my thoughts when I saw our report last night about two local Popeye’s running out of chicken and the mayhem that ensued. My gut reaction was that the story–although a legitimate consumer complaint—seemed to reinforce a cultural stereotype about Black people and chicken. I know for a fact that no one on our staff meant for that to be the point of the story, but the fear that we would be accused of this sounded an alarm to me. It’s sad that I even had to worry about this.
Many commenters either agreed, or didn’t:
“This was just in bad form,” wrote the commenter “waffles” on WHAM-13′s website. “You could have easily gone to Penfield and found people there to interview as well to keep it balanced. Most Americans love fried chicken and interviewing black people in the city only perpetuates stereotypes. If there were no white people around to interview then you should have just scrapped the story. No one cares if Popeyes runs out of chicken anyway. It happens. Welcome to life.”
Blair111 didn’t care for this story, not at all: “Shame shame shame on you. You certainly understand how much media influences perceptions. It’s easy for you to now say ‘oh it may look stereotypical’ after it has gone on the air and is playing on the internet to millions of people as a joke about Black people nearly ‘rioting’ over fried chicken. It’s a trick that has been used by many, from courtroom lawyers to Hitler and beyond.”
Okay, well Hitler has been invoked, so we can move forward to another person who gave good speeches, Oprah Winfrey.
The chicken-economy-race issue grew even more terrible last week when Oprah, the powerful media baroness-godhead who tells housewives and the unemployed what to do with their limited funds, went on the teevee (as is her wont) and directed her minions to KFC for free buckets of chicken.
The results, as anyone could have predicted, were unfathomably terrible.
But, you’ll notice high-budget MSM CNN just kept hitting the KFC lines until they found that big white dude. TRYING HARDER FOR DIVERSITY is what we are talking about, right? We will make this point on the Howard Kurtz program this weekend, when we bring him a bucket of live poison crabs.
And that is your Wednesday Fun Video feature, compressing a month’s worth of racially charged Great Recession fried chicken outrage into a single post sure to inspire many tortured comments. YOU’RE WELCOME.