Growing up in Mississippi, there were several things that were staples at most large family gatherings: Candied yams, pound cake and fried chicken.
Without those three things, someone was obviously slipping.
On hot summer days, finding the sweetest, largest watermelon and cantaloupe that the fruit man had to offer was often a task designated to me by my father. He would sit at our bar, waiting expectantly with a large knife to see if any of his lessons on how to pick the right one had actually succeeded.
Now, of all the food that I mentioned above, I’m only a fan of two of them (spoiler alert: not all Black people have the same palate), but all of them bring back fond memories of love, laughter, summer and family.
Which is why I find this brouhaha over Mary J. Blige singing about “crispy” chicken so disappointing.
It would be different if the outcry was because fast food restaurants are as much a part of the urban landscape as pawnshops, nail shops, bail-bondsmen and pay-day loan establishments, all of the aforementioned symptoms of a post-traumatic slave syndrome that often find our people broke, striving for conformity, dodging prison and/or eviction – only able to afford the dollar menu at a Burger King or McDonalds. If the anger was overflowing because Black people have higher rates of mortality, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, often brought about by our above-average ingestion of fatty, salty and processed foods, then I’m joining the chorus right along with the masses.
But to be mad at Mary and BK over a jingle about chicken in a tortilla wrap because it’s racist? Stop it, people. Right now.
It’s not like she’s shuffling around like Step-n-fetchit, wearing blackface with a plate of fried chicken thighs in her hands, offering massa his dinner. She simply says “crispy chicken” and you would have thought she was as much of a sell-out as George Zimmerman’s friend, Joe Oliver, or Allen “Harriet Tubman” West, both men, by the way, who would be so afraid for white people to see them eating chicken, they probably close all their curtains and blinds and lock all doors before taking the first bite.
This commercial does not make Burger King guilty of racism; it does not make Black folks victims of racism. What it does is trap us in this Matrix of Cultural Guilt that mandates we not only have to be concerned about what we wear, how we speak and what we listen to in the presence of “massa,” but also what we eat in public.
I don’t know about you, but there is not one white person in this world that holds that much power over me.
True, there are certainly buzz words that trigger gut reactions as we wait for the stereotyping to begin – fried chicken, Hip-Hop and hoodies to name a few – but when we feel them coming, we need to ask ourselves what exactly it stems from and how can we stop feeling ashamed to be ourselves in this country. Better yet, we should ask ourselves why such cross-cultural iconography takes on sinister or mocking undertones when in the hands of Black America – especially when it originated in our communities. Why do we continue to allow White America to dictate to us what is acceptable and what is not?