Seeing the latest Fried Chicken franchise commercial got me thinking.
I know companies like to strive for diversity, and showcasing minorities in commercials is an easy way to achieve this, but I officially would like to let the fried chicken people off the hook.
You no longer need to feature Black people. Honestly, we know what you serve and there is no threat of mass Black vegetarianism. How about pursuing that growing Latino market? You see, there are two food groups which have been ridiculously linked to Black folks : watermelons and fried chicken. Both of these foods are of Southern origin. Back during slavery, slaves were fed such high end cuisine as the feet and intestines of pigs, tails of cows, and greens growing wild. Understandably, when foods of higher quality were given or obtained by slaves, they were consumed with great enthusiasm. Thus, I suspect that the stereotype of Blacks having some kind of maddening love with watermelons and fried chicken simply developed during observations of these ‘luxury’ items being consumed. Of course, as Blacks migrated North, they carried their accustomed cuisine taste with them, further supporting the stereotype amongst Northern Whites.
What’s always struck me as strange is that Southern Whites love fried chicken a great deal, and almost every household in the South knows how to make it. So, all of these chicken franchises must be making the bulk of their money from Northern Whites. When it comes down to it, everyone loves fried chicken. Nonetheless, I, like many other Blacks, feel slightly uncomfortable with the topic of fried chicken in public. I won’t even eat it around other Whites. Which takes be back to these commercials. Every time I see one on TV, it makes me cringe just a little inside. Dave Chapelle explains it best. Black people eating burgers…sure. Tacos?….great. But fried chicken…please someone change the channel.
As most of you have heard, an active NBA player recently came out as being gay. No matter what people say, this IS a big deal as there are certain sports which promote a culture of ultra machismo. Jason Collins is a minor role player for the NBA’s Washington Wizards who has just come to the end of his 12th season. He was engaged to a beautiful woman before breaking the news to her as well.
So, what is the Blacknek angle on this story? A large number of people inside and outside of the NBA, including President Obama and Kobe Bryant, have congratulated Collins on his decision to come out. People have even compared his bravery to that of Jackie Robinson. I am glad that Jason Collins has come to terms with who he is and is no longer under the burden of trying to live a lie. I, also, understand why he would be considered a hero to in the closet, gay male athletes worldwide. I don’t want to lessen anything from his personal struggle, but let’ s be clear. This is not a Jackie Robinson situation.
Jackie Robinson was a Black man trying to play in a White league in a society in which Blacks weren’t supposed to integrate with Whites in any way except in clearly defined roles of subservience. He could not come out of the closet because he was born outside of the closet. Now, if Jason Collins came out 20 or even 10 years ago, at a time in which 60% or more of Americans disapproved of homosexuality and gay couples, I would predict that he would have had an even worst experience than Robinson. But we live in a new world. Time magazine recently declared the fight for gay marriage and approval of gay lifestyles all but over. Only a minority percentage still disapprove, and even these know that they better not express their opinions too publicly. The one pro athlete with a negative response to Jason Collins, Mike Wallace, was so swiftly attacked by the public that he deleted his Twitter post in hours. Looking at the situation objectively, for an aging, low productivity support player reaching the end of his contract, his media declaration of his sexuality could be considered a brilliant career move. With a few spoken words, he has moved from a nobody on a nobody team to a national role model, with calls from the President and celebrities, talk show invites, book offers, and endorsements. And how can the Washington Wizards not offer someone now declared an American hero a new contract. I will say strongly that I have no idea if any of these alternative motivations played a role in Collin’s decision to come out as a male athlete, but there has never been a better time in the nation’s history to do so. But while Collins has a surfboard just at the peak of a cultural wave, Robinson’s journey involved rowing a rowboat into a perfect storm surrounded by sharks. Jason Collin has helped lay the groundwork for other current and future gay athletes to no longer hide who they are, and for this he deserves all the praise given, but let’s just keep prospective.
Imagine if there was a system of owning, buying, and selling human beings of all ages and races to others who work hard to get these people to do everything they ask, and this system was going on today in every country in the would. Well such a system does exist and it’s part of the new digital world. Companies such as Google and Yahoo have led the way in knowing and owning everything about you except your physical self. Your address, browsing habits, job, friends, likes, and dislikes are all collected and shackled onto ever growing databases. Everything that pretty much makes you YOU is possessed and for sale. Marketing companies and businesses use this information to give you a custom experience, which is nice-speak for hit you over and over with the advertising whip until you buy or use their goods and services.
Recently, Google announced that they are rolling out a program to deliver groceries you can order online. This seems like a swell,harmless, but odd branch out for such a major technology mega-power. But actually it is the perfect next step in making even better digital slaves available for the auction block. Now companies will not only know what major products you by online, but all of the small every week purchases which define your family and lifestyle. The art of reducing humans to a simple commodity of data to be brought and sold is reaching perfection.
Yet, just like in all slavery systems of the past, civilizations weigh plusses and minuses to justify maintaining the status quo. If making myself a digital slave provides me with convenience and benefits and targeted ads, is that so bad? To be honest, I don’t have a set answer on that just yet. But like most of the indecisive moments we all experience in the digital age, I am sure I will find myself on some marketer’s plantation being pursuaded in a deeply personal and specific way to form an opinion.