Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It’s Not Like White People Don’t Know Black People Eat Chicken: The #MaryJBlige Controversy

by Funnel Cake Flowers, The Urban Chameleon news reporter

If we never saw another Black person associated with chicken would racism go away? Would we get our 40 acres and a mule? Or would there be something else to bitch about?

When news broke that Mary J. Blige participated in perpetuating one of the oldest stereotypes in the book by endorsing Burger King’s new crispy fried chicken in a wrap, or something like that, I couldn’t help but to chuckle right before letting out a long ass sigh. To quote the article “Mary J. Blige soulfully sings about chicken,” as if we needed a description of how Mary J. Blige saaaangs or that it would have made a difference if the chicken song were performed in Classic Rock. Regardless, I wasn’t sure if I should be blaming Mary for not knowing better or the Black community for bringing attention to this older than dirt matter.

I sometimes wonder if raising awareness about “Black people chicken singing” does the opposite of what we intend, provide a different reason to be stereotyped. Isn’t saying, “Don’t associate chicken with Black people” just as bad as “All Black people eat chicken?” (However, I do hate that Mary is looking at the only sista in the Burger King trying to make a connection like, "Gurrrrl, I know you about to get some chicken). I digress.

Have we lost sight of what we’re fighting for? Or are Black people just prone to become defensive when it comes to chicken?

The original stereotype dates back to when exaggerated depictions of Blacks (blackface minstrelsy) were used as mascots to sell fried chicken (I refuse to include a photo). Mary J. Blige is a rich successful recording artist, recognized internationally, and I doubt that she needs whatever Burger King was paying, although I’m sure it didn't hurt. (Maybe she did it for the free chicken because uhhhh...she actually likes chicken). Regardless, did we ever consider the fact that Mary J. Blige felt like she could comfortably do a commercial about fried chicken might just be the progress we were once looking for? Maybe I’m being too optimistic in my thinking, but I bet in a 2.0 version of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I have a Dream” speech, there might just be a line about little Black boys and little Black girls being able to talk about their chicken eating lovin' without shame.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of negligent moments portrayed in media that need calling out. For Example, I think Bravo and VH1 do more harm to the images of women and minority groups than Mary J Blige singing about chicken, but for some reason Black people never seem to profoundly rally around this. Are we on autopilot; Chicken=problem? If we keep making something a problem when do we ever realize when the problem is no longer a problem? Maybe we should put more focus on having people of color endorse things like granola or yogurt. I know one thing is for sure, it's complicated. I'm Funnel Cake Flowers your Urban Chameleon news reporter.

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