Fried Chicken, Advertising and Stereotypes
In the modern era, the reliance of media to make food choices leads the general public to favor grossly generalistic stereotypes about food. Sensational media along with emotional-driven anecdotes are most often the common cause of this issue. This leads to some completely incorrect and incomplete stereotypes of food that lead to general ignorance of food habits in general and this leads to bitter partisan arguments that focus mainly on the extremes of each side rather than considering all the evidence available to come to a general consensus.
This has been taken to the extreme by leading to greater social stratification by associating certain kinds of food with certain races or personalities. This can be seen with the association of fried chicken as an African-American food due to James Paschal’s role not just in running a successful restaurant with a speciality of fried chicken, but also playing a crucial role in the civil rights movement.
However, this has served to make people think of fried chicken as a food for African Americans only, which leads to the food being This has made the perception of food and its stereotypes the main way the public views a certain kind of food, as well as the main way they judge people based on race or ethnicity. This is made worse by the fact that many food bloggers tend to mischaracterize or generalize food from other cultures, such as for instance calling a certain kind of salad an “Asian salad, and dismissing the voices of those who can give a stronger insight into several aspects of the food.
As a result of these stereotypes, society becomes divided much more severely among racial lines, leading to more misunderstanding amongst different races, and promotes more partisanship and division in terms of the entire society. This ends up leading to much more anger, resentment, and misunderstanding that always seems to plague society on a constant and almost infinite basis.
In society, the stereotypes revolving around food are driven by emotionally-laden rhetoric. This leads to stereotypes driving a large portion of the decisions that the general public make in regards to which food to buy or the perception of a food either in a more positive light as compared to a more negative light.
One of the biggest examples of public stereotypes is about GMOs. In general, most of the public either have an ignorance of GMOs entirely or believe that GMOs are “toxic” and this leads to stereotypes of GMOs being little better than literal poison. However, scientific studies have shown that most GMOs are perfectly safe to eat. These same studies also state that GMOs are a great source to provide more food as the population of the globe is growing at a rapid pace.
However, the public stereotype of GMOs ends up causing a very polarizing and divisive conflict. This also leads to a structure of classism that develops since the ideas of getting rid of GMOs often tend to not offer an alternative solution, and simply makes it harder for people in the lower socioeconomic classes to have access to foods. This is especially a problem in developing countries, as it the only possible solutions to solve the lack of food become to practice more deforestation to gain the right amount of farmland for growing the necessary amount of food rather than use GMOs. While it is true that GMOs tend to be not as healthy as more organic kinds of foods, the emotional driven stereotypes of GMOs simply lead to the stereotype of GMOs that ends up not being in any way close to the actual truth.
In fact, GMOs can have several benefits, such as more nutritionally dense food and the support of an almost overwhelming majority of scientists (Ralston). As stated earlier, they will also be crucial for meeting the necessary food supply that is projected to grow by about 70 percent(Naam). Due to the stereotype of the general public, this leads to more divisiveness and misunderstanding by defining a problem incorrectly, and offering no feasible alternatives to let most people be able to have more options for food, even if imperfect.
By comparison, the word “organic” is often used to denote food that is very healthy and seen as “natural”. As a result, organic food has a stereotype of often being very whole and super healthy in comparison to the “toxic” and “cancerous” GMOs. In reality, organic only refers to how the food was grown and if it met specific agricultural standards set by the federal government about the type of soil used to grow the food (McEvoy) . This means that, while it is true that organic foods will contain few if any GMOs, that does not necessarily mean that organic foods are automatically healthy. This simply means that the organic food met some agricultural standard.
In fact, seafood and honey are not even properly certified at the federal level regarding being organic, so the stereotype of seafood and honey being “healthy” is up to the discretion of unknown and separate third parties of private companies. Unfortunately, the stereotype about organic food causes the public to almost always want to buy foods that are organic and promote organic food over GMO food. However, as the federal standards for organic food are pretty rigid and tough, it is impossible to be able to properly meet the amount of food needed using only organic food. As further seen, the stereotype of organic food being amazing health-wise causes the public to promote organic foods almost to the extreme without knowing exactly what organic entails.
Stereotypes of cultures with food are a huge problem for many racial minorities in the United States of America, but the African American community has seen some particularly bad aspects. It is often common to associate eating with one’s hands as dirty, uncivilized, and having poor table manners in general (Demby). As fried chicken is often consuming by using both hands rather than using utensils, this can sometimes be seen as an “uncultured” food due to the “dirty” way needed to consume the food properly (McConnel). Part of the reason for the association of fried chicken with African Americans was that fried chicken originated in the South and the South is often associated with African American culture in general due to the extensive history with African Americans in the South (Powell).
This stereotype of African Americans being unclean has been connected to them often consuming fried chicken. Due to the nature of fried chicken, it was often prepared by African Americans while in slavery, and even post-slavery still remained a popular choice for dining. Chicken was often cheap and easy to make, especially important for African Americans since they did not have enough money to be able to afford more expensive and higher quality options for food (Powell). Even in modern society, despite well-known brands such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Popeyes, the stereotype lives on.
This is also not helped by the fact that even though fried chicken and waffles originated from the South, there often exists a negative stigma about those particular food items (Powell). This can best be explained by the fact that the stereotype of African Americans and their “unclean” eating habits in regards to fried chicken. As seen in the graphic above, some restaurants would often have pictures like those below to act as the mascot that represented the restaurant. As the picture above portrays an African American eating fried chicken using his hands while making loud noises helps to show the exact stereotype of someone who is loud and dirty in terms of their dining habits. James Paschal ran a restaurant that was famous for serving fried chicken and he was a very crucial civil rights activist that helped Martin Luther King Jr. and several other notable leaders be able to make the March on Washington successful (Kilson).
This, however, was spun by several people to make fried chicken associated with African Americans even more The Birth of a Nation was also very infamous for portraying this particular stereotype, as it was able to successfully exploit the stereotype of the rowdy and loud African American. In one of scenes, one of the African American legislators was eating fried chicken amongst a commotion (Gene). This stereotype served to harm racial relations and make African Americans more often to be portrayed in very dehumanizing manner. Taking this stereotype further, it even portrays African Americans as thieves in some cases, and the songs from Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise & Otherwise had a lot of songs about African Americans stealing fried chicken and watermelons (Powell).
As a result, this stereotype causes manufactured fear among racial lines, and leads to this stereotype further worsening the division in society already among partisan and racial lines. This leads to less effort to bring about more harmony and overall peace in society between all of the races and leads to stereotypes simply being accepted as the truth and norm by huge swaths of the American population. Ultimately, society as a whole pays the price with the inability to let go of past history causing these stereotypes to perpetuate over several generations without anyone really questioning them and instead they are accepted by the people as the truth and essential.
As seen in several instances, the stereotypes associated with food, whether about the food itself and what a certain label means or the behaviors and culture surrounding the food, serve to make society more divided amongst extreme lines and ultimately leads to incorrect knowledge about food. Not only that, the stereotypes of food also lead to more subtle racism and denigration of minorities, even for food that is popular with several races, simply for the way the food is eaten or the history behind a certain kind of food. The overwhelming presence of stereotypes leads to a much lower quality of life, and leads to a preference of ignorance and convenience over insightful thought and skepticism of every possible label.
In order to combat the issue of stereotyping, it will be important for every decision about food to be made not regards to simple price or labels, but by using strong research and evidence to make decisions in order to back the right kinds of food and not fall into the often easy trap of stereotyping. In addition, racial stereotypes about fried chicken need to be exposed in society to help the stereotypes go away over time. While it is true that stereotypes are here to stay for human society, the impact and prevalence of them should be lessened to a degree that they do not actively harm society and make it more polarized and divided.