Fried Chicken Lunch For Black History Month? Here’s Why It’s Racist (VIDEO)

Fried Chicken Lunch For Black History Month: No, Really!

Fried Chicken for a Black History Month school lunch? Students and parents were, rightly, outraged. Why is fried chicken racist? Here’s an explanation.
Image credit: Kirbie Cravings

February, as most of us know, is Black History Month. Lots of schools will be holding assemblies and having special curricula for the occasion. While it’s great to see schools get creative, one school went a bit too far.

Fried chicken was a bad choice for school lunch

Carondelet High School for Girls, in Concord, California, wanted to carry the Black History Month celebrations into the dining room. To this end, they came up with a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and… wait for it… watermelon. Oh, yeah. They went there.

The menu choice so offended students and parents that the principal of the school, Nancy Libby, had to go into damage control mode quickly. She called an emergency assembly to discuss the issue and sent out a letter which read, in part:

“I’d like to apologize for the announcement and any hurt this caused students, parents or community members. Please know that at no time at Carondelet do we wish to perpetrate racial stereotypes.”

The students suggested that, while the fried chicken and cornbread was okay, the watermelon had to go. Libby, however, felt it best to just scrap the idea entirely. That’s probably for the best.

What’s racist about fried chicken?

It’s not the fried chicken itself that’s racist. It’s the baggage that comes with the fried chicken and cornbread and collard greens and watermelon. The stereotype of “black folks love fried chicken” goes back to the days of slavery. Chicken was easy to come by and a cheap source of meat for the slaves. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, not until D.W. Griffith came along. In his 1915 silent opus, The Birth Of A Nation, Griffith depicted a group of “shiftless” black politicians. The scene — an obvious nod at the “dangers” of allowing blacks to vote — showed the pols acting rowdy: drinking and carousing and one is sloppily eating fried chicken. Oh, the horror!

According to Professor Claire Schmidt of the University of Missouri:

“That image really solidified the way white people thought of black people and fried chicken.” She continues, “It’s a food you eat with your hands, and therefore it’s dirty. Table manners are a way of determining who is worthy of respect or not.”

Black-face and minstrels and racism

Watermelon is also eaten with the hands and, though blacks don’t actually consume as much as other melon fans, is associated with other Southern foods. Like fried chicken, collard greens and cornbread, it became a de facto “black” food because blacks are associated with the South. The South has an image that was partially created by slavery and the whole melange is tied up with minstrel shows and black-face.

“Fried chicken references were often a part of racist black-face productions and other hideous minstrel shows. Later, many fast-food chicken restaurants used caricatures of black people as mascots for their restaurants. To say that fried chicken has persisted as a racist meme is an understatement, and this is nothing new.” (source)

Griffith set the tone for Hollywood and television for years (this number from the Al Jolson film, Wonder Bar, is an example of the worst of it. Warning: this is so racist it will make your eyes bleed. But you may laugh at the sheer gall of it). And, apparently, some folks are still stuck in that archaic mindset. I wonder if some of them will ever get it. At least the students of Carondelet High School understood why fried chicken, especially during Black History Month, is racist.

Stymie wants some fried chicken.

And here’s a scene fromĀ The Little Rascals that passed for humor ‘back in the day’ … Stymie wants some fried chicken.