Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says: Don't Get Between Black Folks and Their Fried Chicken or the Popeye's Fried Chicken Debacle

This clips speaks for itself. Some thoughts: how do all these Black folks afford huge SUV's in this economy? Are they leased or owned? What other items do said people lease instead of own outright? Televisions? Couches? Refrigerators? Do these parents show this much enthusiasm and drive in attending to the education of their children? Are they picketing and protesting outside of the local board of education in order to improve the woefully inadequate public schools in their communities?

Being provocative: are all stereotypes based in some degree of truth?

Being really provocative: where is Operation Push, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton? Is this a civil rights issue?

Ultimately, is fried chicken THE solution to game theory's coordination game/collective action problem, i.e. give black folks the prospect of some cheap Popeye's fried chicken and they will organize and work together towards achieving a given goal?

Update--An official response from the television station which aired this story:


Rachel's Take
Rachel Barnhart (13WHAM-TV)

I was a little concerned tonight about the Popeye’s story.

Not because I don’t think it was a legitimate story. Customers called our newsroom wanting us to do the story about the chain running out of chicken after promoting a big special. They said the Lake Ave. location had long lines of cars.

When we went to the Lake Ave. Popeye’s, there were indeed long lines of cars. Some people took it in stride. Other people were downright angry. A few people made jokes.

The idea of people up in arms over chicken was pretty funny. I think saying the word “chicken” over and over again was funny, too. Some of the things the customers were saying were hilarious, especially the woman who said the store should have had a trailer out back filled with “chicken on ice.”

What concerned me about the story was the stereotype of black people liking fried chicken. Everyone in our story was black. We interviewed a dozen people. Even though the suburban Penfield location also ran out of chicken, and even though a whole lot of white people also like fried chicken, I was worried some viewers would think we were doing the story because of the stereotype. I was worried we were reinforcing or making fun of the stereotype.

I think the story was a story because it was a consumer issue, customers were upset, and some customers were even laughing. The conflict was just so – human. Would I have felt better about it if we talked to white people, too? Yes. Should we have gone to the Penfield store, too? Maybe. On the other hand, do we ever pause when our stories are filled with only white people? Not often - and that's sad.

I was comfortable with running the story. It accurately reflected what happened on Lake Ave. tonight. When I get upset at a business, I am the first person to express righteous outrage. That said, I wish I hadn’t put the story together at such a late hour, because I would have loved to make a bunch of calls to get more opinions on the stereotype issue.

The video of the story we ran is linked to this blog post. We took it down for a time as our newsroom debated this issue, but you probably need to watch it in order to have an opinion.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Be respectful. Any hate language will be removed.

Norma's Take

Criticism is often leveled at 13WHAM that we do not feature Black people or other people of color in our stories unless they are criminals. As a person of color myself, I am sensitive to this.

So, you can imagine my thoughts when I saw our report last night about two local Popeye’s running out of chicken and the mayhem that ensued. My gut reaction was that the story--although a legitimate consumer complaint—seemed to reinforce a cultural stereotype about Black people and chicken. I know for a fact that no one on our staff meant for that to be the point of the story, but the fear that we would be accused of this sounded an alarm to me. It’s sad that I even had to worry about this.

The story was what it was: customers, who happened to be Black, expressing anger about a heavily advertised special that ran out. Our job as journalists is not to “whitewash (sorry, no pun intended)” the news. We aren’t here to manufacture, make up, or tamper with what exists so we ran the story. In hindsight, I’m glad we did. Race aside, it is a perfect consumer story…and consumers have a right to be angry.

However, the report sparked a discussion in our newsroom about the way we portray people of color. I have to admit, we tend to overlook the importance of being inclusive in some of our reporting. Gay, Lesbian, Hispanic, Senior, and Physically Disabled people have opinions on any number of topics, yet we tend to only interview them in relation to stories that affect their specific groups. What’s the sense in that?

This conversation is ongoing and I’m so proud that we are able to have it.


Anonymous said...

The real question is why is this news? Did you see the smug smirks of the broadcasters at the end of the segment? You seem to be more critical of the consumers than you are of a news room that deemed this significant to their audience. Really, Chauncey? Really?

MilesEllison said...

I don't even know where to start with this.

Al From Bay Shore said...

This story is a story of Black folks, once again, becoming over reliant on external phenomena. Listen up Black people, its time to become self reliant and make your own fried chicken!!!

I'm gonna help you out. I bequeath to you "Uncle Al's Republican Fried Chicken"!

1. Fresh chicken from the butcher
2. Marinate said chicken in a mixture of water, brown sugar, kosher salt, and onion powder. Do this for 24 hours.


3. Marinate said chicken in buttermilk for another 24 hours.
4. After 24 hours, place chicken on a baking rack and allow buttermilk to drip off.
5. After buttermilk has dripped off, then season chicken with garlic, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, mustard powder.

6. Dredge chicken in a mixture of white corn flour, a little bit of salt, and black pepper. Let sit while you prepare the cooking oil.

7. To prepare the oil, deep fry country ham and bacon in some lard. Once you feel the flavors have been cooked out and into the oil, prepare your chicken to be dropped in the oil.

Please be sure to have napkins, hot sauce, and white bread on hand.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

Al you are always something else. I do have to say that I laughed literally out loud. But, I have always been fried chicken challenged--I have tried lard, I have used my iron skillet, I have tried an electric fryer and it just come out as good as Popeye's what am I doing wrong?

And no egg batter with the buttermilk? And no chicken seasoning?

Help a brother out.

chauncey devega