Some of you may be familiar with a recent controversy concerning R&B singer Mary J. Blige. She filmed a Burger King commercial wherein she sang about fried chicken wrapped in a tortilla. She faced a lot of criticism from blacks who decried her for her jingle concerning breaded poultry. The commercial was called racist and she was even mocked in a hilarious spoof of her performance.
This got me to thinking—what is wrong with what Blige did? I feel pretty comfortable in saying that fried chicken is a part of black American cuisine. And I would concede that fried chicken is often used to mock black folks. I recall golfer Fuzzy Zoeller’s comment about Tiger Woods.
But who the hell cares?
I have a theory as to why some blacks decried the commercial. It relates to a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago concerning blacks in the North before the Civil War. In that post I noted that northern black newspapermen tried to push their brethren to behave in a manner that whites would approve of so that they would be given full citizenship. I think this mindset among blacks—to constantly monitor their behavior to inoculate themselves from whites’ possible disapproval—still continues to this day. I have had countless conversations where an intelligent black person will disclose to me that they will modify their behavior, or hope that other blacks will modify their behavior, so as to minimize whites’ disapproval. And in the back of my mind I always have the same thought: “How sad.”
Most people believe that racism’s biggest effect is that is takes away opportunities from blacks on the basis of their skin color. I’ve always disagreed with this. I think the biggest effect is that it renders many blacks incapable of being comfortable in their own skin. There’s always a need to apologize for something. Or defend something. It’s exhausting. Well, I imagine it is. I’ve rejected this sort of thinking. I wish others would too.