THE matter before us is an apology released in the name of KFC. The apology came following an outrage after KFC had placed an Emancipation Day ad, which featured a chicken’s “drum stick” casting a shadow of a clenched fist (you have to see it to believe it). The tag line was “Happy Emancipation Day”.
Both the ad and the apology have opened a series of matters that reveal the state of our nation and our understanding of our history. As simple as it may appear to some, both provide a lesson on how we should not approach these ethnic matters.
I was one of the outraged ones, so I wrote on my Facebook page: “Prestige Holdings should be censured for this disgusting and racist post. It is as if Africans are really just ‘lickrish’ for chicken and seduced by KFC. How dare they show a chicken leg to reflect the clenched fist, the most prominent symbol of the African struggle for freedom?”
Other persons, quite rightly, stated that KFC was channelling the stereotype of Africans’ apparent love for fried chicken that is allied to their love for watermelon.
Just look at the apology.
“At KFC Trinidad, we always strive to recognise our nation’s multicultural history and make up, and to play our part in recognising it.
“Our intention was to support and recognise the importance of this historically significant event. We recognise that our posts commemorating Emancipation Day drew some negative responses. Clearly, we got it wrong and we want to unreservedly apologise for the offence caused.
“As a result, we are reviewing the approval process of all our communications to avoid situations like this recurring.”
My concern is that the apology was terribly inadequate. It was badly written because it understated the affront that the ad created. It patted KFC on the back and left the actual apology toward the end of the post.
It was not true that there were “some” negative responses. There were many. Furthermore, “reviewing the approval process of all our communications” will not cut it.
There is so much at stake here. First of all, there is Emancipation Day itself, its meaning and context. Then there is the Caricom-led movement for Reparations for African enslavement and the genocide of the First Peoples of the Caribbean. This year, we are at the half-way point of the UN-declared International Decade for Peoples of African Descent. It is the year of the resurgence of Black Lives Matter movement. It is also the 50th anniversary of the T&T Revolution of 1970 (the Black Power Revolution).
The ad betrayed a lack of knowledge of Africans in T&T as part of the African diaspora, their struggle for Emancipation and, interestingly, their current monetary strength as consumers. That strength has been taken for granted too long. Maybe now Africans need to speak about their acquired tastes in the context of food security.
Overall, the ad and the apology prove that there is much work to be done in dealing with history, especially Caribbean history, which is inadequately taught in our schools. As a result, our commercial elite do not know, nor wish to know or understand institutional (systemic) racism that has been a feature of the life experience of Africans since colonialism worldwide. They do not know the effect of colourism in the media, including the advertising companies. As a result, they cannot comprehend the symbols and cues that enrage conscious Africans.
Maybe KFC would like to reconsider their approach as stated in their apology, and do something better.