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KFC half-apology for racist advert not enough

What on earth were KFC thinking when they screened this TV advert in Australia?

The 20 second ad has now been pulled after an outcry from many members of the public, who labelled it racist – which is exactly what it is.

KFC’s half-hearted apology is unlikely to repair the damage unless the multi-billion dollar company accept this, instead of claiming that the advert is being “misinterpreted.”

So far the fast-food giant has only apologised for offence caused, as opposed to acknowledging that it is offensive.

The advert features a white Australian man in the middle of a crowd of black people in a carnival atmosphere – apparently West Indian cricket supporters.

The man says “Need a tip when you’re stuck in an awkward situation?” before handing them a bucket of chicken.

Aside from the stereotypes about black people and chicken, the suggestion that a happy celebrating crowd of black people presented a white man with an “awkward situation” is clearly racist.

Shamefully, this was the response from a KFC spokesman:

It is a light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team … The ad was reproduced online in the US without KFC’s permission, where we are told a culturally-based stereotype exists, leading to the incorrect assertion of racism.”

And as the story began attracting more critical press coverage, a KFC Australia released a statement saying: “We apologize for any misinterpretation of the ad as it was not meant to offend anyone.”

It’s clear to me that the advert has not been misinterpreted – it is grossly offensive and racist. Unless KFC can now fully acknowledged this, their whole brand will remain tainted.

By Lester Holloway

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3 Responses

  1. I have been following this story with absolute amazement, at first I thought the idiotic cries of racism were confined to America, where they couldn’t undestand the cultural context. But now we see it in Britain too? Jesus Christ

    The crowd is black, because they are from the West Indies, you know, that place where the vast majority of inhabitants are indeed black? And the chap is white, because he is from Australia, you know, where white people are in the majority.

    He is uncomfortable not because he is in a crowd of black people, but because he is a single Australia fan in the middle of a rowdy West Indian crowd. This is how sports events work, if you find yourself in the opposition crowd, you feel uncomfortable.

    This is all topped off by the fact that KFC only showed the advert because it is actually the sponsor of the West Indian cricket team, and as such is investing money in local cricket.

    My god.

  2. Arnie, if you’ve been following the story closely, you’ll know about the historic associations with chicken, like watermelons, are imbued with racism. That is the cultural context.

    The West Indies crowd in the advert were not rowdy, as you say. They were enjoying themselves, celebrating.

    And while a football fan wearing a red shirt may well feel “awkward” surrounded by opposition football fans decked in blue, the same association cannot be made of cricket. There was simply no reason for the white man in the advert to feel awkward. Quite what was he afraid of?

    While you are right that the majority of inhabitants of Australia is white, you’ll know the insensitivity and outright hostility metted out to Aboriginies.

    Who sponsors the West Indies team is irrelevant, its about the connotations and underlining assumptions in the advert, which I believe were racist, and it looks like many people including in America, are of the same mind.

  3. Arnie, if you’ve been to any cricket matches, you’ll know that the situation wouldn’t be awkward. If anything there’d be a lot of good-hearted banter. So the advert doesn’t work on any level except the stereotypical.

    You are right on the money though when stating that people misunderstand the cultural context, i.e. casual racist stereotypes are more accepted in Oz than the US or Britain.

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