The Australian arm of the fast-food chain KFC has been accused of racial insensitivity over a television commercial showing an outnumbered white cricket fan handing out pieces of fried chicken to appease a dancing and singing group of black West Indian supporters.
Aired as part of a series called “KFC’s cricket survival guide”, the clip depicts an uncomfortable looking man named Mick wearing an Australian cricket shirt, surrounded on all sides in a stand by high spirited Caribbean fans. “Need a tip when you’re stuck in an awkward situation?” Mick asks. He then passes round a bucket of KFC chicken, the drumming stops and he remarks: “Too easy.”
Although intended only for an Antipodean audience, the clip has quickly found its way around the world on the internet, prompting stinging criticism in the US where fried chicken remains closely associated with racist stereotypes about black people. A writer in Baltimore Sun, questioned whether the ad was a spoof, remarking: “If it is a genuine KFC advertisement, it could be seen as racially insensitive.” Commentator, Jack Shepherd of BuzzFeed, asks: “What’s a white guy to do when he is in a crowd full of black folks? KFC has the answer.”
KFC Australia said that the commercial was a “light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team” that had been “misinterpreted by a segment of people in the US.”
The company said: “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. “We unequivocally condemn discrimination and have a history as one of the world’s leading employers for diversity.”
Brendon O’Connor, a professor at the University of Sydney, said the association between fried chicken and ethnic minorities was a distinctly US issue: “They have a tendency to think that their history is more important than others.”