Thursday, January 07, 2010

Advertizing Fast Food And Racism

KFC has withdrawn an ad it used in Australia showing a Australian cricket fan sitting amongst West Indian cricket fans. The West Indian cricket team has just played 3 tests against Australia, and will play some one-day or 20/20 games soon. The concept was that everyone's happy when fried chicken is provided, that the product makes it "too easy" to quieten opponents' supporters, and the support for different teams is less important when the advertised product is provided. That is largely how viewers in Australia considered the ad.

However, some people in the US have taken offence, calling the ad racist, because it stereotypes African-Americans as only eating fried chicken. It is within their rights to take offence - that is driven partly by their individual, and collective, histories, and the societal context they have applied to the ad.

Is the ad racist? What's racist? Is racism a behavioural thing? That is, an action. Or is it driven by a n ideology that a person's outward appearance, or nationality, determines their position in society? I think there are elements of both behaviourist and ideology that drive racism. The behaviourist element often arises from those who act with a mob mentality, or who have not learnt to treat all people with respect. People who lead others to commit racist acts - some politicians, community 'leaders', some 'shock-jocks' in the media - are undoubtedly driven by an ideology.

I understand that in a different society, where there are different sensibilities, there are some who have interpreted it differently and have been offended. However, I do not believe the ad was created with any racist intent, and should not be seen that way. I'm not aware of any West Indian cricketer, or supporter, who has been offended.