Bad Business: The Problem With Fried Chicken

An honest look at the politics of poultry and what role this Southern delicacy plays in the negative image of Black folks

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There’s nothing wrong with fried chicken. I enjoy a good drumstick every now and again just as much as the next man (or woman), but, as we all know, there’s a long-stemming stereotype about Black folks and their alleged love of fried chicken. Despite people from all walks of life enjoying this Southern delicacy, there’s still a negative connotation that comes to mind whenever I think of a person of color and chicken. That’s why I found it disheartening when I caught word last November that former Public Enemy hypeman turned reality TV star Flavor Flav (born William Drayton Jr.) was planning to open a chain of fast food restaurants dubbed Flav’s Fried Chicken.

I initially shook it off as one of those ideas that would never get off the ground, just another one of those “celebrity” rants that would amount to a whole lot of nothing. Well, to my dismay, I found out earlier today that the first FFC franchise was real and officially open for business in Clinton, Iowa. In an almost seven-minute video interview, Flav explained how he and partner Nick Cimino got the business off the ground. I watched in disbelief as Flav broke down his deep-frying technique to a White journalist on site to cover the opening of the restaurant.

I’m all for entrepreneurship and people of color starting their own businesses; but something in this scenario just doesn’t sit well with me. A Black man opening a chicken shack in the heart of Middle America (read primarily White) seems more like a big joke, but I checked the calendar and April’s Fools Day is still two months away. Some could argue that this is better than another Flavor of Love “reality” show; but is it really? Obesity, heart disease and hypertension are serious issues in our community, and here we have one of our own shelling out buckets of grease-soaked chicken. Why couldn’t we get a Flavor Flav Juice Bar or a Flavor Flav Organic Supermarket instead?

To make matters worse, Flav isn’t alone. A couple weeks ago Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, along with his mother, sister and first cousin, invested in Buffalo Boss, a Brooklyn, NY-based chicken wing restaurant. A part of me expects such moves from Flav, but I would have expected a bit more from someone like Jay-Z. It’s almost as head scratching as the Obama Fried Chicken that opened in Brownsville, Brooklyn in early 2009 as a form of “tribute” to President Obama. I can’t speak for our Commander-In-Chief, but I’m quite sure he’d much rather a school or hospital named after him than a random takeout spot.

Perhaps I’m being too sensitive and reading too much into the politics of poultry but given the racial implications, and, more importantly, the health concerns associated with funneling more fast food into our community, I feel like there’s a problem with fried chicken that needs to be addressed. Actually, it has less to do with what goes into the deep fryer and more to do with the people that would rather serve up stereotypes than actual food for thought. If Flavor Flav, and those in positions of power like him, truly wants to be considered a keen businessman, I’d rather he do something that adds value to the overall health of the community instead of presenting another value(less) meal.

What are your thoughts on the racial connotations associated with people of color and chicken, as well as celebrities who endorse chicken franchises? Share your voice in the comments section.

  • Currently, Flavor Flav’s only restaurant is in Clinton, Iowa. If we use your analysis of that location and say that it’s “primarily white”, how is his restaurant, that location, affecting the Black community. Yes, I’m sure that he has plans to expand, but he hasn’t yet (or you didn’t put that in this article).

    As far as Jay-Z, doesn’t he have other business ventures that he is involved in other than the chicken wing restaurant?

    I don’t like being automatically associated with chicken like the next Black person, but if these people are starting business or helping businesses that are already in existence (that another hard-working Black person started) then they are doing better with their money than they could be doing.

    On a less serious note, if you expected a lot out of Flavor Flav, then you must not have been keeping up with his “goings on” for the past several years. You set yourself up for disappointment with that one.

    • Anslem Samuel

      Thanks for your commentary and response, sis.

      From my view, Flav’s franchise being in a primarily White neighborhood is affecting the Black community (further) just by being the only representation of Black people for most there (I assume), selling fried chicken of all things. Maybe not directly but playing up the stereotype for those that don’t know any better about people of color. He also has plans to do (another) liquor line that has yet to launch but I’m sure will be national.

      As for Jay, yes he has several other businesses. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second: If someone owned several hospitals and churches, but also invested in an abortion clinic would the latter be overlooked because the former is more positive? Not saying Jay’s case is that extreme or “bad” cause I like buffalo wings (LOL), but I’d expect a different business investment from Jay is all.

      Thanks for the healthy discourse.

  • P

    Your article is disturbing. We as a community should be in favor and supportive of black owned businesses. Why is it so surprising to you that Jay-Z would invest in a chicken joint? His brother/cousin(?) came up with the business idea and Jay supported him. To compare blacks owning restaurants that serve fried chicken to hospital execs purchasing abortion clinics is baffling. But again, that would imply that there is something fundamentally wrong with abortions ….and fried chicken. You also fail to mention that directly next door to Flavor Flavs chicken is a WHITE owned KFC….I guess we should leave the fried chicken market to Colonel Saunders and Popeyes?????? Now this is another example of Black people thinking the white mans ice is colder. BOOOOOOO!

    • Anslem Samuel

      Greetings P,

      I specifically wrote that I have no problem with people of color being entrepreneurs and opening their own businesses but I would appreciate if the businesses would be more beneficial to the community. We already have a lot of chicken, pizza, Chinese, liquor stores, etc. in our neighborhoods, why not someone with some celebrity introduce something new into the fold—a daycare, a dry cleaners, a supermarket, etc. That’s more of my point in discussing this topic. Like I said in my opening I enjoy fried (actually jerked) chicken just as much as anyone else and I know where to get it when I want it, I just wished brother Flav diversified his options.

      And that’s no knock to him as he has more businesses that I, but a chicken shack in Iowa just makes me give him the side-eye.

      As for the hospital exec comparison, that was just the first EXTREME that popped into my head to show how a negative on someone’s resume is still a negative. Please, don’t take that as a black and white comparison.

      Yes, there is a KFC next door to Flav;s place but I didn’t feel that was relevant to my op-ed, wanted to keep the conversation focused. And in regards to the KFC and Popeye’s cornering the market in fried chicken, again, I’d much rather WE corner the market on something more beneficial to the community.

      Maybe, that’s just me.

      Thanks for your input.

  • Torrey, This is a topic that might be uncomfortable for some black folk, but I’m glad that you brought it up. Frankly speaking I have a love/hate relationship with fried chicken and possibly with the subjects of this article. I was born in the south where chicken is and will always be THE staple food. That said, for me it conjures up fond memories of my late Grandmas kitchen and the smells that permeated the whole house as she cooked thighs, breasts, drumsticks and wings to juicy perfection. As I got older I became aware of the stigmas attached to this delectable food. Unfortunatley, when I was in my twenties i wouldnt order chicken when I was out to dinner (how silly) later as I learned balance, I never let those types of insecurities influence the simple choices I made. I never thought of Flava Flav and Jay-Z as role models anyway but I would think that if you’re in the spotlight, you would want to represent yourself in the best way possible and I don’t think that those businesses do that. Bottom line, love the food, hate the stigma, I’m hungry and I miss My grandma.

    • *Sorry I meant Anslem

    • Anslem Samuel

      No problem, brother, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and to see where I was coming from and where I was going with this. I can’t lie, writing it did make me want some homemade chicken last night, but I stayed strong and had some steamed fish instead.

    • sarita

      When I was younger, I thought only black people ate fried chicken until I worked at a KFC in a white neighborhood. I remember one couple in particular, they would be dressed in business attire and they would order an 8 piece, sit in the dining area and eat it all, no drinks or sides.

      I’m in construction now so 99% of my coworkers are white men and we eat off the lunch trucks. It’s funny because I will get a fruit salad and when I go to put that piece of watermelon in my mouth, I hesitate for a quick second but white people love watermelon too!

      Your post just jogged some memories.

  • Nani

    Some journalist’s take chicken to will always been some form of stereotyping no matter who or what..yes flavaflav may be a joke..but does one think that maybe thats just his showbiz self we see..
    2nd so what he is opening a chicken shack in Iowa..seems like good biz sense to me..hell they may not have any good chicken joints..I say ‘Get It’ n get paid ..
    Lighten up and stop making every dam thing a racial issue!!

  • Arnie Wynn

    WHO CARES!!!!  Does it really matter if black folks are opening chicken joints. Does everything that at one time or another insulted black people have to be perpetuated by unnecessary attention that you bring to it by writing useless articles about it .  An african american man opened a new business. An african american man created new job opportunity  in a small midwest community.  An african american man contributed to the gross national product .  An african american man did something that did not embarrass us as a race and did not cause him or any other black man to be incarcerated.   You have  too much free time on your hands.  Choose more constructive topics to write about.

  • Monique

    I think you are putting too much thought into Flav and his new business venture. Let him start his business and hope that his venture is successful and expands. I think it is time to stop caring about what other people believe. If I opened a chicken restaurant, the only thing that I would care about is the bottom line, money. So I don’t care if a black man is opening up a fried chicken business. Good for him. Sometimes I think that we are our own enemy.

    Food for thought: What if most white people liked hotdogs. Do you think whites would stop opening up hotdog stands because of what black people thought.

  • kimberly hightower

    good to know black enterprise is not just interested in folks’ purses.  but, unfortunately Flav is just making a buck and a name for himself and that’s what we’ve preached throughout the years, right?  why expect him, or JZ for that matter to have any real convictions about other people’s health?

  • Jesse

    how about partnering up with Flav or who ever and just have a health menu also,baked,grilled chicken, lets not tare down but build up

  • Why should this surprise anyone?  This is Flav.  He’s always made a living by being outside the envelope.  This is no different.  The health issues in our community will stay until we (as individuals) decide to choose the hard right versus the easy wrong.  It’s not just fried chicken that will cause us health problems, so will Big Macs, Jumbo Jacks, pizza’s and fries which are usually easier to get to then healthy foods in any community.  Our health gets better the day we ,as individuals choose to make healthier food decisions and get our bodies in motion and off the couch.  I can’t be mad at Flav.  I don’t have to eat there.

  • sevonef

    Please, give it a rest! Are you so insecure that you worry that someone else’s business will reflect negatively on you personally? Has it occurred to you that there are folks who will always think the worst of you even if you ate tofu and bean sprouts 3 times a day?

  • d p

    Im a little confused. So because Flav opens a fried chicken restaurant (a legitimate small business) people are worried about stereotypes? In this day and age with the jobless rate where it is people are truly worried about how white people view this… I see a bigger problem with that than him opening a chicken restaurant. What should he have opened a tofu cafe’?