KFC South Africa is coming under fire for a recent commercial titled, “Tastes Like Home.” The ad shows a young South African girl trying to acquaint herself with her new life in Thailand, but coming up short.
During the clip, the young girl attends school with her Asian classmates, has a difficult time grasping the language, struggles to eat her lunch with chopsticks, and wanders the busy streets feeling very out of sorts. Toward the end of the commercial, a little Asian girl walks up to the South African girl, pretends to lick her own fingers (as if to say, let’s eat), and takes her new friend to KFC where they share a bucket of chicken with a group of friends from their school.
While KFC hoped the commercial would be endearing, writing on YouTube, “It’s amazing how the simplest things connect us and make us feel at home- like mealtimes and the universally loved taste of KFC,” some people have called the spot racist, because…black people and chicken.
One YouTube commenter said the commercial was “disgusting,” and another called it “outrageous,” noting, “Stereotypes HAVE NO PLACE in branding. This commercial is outrageous, blatantly racist, reinforces negative and false stereotypes and is just pathetic! And now everyone will play dumb because it’s children. Which actually says children are taught negative stereotypes from an early age! OUTRAGEOUS!”
Other commenters saw things differently, calling the commercial “cute” and pointing out that both girls (and their classmates) enjoyed the fried treat.
Historically, Black folks supposed love of fried chicken (and watermelon!) has been used as a racist trope in America since the 1915 film Birth of a Nation was released (and before someone asks, “Everyone loves chicken, so why are Black folks made to feel bad about it?” Read this and watch that). But considering this commercial was set in Thailand and created for a South African audience, I’m not sure how much our country’s racist history plays into the psyche and marketing campaigns of another country. Moreover, I think we need to be very careful about what gets labeled “racist” because the word is quickly becoming a watered-down catchall for everything we find mildly offensive (or merely questionable) and allows others to dismiss things that are blatantly abhorrent while they argue Black people “play the race card” for every grievance.