I grew up in the South. Germantown, Tennessee to be exact. And never in my life have I met anyone, who is a meat-eater, decline fried chicken. From the days of frying it in a slave-cabin-like skillet in thick, white Crisco to using vegetable oil, the devouring and digestion of fried chicken has been a staple of American society since I can remember, particularly in the South—by Black and white Americans. About twenty years ago, my father was diagnosed with High Blood Pressure and we no longer had fried foods for dinner. I adopted that diet and probably only eat fried foods four or five times a month. The rest of my dietary palate is saturated with grilled foods. I mean, seriously, I literally grill four or five times a week. But, I say this because I do not understand how eating fried chicken can be connoted with Blackness or be deemed a stereotype that maintains any validity. As a lecturer, writer, and college professor, I have the opportunity to travel several times a year, all over the U.S.A., and whether I’m in the Northeastern, Southern, West, or Midwest regions, I always see several chicken shacks, restaurants, or diners that all serve (and often times openly promote on their windows or signs) fried chicken.
So, when I woke up this morning and viewed ESPN’s Sportscenter and read the remarks of PGA golfer Sergio Garcia, who has had a long-standing feud with golf God, and arguably the greatest golfer of all time, Tiger Woods, quip, after being asked would he have Tiger over for dinner during a tournament next week, while at the European Tour’s gala players’ awards in London, England, “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken”, I not only found it offensive, but I found it extremely lame, unfounded, and assimilatory at best. Clearly, Sergio riffed his pathetic-at-best attempt at humor, and internalized hatred for Blacks, or at least the ones who dare play and excel at the gentleman’s game of golf, from golf legend Fuzzy Zeller’s book of racist remarks who, during the 1997 Masters, stated in reference to Woods’ winning of the tournament, “So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?...or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”
Stereotypes, particularly those of an ethno-specific origin, have existed for ages, and I often times laugh at them even when aimed at Black people, but this particular jibe from Sergio Garcia made me think a bit more. Who is Sergio trying to impress? Why would he mention fried chicken when attempting to belittle Tiger Woods? Tiger is Black and Asian, and even a little ‘white’, correct? Didn’t he once refer to himself as a Caublasian? (Funny how he seemed to create his own ethnic hierarchy within the name—Caucasian, Black, and ‘then’ Asian, but I digress) What Sergio and all the non-Black people of the world need to know about the American Negro is that the frying of the chicken derived out of necessity. For the most part, during American slavery, the only livestock the African American was ‘allowed’ to raise was the chicken. True, there may be a pig or a hog here or there, but the chicken, as we all know, breeds in abundance and can be devoured from the rooter to the tooter. As far as the frying of the poultry, I can only assume that it was a quick and easy way to prepare the main course of a more than likely paltry meal, and the grease, along with the flouring of the bird, made the chicken stick to one’s bones and increased the caloric intake due to the meat being fried in lard or grease, and that was needed considering the laborious activities that the slave had to endure during those twelve to fourteen hour work days. Oh, and it tasted great!
But, I feel that Garcia is trying to ingratiate himself to a particular audience which is ironic seeming that he’s already been accepted by mainstream white PGA followers and advertisers. It is reported that he has made over 43 million dollars during his time on the PGA tour, received over 16 million dollars in endorsements last year alone, mainly TaylorMade Adidas, and has been on the tour since 1999, so I am not sure if this particular distasteful ‘joke’ of his was an attempt to assimilate to the culture of American golf. It is apparent by his name and accent that he is of the Spanish persuasion, though Spain is a European country, and his physical aesthetics would place him in the vague category of ‘white’, but his use of the fried chicken remark leads me to believe that his cultural and ethnic insecurities prompted him to further prove himself to the powers that be or that he ‘belongs’ with the powers that be—and in the world of golf, those powers are Anglican whites.
The tone of the media seems to be dismissing this blatant racist joke from a professional and international athlete as if we should just let it blow over or “move on from this” as was suggested by the PGA. Why should we, as Black and non-Black people, just “move on”? In the past month alone, Black scholars, particularly Dr. Boyce Watkins, launched campaigns against and boycotts of Lil’ Wayne because of his insensitive, sexist, and derogatory lyrics referencing the lynching of Emmitt Till and Tyler the Creator’s alleged stereotypical portrayal of Black Americans in a commercial for Mountain Dew to which both individuals subsequently lost their endorsements from PepsiCo/Mountain Dew. Should we give Sergio Garcia a pass? Why, because he aesthetically resembles the ethnic group that resides atop America’s socioeconomic hierarchical structure? Nope. Adidas, we have a problem. Follow suit and distance yourself from anyone who would utter such foolishness in a public forum. Swing that golf club, win, smile on a commercial, and say the politically correct things or shut up.
Lastly, research your ethnic jokes before you make one. Fried chicken actually originated in Scotland and England. Fritters have been around for hundreds of years and the Scotts fried chicken and actually brought that practice to the U.S. South in the 18th century. For that matter, fried chicken was a major staple in West African cuisine, and we all know that more than 80% of the African slaves were bought or kidnapped from the west coast of the African continent so I imagine he is somewhat correct in his comprehension of History and the nuances and the practices derived thereof. Yet, like I stated above, Sergio’s joke is unwarranted. If there is some negative connotation to one’s diet consisting of or including fried chicken, the Scottish should be more offended than the Negro, Mr. Garcia. I suggest he stick to playing golf because History is not something he seems to be familiar with.