Where Karl Rove goes, headlines are sure to follow. The famed Republican strategist was part of the round table on ABCs This Week where he talked about the future of the Republican party. Karl Rove was debating the now infamous postmortem of the GOP following the 2012 election with Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. It was during that conversation where he told the lifelong democrat that she owed him some fried chicken. What’s wrong with that? Well, a lot.
The exchange came as part of a discussion on how — like Democrats in the past—Republicans will have to remake themselves if they want to win future elections. Donna Brazile told Karl Rove that he owed her some chili to which he responded in his best southern accent, “You owe me some fried chicken.” Brazile quickly followed up by reminding him that she saved his life from malaria once. Though Brazile did not appear to be offended, Karl's comments lit up Twitter.
The stereotype of African Americans and fried chicken begins with slavery. Amias Maldonado discusses the historical association of African Americans and fried chicken in his article about power and stereotypes in advertising.
“The association between black people and fried chicken has a long history, dating from the days of slavery where blacks ate fried chicken in the form of table scraps from slave owners.”
In early American film, African Americans were portrayed as characters who could be driven to commit crimes over their desire to eat friend chicken. There is a powerful symbolism in fried chicken representing the oppression of black people. Studies show that we also make determinations about an individuals moral and intellectual capacity based on what they eat. We tend to associate healthy foods with good people and unhealthy foods with bad people.
Combining the historical context in which fried chicken has been used against African Americans and the fact that we associate intellectualism with the kinds of foods we eat; it is easy to see why his comments are problematic. People will brush off Karl’s comments by saying he was not trying to be offensive. A persons intent does not make a stereotype more or less offensive. Intent or no intent, the comment still promotes outdated and damaging racial stereotypes.
Here is video of the exchange: