Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, as Walker’s Crisps found out.
In addition to churning out tonnes of the snack whose popularity I can’t for the life of me understand, the company is committed to woke rectitude. This is reflected in the palette of the extras appearing in Walker’s commercials:
“The casting for all of our advertising reflects the diversity of the nation and our consumers. We are strongly committed to playing our part in pursuing racial and social justice,” declared Walker’s.
The company’s top spokesman, Gary Lineker, football player turned highest-paid BBC presenter, is unfashionably white. But not to worry. Walker’s finds ways to make up for that imperfection.
Thus its latest commercial shows, in addition to Gary, 12 other actors, all of them black to varying degrees. If we take Walker’s at its word, this is a fair representation of Britain’s demographics.
While one can argue with its arithmetic (blacks make up only about three per cent of our population), its woke credentials have been thereby bolstered – or so it would seem. Who could have thought that such casting would incur an accusation of racism?
No, I don’t mean the woke reverse racism, boosting to grotesque proportion the share of minorities featured in advertisements. No one would dare protest against that, on pain of being branded racist, ageist, homophobe, transphobe, a global warming denier and an EU hater.
I mean the common-or-garden racism, of the kind communicated through burning crosses, lynchings and garments made of bed sheets – this even in Britain, where such methods of self-expression have never made much headway.
You see, Walker’s has formed a tie-in with KFC, probably based on the similarity in the target markets for both products. Hence, while their latest commercial stars the whitey Gary flogging the crisps in the foreground, the other actors are shown enjoying their buckets of fried chicken.
Where’s the racism in that, I hear you ask. This question shows how grossly insensitive you are to the nuances of wokery. I bet you also suffer from a whole raft of unconscious biases, only curable by a public recantation and a subsequent indoctrination course.
What makes the commercial ‘controversial’ even according to a modelling agency specialising in diversity is the negative connotations associated with the blacks’ dietary habits in America. They love fried chicken, and have done since the days of slavery.
The connection is rather tenuous because fried chicken is a staple in the Southern states of America. Anyone who has ever lived there, black, white, brown, yellow or polka dot, likes the stuff, to which I can testify personally.
I recall going to my local KFC for lunch at least once a week, partly for the food and partly for the girls who worked there. The interest wasn’t carnal but anthropological.
The young ladies were programmed to respond only to a specific set of verbal stimuli. Since at the time (mid-70s) I was new to the culture, I’d utterly baffle them by saying things like “I’d like two thighs and a leg, please, but not crispy”. An instant gap in communications would occur, only to be filled with a prescribed order: “D, all dark, original.”
The girl would jot my order down, after which her inner button would get pushed and she’d ask: “And what would you like to drink, sir?” Trying to save her trouble, I’d sometimes attempt to preempt that question by specifying “D, all dark original, nothing to drink”. “And what would you like to drink, sir?” she’d always ask, making me ponder the dehumanising effects of mass production.
Anyway, the point of this nostalgic digression is that I worked at NASA at the time, the only major employer in Clear Lake City, Tx, where those exchanges took place. Most of the people who worked there – and hence most of the KFC customers – were white. That unfortunate nativity in no way diminished their delight in the delicacy on offer.
Southern cuisine is a hodgepodge of culinary influences, Mexican, Creole, Cajun, Anglo, Spanish, German – and of course black. Fried chicken does have some weak association with black cuisine, but why is it racist?
Would a Scotsman be offended if shown eating haggis, a Jew depicted with matzo balls, a Frenchman with frogs or an Indian with Vindaloo? They’d just smile and move on. I bet British blacks don’t give two flying chickens about being portrayed with KFC products either.
No one is really offended, except the woke, predominantly white middle-class ‘opinion-formers’, who aren’t offended either, but have to feign indignation for ideological reasons, as a call to action.
In this case, action wasn’t late in arriving. The social media rained accusations of racism on Walker’s and even poor (figuratively speaking) Gary Lineker, who has never seen a woke cause he couldn’t love.
Even the diversity-oriented FOMO model agency that supplied the talent is appalled at this racial stereotyping, which is rich coming from a company built on racial stereotypes.
The ad is likely to be pulled, whereas I’m going to register my disgust at this woke bacchanal by frying some free-range chicken thighs tonight. This though I’s white.