NBC Celebrates Black History Month With Fried Chicken

NBC Black History Month MenuIt seems that the NBC cafeteria honored black history month with a soul food menu featuring fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread, and black-eyed peas.

So who at NBC thought it would be a good idea for the special today to be, among other things, fried chicken, “in honor of Black History Month”?

Because, spoiler alert — it wasn’t a good idea at all. And now NBCU employee Questlove is bringing it to the attention of his 1 million plus Twitter followers.

I’m not sure whether to be amused or bemused, especially since this comes more than a decade after the Fuzzy Zoeller incident.

In this case, it strikes me as well meaning rather than racist.

Yes, it’s true that a lot of black folks grew up eating this sort of food.  It’s traditional Southern cuisine — especially for the rural poor — and became associated with African Americans somewhere along the way.  But the “fried chicken and watermelon” meme still has negative connotations that major corporations of ought to steer clear of.

I’m surprised this is still going on.  I recall as a young cadet in 1984 that West Point served a similar menu on “Henry O. Flipper Day,” honoring the Military Academy’s first black graduate.  Even as an 18-year-old fresh from Alabama, that struck me as bizarre. And that was more than a quarter century ago.

One presumes that this particular tradition has been phased out, although I have no intel one way or the other.

via memeorandum

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. sam says:

    Yes, it’s true that a lot of black folks grew up eating this sort of food.

    Hell, I grew up eating that kind of food, rural poor family, etc. And damn fine it is (well, accept for the collard greens…). It is soul food, and never was a cuisine more aptly named. I think we’ve gotten passed any negative connotations, at least I hope so. Fortunately, I learned how to cook all that stuff from my mother, so I don’t have to go looking for a restaurant that serves it.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Menu looks yummy, but a whole month of fried chicken and greens might be a bit much for me.

  3. sam says:

    Speaking of the rural poor. And our current doldrums. I think you have to have grown up in family whose parents and grandparents were rural poor, and Southern rural poor, at that, during the Depression to really get some perspective on our current situation. When I hear all the pissing and moaning that going on now, I think of the stories my mother told me about what her mother had to do during those awful times just to get by day to day. We’ve got problems, but we’re nowhere near the really, really desperate times our parents and grandparents went through. Let’s count our blessings.

  4. Franklin says:

    I am generally sensitive to issues like this, but I’m still trying to figure out why these things are offensive. Is eating collard greens a bad thing to do? In fact it’s pretty healthy, as is the watermelon. And the rest of the menu looks pretty yummy to me.

    What about serving peanuts, honoring the black inventor? Is that insulting, too? I love peanuts!

  5. sam says:

    Is eating collard greens a bad thing to do?


  6. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not quite sure about the degree of offense here either. I eat at a soul food restaurant a couple of times a month and (a) this is the type of food they serve and (b) the whole business is permeated with African-American identity. When I go there I see pride, continuity with the past and community.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    sam, would you eat collared greens in a box? Could you eat them with a fox?

    I suggest lightly cooking them, perhaps even steaming them and then sprinkling them with lemon. I prefer that to soaking for hours in a commissary vat under a heat lamp, but that’s just me.

  8. Steve Plunk says:

    Corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Tacos and burritos on Cinco de Mayo. Traditional food in honor of certain groups is American as hot dogs and apple pie.

  9. sam says:

    I suggest lightly cooking them, perhaps even steaming them and then sprinkling them with lemon.

    PD, dude, there ain’t enough lemons on the planet…

  10. JKB says:

    I’m reminded of a comedian I saw not long ago who pointed out black people like fried chicken because everyone likes fried chicken. We forget that fried chick used to be a special meal dish for everyone and not something the poor could afford often. So anyone not afforded the better things of society would be expressive when one came their way. The great socialist Colonel Sanders developed the methods to spread the wealth and put a special meal in a bucket at a reasonable price. Okay he wasn’t pure socialist. Fried chicken is now mundane fare available everywhere but it was not always, just over 40 years ago it was quite rare for those of limited means.

  11. rodney dill says:

    I know I felt discriminated against when I saw they were serving white rice.

  12. Etheone says:

    Too bad NBC has not matured in the last 20 yrs. This “soul food buffet” is an ignorant attempt to stereotype the black experience. I am from the south, and southern whites eat ALL of the same food as southern blacks, however this incident seemed to me to be an attempt to mock the black history month celebration, and as a result NBC’s ratings will likely suffer, though it’s programming is really not geared toward black viewers – the small handful that it has will be very willing to – with a little help – boycott the network. What a dumb incident.

  13. Grewgills says:

    Other than the meat that was my New Years meal.

    Sam and PD,
    Greens need hot sauce.

  14. ulyssesunbound says:

    Grewgills: Hot sauce and a little vinegar.

    Sam and PD. Try switching from collard to mustard or turnip greens. Saute in a pan with olive oil, some garlic, hot sauce, and red wine vinegar. Amazing. Best thing I learned from living in South Carolina the last few years.

  15. Triumph says:

    s eating collard greens a bad thing to do? In fact it’s pretty healthy,

    Actually, I think the Southern way to cook them is to boil it with a bunch of pork fat. I guess it lessens the bitterness, but it isn’t too healthy.

    When I lived down in Dixie, I would drown the damn things in Tabasco–makes it palatable.

  16. TomTheBomb says:

    I was at West Point when they did away with fried chicken on Henry O. Flipper night. Everyone was pissed. That was one of our favorite meals!