Outrage Over Your Popeyes Antics Isn’t About You Having a Sandwich, Black America

Photo credits: Michael Blackshire/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Unless you’re dead, on life support, or literally living under a rock, you’ve seen and heard all about the new item that just popped up on the menu board at America’s Popeyes Chicken restaurants.

Black social media users in the U.S. are a major reason why. Almost everybody under the sun knows that the Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen recently put a new chicken sandwich on sale for a limited time only. The nearly 500-calorie, spicy-flavored sandwich comes with a $3.99 price tag plus tax. Black Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram users alike broke the internet with memes, cheesy videos, and other gimmicks, which made the sandwich go viral.

According to Vox Media’s Eater.com, Popeyes new chicken sandwich was born earlier this month when the fast food chain partnered with Sweet Dixie Chicken. First off, the Southern California-based restaurant ironically was busted trying to pass off re-heated Popeyes’ spicy chicken tenders as its own new brunch menu item. However, instead of targeting Sweet Dixie’s with any legal action, Popeyes made the business its partner.

A week later, Popeyes nationally debuted a spicy chicken sandwich made with the same ingredients as the tenders Sweet Dixie’s Chicken had just hijacked for its own purposes. This set off what media outlets called a “chicken war” between Popeyes and its main competitors, most notably Chick-fil-A. However, Restaurant Brands International (RBI), Popeyes parent company, saved a ton of marketing capital to promote its new cash cow.

According to Apex Marketing, RBI recently saved nearly $25 million dollars in advertising costs. Who was the big Messiah that came to save the first 11 days for the mega-billion dollar fast food cartel? Black America. However, black economists, entertainers, and other influential figures shook their heads in disgust over the massive chicken-feeding frenzy black Americans have embarked on.

Singer, actress, and Cover Girl pitch lady Janelle Monáe was labeled as an “elitist” for recently tweeting: “Perhaps we put voting booths at every Popeyes location? While we wait on that sammich you can register and vote @popeyes holla.” Unfortunately, Monáe caved to pressure to apologize for the statement after subsequently receiving negative backlash from her politically responsible tweet.

However, proponents of this accidental, black American-driven chicken sandwich campaign argue that chiding black Americans for expressing their inner foodie online is unfair. Maria Lloyd-Richard is the founder of Management 24, a firm that specializes in various forms of digital marketing. Mrs. Lloyd-Richard is also a former talent manager at the Your Black World online media network.

It was at Your Black World (founded by black economist Dr. Boyce Watkins) where Mrs. Lloyd-Richard and I became media colleagues. In a discussion her and I had about this Popeyes issue, she made some credible statements as an educated young black woman who has gained some solid footing as a marketing expert.

“The folks who kicked off the publicity didn’t know it would result in a million-dollar marketing campaign. They were just doing what all of us do every day online — sharing their opinions. One can only hope that maybe some of the Popeyes locations are franchised by [black Americans]. But either way, I don’t see any reason to be critical of black people for something they couldn’t have predicted,” Lloyd-Richard said.

Other proponents have said that the fried chicken-fueled black social media tailspin resulted in “innocent fun.” However, that harmless notion was severely discredited when violence and brutality erupted at a Popeyes location in Brooklyn, New York on August 22.

According to Media Take Out, NYPD officers converged on the scene after a fight broke out at a very crowded Popeyes in the New York City borough. When the chaos that ensued was over, a Popeyes employee laid injured. As of August 23, Media Take Out had not reported whether or not any arrests were made by the NYPD related to this incident of senseless rage. The fight was captured on video as well.

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Even those who defended black people for their Popeyes antics online would agree that black-on-black violence has no place inside an establishment inhabited by other customers and underpaid service workers, many of whom are black. Black economists also have a point when they lament about how the strength of the black dollar instantly empowers every other race’s entrepreneurial class instead of black company owners.

Surprisingly, the BET network published a report, which scolded Popeyes for accepting a great big giveaway from black America with little to offer in return. Though BET is known for its conventional mass promotion of chitlin’ circuitry, writer Andrew McCaskill represented the cable news source with dignity in his recently released online report.

“African-Americans spend more than 19 hours weekly on smartphone apps and the internet, roughly three hours more than the total population. That time and engagement is basically giving money to brands and corporations. But do they support us?” McCaskill asked in his August 24 digital news column for BET.com.

There are not just questionable economic concerns surrounding the black patronage of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Though the black actress Deidrie Henry was hired by Popeyes in its television commercials to give a subliminal impression that the company was black-owned, a reality check in the boardroom determined that was a lie. Cheryl A. Bachelder, 56, a bespectacled white businesswoman is the real CEO of Popeyes.

Also, black people often forgive, forget, and reward their white hosts of deception and oppression faster than those Popeyes chicken sandwiches flew off the shelves.

Just this past June, near Washington DC, a black mother recorded a cell phone video of her black teenage son with a group of his black friends. In the video, the mother’s son (then 15-years-old) attempted to enter a local Popeyes restaurant with his friends.

However, the boy and his friends were met by a stout security officer who denied them entry. Mind you, on its primary entrance, the store was still listed as open on that late spring evening. The boy and his friends calmly pleaded with the armed officer to let them in. The young men even showed they had money. But they ran away in fear when the officer produced a weapon.

According to a local ABC-affiliated news outlet, the owner of the Popeyes store reportedly spoke with the security officer who was filmed during this incident. However, though Popeyes released a statement saying the officer was “moved from that [particular] store,” there were no reports about the officer being firmly reprimanded at all. In fact, he defended his actions in a statement.

But lo and behold, less than 90 days later, Black America is in an overwhelming frenzy about a sandwich sold by the very same franchise, which wrongly stereotyped one of its own right near the nation’s capitol. The people who are criticizing and labeling America’s black and socially conscious figureheads like Monáe for raising sane arguments need to cash in on a new check: Reality.

As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached in his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech:

“In a sense, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

Today, 56 years later, Dr. King’s race-based perception on America’s reality is still holding court. Smacking on food and showing off for social media is a new freedom that blacks of the current era have. These are tokens of liberty and the pursuit of happiness Dr. King spoke of in 1963. However, blacks remain on the lowest social rung when it comes to economically empowering themselves and their communities.

It will not be long before the fried chicken and watermelon euphoria of the summertime wears off and translates into a cold winter of financial reality. If the black defenders of poverty truly believe what they are saying, then Dr. King’s work during the foundation of the Southern Poverty Law Center and his subsequent death was all in vain.

This current disdain for black poverty purists has its origins in something that is much bigger than a damned chicken sandwich. Unless this fact is soberly realized, black socio-economic equality will always be many days late and countless dollars short. The brave souls who are willing to offset this embarrassing monetary reality for black America cannot live off chicken feed.

One does not have to look too far to see the many figurative heads that have been financially cut off during their slaughter for the non-black founders of the feast.