By Keli Goff
(The Root) — When I first saw the headline about a GOP elected official in trouble for an inappropriate gaffe involving fried chicken, I immediately thought, “I already read this story.” Then I realized that the name of the elected official mentioned in the story was different from the one in the previous story I read. Colorado State Sen. Vicki Marble, who is white, sparked controversy weeks ago when she blamed fried chicken for the health woes of black Americans. Marble later issued a statement that noted she did not intend to offend anyone with her remarks. But according to reports, a Republican colleague decided to weigh in with a show of support, albeit without saying a word. State Rep. Lori Saine allegedly left a box of chicken on Marble’s desk as a form of silent protest.
As I have previously written, stereotypes regarding black Americans and certain foods have a long-standing negative history in America. Foods like fried chicken and watermelon have been used in demeaning imagery depicting black Americans for more than a century. In the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, lazy, trouble-making black Americans indulging in alcohol and fried chicken are a defining image. The film became one of the Ku Klux Klan’s most powerful recruitment tools of the era. (For those seeking more information on the history of the fried-chicken stereotype and African Americans, please click here.)
When asked for comment about the Colorado controversy, a representative for the Republican National Committee emailed the following statement to The Root: “Our party has been working to find solutions that will lift up all Americans from every community. Inappropriate episodes like this distract from our cause and are counterproductive to the work that needs to get done.”
This incident marks yet another racially charged misstep for the Grand Old Party, in a year in which RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has said that broadening the party’s support among minorities is a priority. Here’s a brief list of some of the racial controversies that have enveloped the GOP in recent months: