How “Does that taste like a neighborhood you’ve never been to?” Spoke Volumes

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Photo Credit: Twitter

Last week, daytime talk show, Daily Blast Live, rocked social media during a Popeyes’ chicken sandwich tasting segment. Host Jeff Schroeder, who is a white male, mentioned that the Popeyes’ chicken sandwich had more seasoning and flavor, which prompted co-host Al Jackson, who is Black, to retort, “Does that taste like a neighborhood you’ve never been to?” This quickly became viral on social media outlets such as Twitter. Many joked, many laughed, and many declared major “shade,” while some felt it was unnecessary. In any case, it was one of the most talked about videos this past week that further fueled the Popeyes versus Chick-fil-A phenomenon. What it also did was reiterate a long-standing issue of systematic food apartheid in Black communities.

For those who are not aware of this term, Food Apartheid is where communities do not have sufficient access to healthy food due to socioeconomic injustices. Residents of these communities are also disproportionately African American. What makes “Food Apartheid” different from “Food Desert,” is its ability to explore the influences in which these communities lack access, which are definitively systematic. Popeyes has been a household name for Black communities for decades. This Louisiana themed fast-food chain capitalizes on crispy fried chicken and Cajun side dishes. It also capitalizes on poor neighborhoods. Black communities, who are food Apartheids, rely heavily on corner stores and fast-food restaurants, including Popeyes. Grocery stores are few, and good grocery stores are in zip codes with a higher socioeconomic status. Fast food is cheap, accessible, familiar, and usually consistent and fast food franchises know this. This is why franchisees consider these neighborhoods jackpots.

When Popeyes offered a chicken sandwich that was deemed superior to Chick-fil-A, a fast food chain that strategically picks higher income neighborhoods, customers that are more affluent started flocking to poorer neighborhoods to eat. Not surprisingly, the customers who are more affluent are disproportionately White. This is not the first time we have seen this transpire. We have heard countless times on travel shows where food secure individuals mention the “best” food is usually in “hole-in-the-walls.” That is translation for poor, ethnic neighborhoods. White people have always treated poorer neighborhoods as a form of “guilty pleasure” when it comes to food. Popeyes is no “hole-in-the-wall,” but it bears the same sensibility.

The moment Al made that comment on the talk show; it spoke volumes on this idea. Yes, it was said jokingly, but it featured honesty. As a black man, he knew his co-host, a White man, has probably never entered Black neighborhoods willingly. However when it comes to Popeyes’ chicken sandwich, he will? Now white people want to enter Black communities and eat Popeyes because it is the new “hip” thing to do. Do they stop and think about how, for many families, Popeyes is their daily meal ticket? I can guarantee Black Twitter found the video hilarious because they knew it was the truth.

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I am a food/nutrition educator by day and a writer, activist, traveler, creator, and diner by night (weekends too).

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