harlan sanders

anonymous asked:

Just a tidbit of info, colonel sanders didn't own a plantation or was in any way connected to slavery or the south really. He was from Henryville Indiana and my grandmother went to school with one of his siblings. So nah. Not really racist to "glorify" him. He was just a dude from Indiana who started a fast food chain.

update, i guess, on the colonel sanders lyft voice “ghost in the machine” situation

the mystery has been solved, with a relatively disappointing conclusion: yeah it was an official marketing ploy—albeit a mystifyingly concieved one. so there’s the “pull the mask off the monster and hey turns out it’s just a crooked theme park owner” scooby doo moment. no malevolent shade bound to my driver’s gps, no die-hard underground colonel sanders fan community

that said, ever since i wrote that post, i periodically get messages from anons telling me it was incorrect to imply that there could be uncomfortable racist overtones to celebrating the figure of colonel sanders 

and yeah, for the record, harlan sanders was born decades after the civil war. he was born in ohio. he apparently grew up in indiana. he was not a slave owner. he was just a midwest guy who sold southern-style fried chicken and who adopted the colonel persona after his friend the governor of kentucky “recommissioned” sanders as a kentucky colonel in 1950.

which is to say: just a white dude who in the midst of the growing civil rights movement was going around cosplaying as an old-timey southern colonel. it’s possible he wasn’t doing this in a hateful way (actually the governor who recommissioned him was lawrence weatherby, who supported desegregation) but it still feels, at best, a little tone deaf to me.

and regardless of whether or not it was meant with racism then, i would assert that in a country where white people have still never had to grapple with the true staggering human cost and legacy of slavery, you can’t divorce that kind of imagery (white guy in a southern-style old-fashioned white suit like the kind plantation owners wore) from the fact that people out there are still glorifying the old south and throwing plantation themed weddings and asking historical tour guides “yeah but slavery wasn’t really that bad, right? the house slaves had it pretty good, right?”

to be clear, i’m not saying it’s, like, klansman racist to download colonel sander’s voice to your gps. but i think a corporation continuing to promote this friendly cartoon character with all the visual echoes of a slave owner may contribute in some subtle minor way to a larger pattern of sanitizing a period of american history that should absolutely never be sanitized.

anyway i worry that my discussion of kfc and the ghost of its founder has accidentally resulted in free viral marketing so i would like to conclude by telling you my favorite colonel sanders fact i learned on this whole odyssey, which is that after he sold the franchise, the company changed the recipes and colonel sanders spent the rest of his life publicly, bitterly denouncing modern kfc gravy.

in 1978, a kfc in bowling green actually brought him to court for defamation due to an interview he gave to the courier-journal, which read in part:

“’My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy tap water for 15 to 20 cents a thousand gallons and then they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste. And I know wallpaper paste, by God, because I’ve seen my mother make it.’…To the `wallpaper paste’ they add some `sludge and sell it for 65 or 75 cents a pint. There’s no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allowed to sell it.’ “And another thing. That new `crispy recipe is nothing in the world but a damn fried doughball stuck on some chicken.’”

important takeaways here, i think:

1. symbols and their meanings across time are complicated, and require careful consideration

2. white america needs to take a deep breath and confront some ugly truths about our history

3. colonel sanders wound up not liking kfc that much

4. apparently he believed that regular gravy had nutritional value?

5. maybe colonel sanders does have a secret fan club after all because why else would internet strangers keep trying to defend his honor to me, a random girl they have never met who wrote a goofy tumblr post about a dead man one time.