KFC has had enough of the white man with the white beard in the white suit telling millions of often non-white customers to lick their fingers in the coronavirus era. So, the fried chicken staple of southern cuisine is moving forward with a bold new campaign to guarantee that chickens won't be the only ones feeling the Bern.
On Tuesday, KFC's parent company, Yum! Brands, announced a total brand redesign for the $5 billion fast food chain. "After nearly 70 years as the face of 'finger lickin' good'", Yum! Brands CEO David Gibbs said in a statement, "we believe Colonel Harland Sanders has earned his retirement."
"After nearly 70 years as the face of 'finger-lickin' good... we believe Colonel Harland Sanders has earned his retirement."
But a quick look online suggests that the true motive behind this massive rebranding goes much deeper than the corporate giant's sweet send away alludes to.
Last month, KFC joined a drove of mega-companies, from Coca-Cola to Delta Airlines, to lambast Texas and Georgia's Republican-supported voting bills as the epitome of 21st century Jim Crow. But while the companies hurled threats of boycotts, strongly worded statements, and other corporate equivalents of flipping the bird, KFC was thrown into a fire of its own.
Online progressive activists quickly called out the company for its alleged hypocrisy. One blue check Twitter user wrote, "Priceless. The whitest face in fast food thinks it isn't part of the problem. Remind us what former slave state you're from, Colonel? #KKKFC"
Some Black Lives Matter activists also insisted KFC was propagating a "harmful anti-black stereotype" by using a white, southern man to sell buckets of fried chicken.
And others resurfaced KFC's own comments from back in June 2020. At the time, fellow culinary brands like Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat, and Uncle Ben's Rice were busy announcing plans to retire their mascots amid the nationwide reckoning over race. While KFC made no such promises at the time, it did make one comment.
On June 3, 2020, the chain's official account tweeted out, "We support our Black team members, partners, and customers. We are committed to using our voice to speak up, but more importantly, using this time to listen, learn, and act to create positive social change. We have to do more. We will do more."
However, as of March 27, 2021, when activists on Twitter reminded the company of its commitment, no "more" had been done. So, in response to the blowback, KFC released another statement:
"KFC is committed to action, not just words, to address racism toward the Black community. We don't have all the answers yet, but we're listening, learning, and getting started. And we've heard you. KFC is aware of and apologizes for the harm we have caused through our branding and are committed to righting this wrong."
However, the company's new face may prove to be no less controversial. In its official rebranding statement, KFC announced that as a sign of its commitment to change, healing, and equity, the chain has signed an agreement with a much more anti-racist, but no less old and white man named "Sanders" — Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders only agreed to license his likeness to KFC if the company raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
But the agreement didn't come for free. According to sources with knowledge of the deal, Senator Sanders only agreed to license his likeness to KFC if the company raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour and provided every employee with Medicare.
Indeed, KFC's press release does go on to boast of a new $15 an hour minimum wage for all employees. But plans to instate Medicare for all were not included. Instead, KFC announced that its current healthcare plan is now available for even part-time workers to opt in.
Senator Sanders' office could not be reached for comment on whether KFC's expanded healthcare plan satisfies his Medicare for All demand. But
Bernie's Twitter page suggests that it likely did. Early this morning, Sanders' account unveiled KFC's new logo, sporting his now-officially trademarked curmudgeonly face, along with the simple caption:
But chances are, you have already thought twice about whether this story could possibly be real. Thankfully, this time, KFC's more conservative fans are spared a trip to Popeye's. But it does beg the question: In today's world, would you even bat an eye if it was true?