Colonel Sanders KFC Logo - © KFC

Sunday Musings: Why is Col. Sanders Still Embraced?

So, I was glancing through my notes about issues I promised to keep an eye on for you, dear readers, and came across a mention of the imminent re-branding of several racially unacceptable food product names. This was during the hay-day of the Black Lives Matter flare-up last year…

KFC Pillow - © 2017 KFCThe universal Colonel: Why has he traditionally been embraced (literally)
as a fatherly character when his image reeks of ‘Southern Planter’?

The Aunt Jemima people have announced they’ll re-brand their pancake mix and syrups and so on to “Pearl Milling Company’ later this year, reviving the identity of the company that owned and manufactured the Aunt Jemima brand way back in 1888. It makes sense on a number of counts; not the least of which is, it appeals to heritage fans, who are becoming quite vocal these days about preserving their countries’ histories and traditions. Mostly, though, it will appeal to those activists who protested that the Aunt Jemima character perpetuated the stereotype of the Southern Black Mammy – a thing to be avoided at all costs in today’s racially explosive atmosphere.

Something bigger, darker

But the name and imagery associated with an ancient and venerable pancake mix company seems an infinitely small issue when compared to a much larger and potentially more flammable one stemming from the same roots. I refer to the ongoing standoff between historians and traditionalists, and BLM activists, about the propriety of displaying statues of confederate Civil War ‘heroes’ and the battle flag of the Confederacy.

No, I’m not going to go over the whole thing about the statues again, and how they were torn down in some cases by vigilante mobs and destroyed. Nor am I going to rekindle the arguments over re-naming U.S. military bases that have perpetuated the memories of Confederate military figures and battle honours for more than 150 years.

The more you think about it…

I am, in fact, getting back on the food track with a question that we really do need to muse upon: Should we insist that KFC do away with the name and image of beloved Colonel Sanders as its great patron and founder because it is racially tarnished?

I hear you sniggering there, in the back of the hall. But consider this: The ‘Colonel’ was never a Colonel until he was honoured by Kentucky for making the state synonymous world-wide with the best of southern culinary tradition, Southern Fried Chicken. He was, in fact, what was – and remains – known as a Kentucky Colonel, a ceremonial appointment that empowers (actually, requires) the holder to raise a regiment for a new army to defend the State and the Southern way of life as a whole should the North get uppity again, or the Confederacy be revived (which has long been the cherished dream of die-hard southerners who refuse to admit that their forebears lost the War).

Consider the imagery associated with the Colonel. He wears a white tropical-weight suit and string tie, and a style of facial hair associated with southern ‘gentlemen’ during the Civil War era. It could be argued that he simply reeks of ‘Southern Planter’, the very sort of character who invented and perpetuated the stereotype of cotton-cultivating black-slave culture.

But instead, he has traditionally been embraced as a fatherly character who’s one-person crusade is generally regarded as the reason Southern Fried Chicken is now revered the world over and has spawned hundreds of copy-cat brands that thrive just about everywhere you can imagine.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

I put it to you: should your next protest target be Colonel Sanders? Based solely on the facts, he is a much more objectionable figure than most of the others who have already been vilified, and in some cases all but erased from history, by the racial justice movement.

The more I think about the situation, the more I wonder why the issue of the Colonel’s heritage and imagery hasn’t been called out, condemned and cleansed already.

Can somebody please tell me why Harland Sanders has (thus far, at least) escaped the vengeful whirlwind?

~ Maggie J.