Reading the news has become far too depressing in a day and age of climate change, a global move toward the political right, and an age of President Dipshit, so I’ve tried to lay off reading too many breaking news stories unless they are through my round-up news summary e-mails and top headlines. What I’ve been trying to focus on more are long-form feature pieces that tend to have more research and paint a bigger picture story of a given topic. It’s likely the only way to stay sane in today’s life.
Podcasts on food, politics, science, and history are always fun, and so the intersection of all the above topics can be found in my absolute favorite podcast of all time, Gastropod. The latest podcast they released is on McDonald’s and how it became so ubiquitous. What it also touches upon is how they actually helped create jobs for black Americans during the 50s and 60s when “white flight” was happening, and the inner city was left just to black Americans. McDonald’s obviously did not discriminate “white” money from “black” money; they just wanted *all* money and then some. And so they allowed black Americans to become franchise owners in urban areas, which led to more and more black Americans eating in McDonald’s in inner cities; many of these black-owned McDonald’s franchises ended up being some of the best performing McDonald’s of that time.
The sad truth, though, is that while McDonald’s created these opportunities for black Americans, they did it 100 percent motivated out of greed and capitalism, to line their own pockets more. It was hardly because they wanted to help the black community at a time of extreme racism and segregation. Forget the government taking over the responsibility of creating opportunities for its citizens; why not just let a corporation do it so that it can profit and make money under the guise of “helping the local community”? The racist conservatives loved this idea because the idea of “black enterprise” was a more palatable solution to them than integration (because, oh, no, what would happen if people from different ethnicities mixed and actually interacted with each other!). The liberals liked it from a superficial perspective because this brought money and ownership to black communities.
Today, discrimination still persists across people of color working at McDonald’s at all levels, and sadly because of this history, fast food has become part of the stereotype of the black American diet. So when conservative commentators from Fox News talk deprecatingly about black Americans, they say they make the conscious choice to eat junk food and get fat, completely ignoring the history behind how this stereotype even came to be.
Racist stereotypes persist. Racism persists against pretty much all people of color. It’s so depressing to think about.
Oh wait. Didn’t I just say that Gastropod was my favorite podcast? It is. It helps shed light on nuggets of history like this for me that I wasn’t quite aware of before. It’s depressing, yes, but at least I am informed in an entertaining and fully researched way.