Now the Home Office is racially profiling via chicken shops. What next?
Most people in London gather around and gravitate towards chicken shops. The food is tasty and cheap, the service is quick.
When I first moved away from London, chicken shops were something I couldn’t have imagined missing as much as I did. There were two outside my school growing up. You’d go to the one closer to your bus stop. After school most kids were getting chicken. I have very happy memories of friendship and laughter that all include a small orange box in some way. Maybe I’m pinching a chip and it causes a war or maybe someone is pinching mine. One time my friend dropped her entire box of three wings and chips just after she got it and I’ve never laughed more in my life. The ‘boss man’ took pity on her and gave her another one on the house. During A Levels every Friday my friend Laureta and I were at Kings. We considered it the best because you could get a burger, chips, three wings and a drink for £2.50. We talked about our hopes and dreams in by those tiny circular tables on uncomfortable metal chairs.
The industry is largely consumed and run by the BAME community.
This is something that is obvious to everyone especially, it seems, the Home Office. Last week they tweeted out the launch of their #knifefree, chicken shop-focused anti-knife initiative, which involves printing stories warning young people of the danger of knife crime on takeaway chicken boxes.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened; who can forget the 2013 ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’ white vans? Most of us would have thought that the uproar that was caused would have made them think twice before a campaign which makes no secret of racially targeting and profiling, yet it seems that the recent chicken box campaign lacks any thought at all—or, too much racist thought.
The public reaction to this is best summed up by a tweet by Labour MP David Lammy, who quoted the Home Offices tweet saying, ‘Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What's next, #KnifeFree watermelons?’
Of course, there’s the argument that they may simply be trying to reach out to young people. However, there’s no denying that the decision to only do this in spaces which are so typically inhabited by black children is racist. I find myself thinking back to the times that me and my friends were littered outside chicken shops having fun and being rowdy. I think back to us with all our hopes and complexities and realise that to government we are just potential criminals. When the government makes targeted campaigns such as this, it alienates people of colour even further. When you consider all the different channels this campaign must have gone through, all the different people who had to sign off on it; It troubles me that no one was like ‘guys this is a really stupid idea.’
Diane Abbott, also responded to the campaign saying, “Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign,” she tweeted. “They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them.” She’s right—rather than channelling funds into the existing grassroots organisations doing real work on the ground to tackle youth knife crime, they’ve printed racist takeaway boxes.
This may seem simple on the outside—surely it’s just a box of chicken, after all. But when you’ve grown up not being able to just walk past a police officer without getting stopped for a search, when you’ve grown up in skin that was constantly villainised, skin that makes you the most likely suspect, campaigns such as these are just another way in which we are forced into otherness within society within our seemingly safe, everyday spaces.