Fried Chicken and Me: A Black History Month Expose

For the third post in my Black History Month series, I have decided to tackle a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and that of my fellow Blacks around the globe: Fried Chicken.

Over the years, many of my non-Black counterparts have often asked me the question, “[Kay]….why do Black people love fried chicken so much?”

My response is always the same, “[Counterpart]…be real, EVERYBODY loves fried chicken (so much).”

What I want to say to them, but rarely have the time to explain, is that the real question that they are asking isn’t why Blacks love to eat the most glorious culinary delight ever created.   The answer to that is simple.  It’s crunchy, it’s seasoned, and you can put hot sauce, mild sauce, and ketchup on it.

What I want to say to them is that the question that they are really asking is, “Why do Black people eat SO MUCH fried chicken?”

That question, while less politically-correct, is a real topic- worthy discussion…especially in Chicago.

Last week, the Manhattan Institute published a study confirming to the world what most of us already know: Chicago is most segregated city in the U.S.

I won’t take time reiterating points outlined in the article, however, I would like to explain the obvious impact of de-facto segregation and the implications that it has had on the access to non-fried chicken food options for communities of color:

A quick snapshot of the south side* of Chicago reveals the following:

  • It comprises 40 of the 77 communities
  • It covers 60% of the land in the city
  • It has a higher ratio of single family homes than elsewhere in the city
  • It holds the majority of industrial-zoned land outside of the central business district

To sum up the facts listed above, one could simply say there is a lot of land, a lot of business opportunities, and a lot of hungry people on the south side.

430 vs. Nothing

You would think with so much land and so many hungry people, the food heavens would open up and rain upon us every tasty delight that one could hope for.

However, that is the furthest thing from reality.

A quick search on yelp will reveal a great snapshot of fast-food options that south-siders (approximately 40% of the city’s population) enjoy. There are approximately:

  •  430 fried chicken options
  • 1 Chipotle
  • 1 Jamba Juice
  • 3 Potbellys
  • 1 Panera Bread
  • 5 Starbucks (compared to 123 in communities north of the central business district)

Yes, non-south siders...there is a place where Whole Foods and Trader Joes do not exist.

So what’s a hungry Black girl to do?  What’s a south sider to do?

Yes, we can cook more.

Which is what I personally end up doing 75% of the time.

Yet, every now and then, when my day has been long and my child has been crying and my husband is hungry, I would just like something good to eat and easy to access.

I would love it if those options included a salad, or a Panini, or even a falafel sandwich but for now, until better options are available, when I’m really hungry, and I don’t have anything to cook, I’ll continue to painfully enjoy my four wing dinners and pray that my blood doesn’t turn to frying oil, that my hair doesn’t turn into flour, and that my sweat doesn’t turn into mild sauce, hot sauce, or ketchup.


*Southside is defined as all communities south of Roosevelt street and east of Western avenue in Chicago, Illinois.


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  • My kids dip their chicken nuggets in ketchup, but ketchup on fried chicken? People do that?

  • Oh young have much to learn... :-)

  • Teach me, Obi-Wan. About fried chicken and mixed movie metaphors.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:


  • It's racism. You are what you eat. Don't give us healthy options to keep us sick and dependent on the institutions they provide for wellness; which miseducate, underrepresent, and ulimately kill us. That Whole Foods in Hyde Park will be off the what I tell you. People are starving for real food...not that blue bag chicken loaded with nitrates and salt.

  • Smoothcatwith3longlegs:

    That's a heck of a user name, btw. Thanks for your comment.

    I certainly understand your frustration, and I definitely agree that it's funny economics. However, for the sake of argument, you have to consider that there are healthier fast food options available in predominately Black cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, and DC. So if the Chick-Fil-A's or Cosi's of the world are racist, why develop a presence in those cities?

    Perhaps, something else is at play?

    One point that shouldn't be dismissed is the role that aldermen play in the development of wards. In many ways they act as gatekeepers. There are numerous examples of how aldermen use city TIF dollars to support and promote development projects that ultimately line their pwn pockets. This is one of the speculated reasons why Bronzeville was never commercially developed, with the exception of the one pet project of a previous alderman that should remain nameless.

    Yet, on the other hand, that would assume that north side aldermen aren't also receiving kickbacks for development projects and I'm not sure if I believe that is the case either...

  • Oh unsearching Padawans of the south side, I can't say this enough. Take your fast food loving selves to H-Dawgs at 47th and King Drive. The Frenchie is my personal favorite. It's a duck sausage topped with caramelized onion and a sweet and spicy relish. I take mine with a side of french fried sweet potatoes.

    Not only is the food great, but the place is owned by a community member. Bon Apetite!

  • Yummy! Thanks Danie for the tip! I like in Kenwood and I've never been to that place!

    By the way, I've been enjoying your posts. You are awesome!

  • You've thrown down again! You've quickly become a must read! Thanks!

    And Danie: I disagree that Kay is a Padawan. She's a Jedi Master. (although Anakin will probably pitch another fit at the quick ascent)

  • In reply to Brian C. Thomas:

    Thanks Brian! I've enjoyed your blogs this week as well!

  • You are so right. As a new south sider, I have said and written that the south side is a food and restaurant desert. Great for hot dogs and especially pizza places. But, if I want a decent Thai meal or anything out of the ordinary, I'm driving back to the north side.

  • In reply to John Chatz:

    Hi John, thanks for your comment! Believe me, I feel your pain! There are a few Thai places east on 55th in Hyde Park if you get desperate for a Thai fix!

  • fb_avatar

    ah, but can you get a polish 24/7 that comes with fries and free air freshener in wicker park??? NOT!

    i'll take the south side, thank you!

  • In reply to Blogger X:

    LOL!! Hilarious and sooooooo true!

  • fb_avatar

    OMG!!!!! Talk about a food desert! Please, for your gastronomical cravings, do not, I repeat, do not come to PITTSburgh!!!
    Oh, how I long to have a 1/2 dark, extra mild sauce and an extra slice of bread...or a 4 wing lunch special, complete with fries and cole slaw....enough, I'm killing myself!
    Oh, the disappointment of discovering that ordering wings here means that you get 'wing dings', 6 for $5...Yes, I returned the order and told them they were guilty of false advertising....
    There are no Church's, Harold's or J and J...only KFC and Popeye's...AND, if you expect to enjoy a 'whole' wing, you've got to go to a place with a name like, The Black Beauty or Acey/Deucy..or some other so-called black establishment where the wings are decent, but I can buy my own and get more for the $ they want me to dole out..
    I must admit, that I visit home as often as I can so that I can indulge in whatever I can't get here (which is everything). Italian beef, hot and mild peppers on the side; a polish, smothered with onions and a side of sport peppers; a REAL Vienna hot dog, with 'our' relish, mustard, pickle, etc.; pizza, whether deep dish or thin crust.; rib tips, which btw are not sold here at all (gasp), with mixed sauce; wings, wings, wings and dare I say, White Castle!!!
    Oh, the horror of it all..yet, as long as I can still think about those delectable goodies, I'm good...until my next visit home....

  • In reply to Leona Bisquick:

    LOL! Leona Bisquick! You are too funny! Thank you for your comment.

    I'm so sorry to hear that you are living a wing-deprived life in Pittsburgh! Just remember that Chicago (aka chicken wing heaven) is always here waiting for you...if you choose to return. :-)

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    Kay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger who focuses on race, politics and urban culture. Having worked on public policy at the state, regional, city and community level, her opinions have been featured in the Chicago SunTimes and a host of news websites (under very mysterious sounding pseudonyms). Follow her on Twitter @kaywillsmith or contact her at

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