Racism is one of those strange things that becomes hard to define once it falls into gray areas. For example, a statement along the lines of "I don't trust Kosovars because they are a naturally shifty people" is a racist statement, but something like "I don't do business with Kosovars because culturally they are opposed to signing written documents" wouldn't be. (Whether that statement is true or not is more the issue). What I don't get, though, is this idea that associating certain racial or ethnic groups with certain foods is racist.
Enter the latest controversy--fried chicken joints using Barack Obama's name in their title. Al Sharpton cries "racism", which is about as serious as Jessica Alba crying out "terrible actress!" so let's ignore his involvement in this. Is there anything inherently racist about associating a famous black person with fried chicken?
Fact--fried chicken is a staple of Southern cooking (believed to be imported by Scottish immigrants). Fact--most black Americans descend from the slave culture in the South, likely adopting many culinary traits from that region. (It's no coincidence that soul food and southern cuisine are very similar) Fact--fried chicken happens to be delicious and while obviously unhealthy there is simply nothing pejorative about associating blacks with a popular way to prepare chicken.
Think about it--calling an Italian a "pasta eater" happens to be true, and there's nothing negative there. (We do love our pasta! But don't put catsup on it or I'll accuse you of being from the Midwest) Calling a Mexican a taco eater might be less true (I think more Americans eat tacos than actual Mexicans), but it's hard to find the negativity in claiming they like that tasty snack.
Can something be racist if there's no negativity involved?