First of all, let's dispense with a very basic fact: everyone loves fried chicken. With the possible exception of vegetarians -- who, let's be honest, are just lying to themselves -- and some remote, yet-to-be-discovered hen worshipers in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the fact that an individual enjoys poultry battered and cooked to crispy perfection in a vat of sizzling oil is basically like having 23 chromosomes or opposable thumbs.
But going out of one's way to point out that black people love fried chicken is not something that's typically done in polite society. While it may be true -- just as it's true for people of every other ethnicity ever -- it evokes uncomfortable scenes of black-faced minstrels prancing about Uncle Remus' plantation. And so when Sergio Garcia promises to serve Tiger Woods fried chicken, it doesn't go over terribly well.
That brings us to Juneteenth in Dallas where, to celebrate the anniversary of the belated emancipation of Texas' slaves 148 years ago, The Ticket's Bob and Dan Radio show broadcast live from to a black-owned southern Dallas barbershop. And served fried chicken. Then, given customer's presumably encyclopedic knowledge of the dish, asked them to guess where it came from. They called it the Juneteenth Tasting Challenge.
To a white guy from North Dallas (me!), the whole thing sounded fairly insensitive. But Donovan Lewis, the only black member of the BaD Radio trio, told Unfair Park after yesterday's show that he doesn't see it like that.
A bit of context is helpful. The Juneteenth broadcast has become something of a tradition for the show since Lewis joined it in 2006 and discovered that Bob and Dan knew next to nothing about the holiday, which had been Lewis' grandfather's favorite holiday growing up. He suggested the June 19 show help remedy that while simultaneously reaching out to listeners. "We don't get south of 20 too much," Lewis told me. "We wanted to just kind of bring the show to the hood."
The fried chicken element wasn't added until this year, and Lewis insisted that it was done in perfect innocence. A few weeks ago, Lewis said, he was participating in an event, sort of an urban version of Family Feud. One of the questions that came up asked contestants what they'd choose for their last meal. Almost everyone said fried chicken.
The next time he was getting his hair cut, Lewis and his barber got to wondering if they were expert enough to source a piece of fried chicken going only by taste. "Our big bold claim was we could do it," Lewis says.
They decided to put it to the test on the show, and the barbershop where the challenge was dreamed up -- The Lavish Lounge on Wheatland Road at Highway 67 -- seemed the logical place.
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Lewis and his co-hosts weren't blind to the racial overtones. "I think we wrestled over that a little, but [decided] we can't please everyone," he said. "I'm sure someone was offended out there, but we try to do stuff that's funny and compelling."
Lewis said the chicken tasting fell into that category.
"It's a fine line," Lewis said. "But it is what it is."
Lewis was three-out-of-five, for the record. He mixed up Williams and Church's, just like his wife told him he would.