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Home Office Reinforces Racist Stereotypes Around Fried Chicken Shops With Knife Crime Campaign

Using Morley’s, Chicken Cottage, and Dixy Chicken as advertising estate feeds into racial stereotyping

A fried chicken box to tackle knife crime with the words “knife free” printed on it, with a Morley’s box and can of fizzy drink in the foreground Home Office [Official Photo]

The Home Office’s new knife crime campaign has many problems

The Home Office has partnered with advertising agency All City Media Solutions to brand fried chicken boxes with its #knifefree campaign, previously deployed on screens around the city. 320,000 of them are being distributed around the U.K., largely to Morley’s, Dixy Chicken, and Chicken Cottage, as well as independent shops.

There is no denying that this campaign contributes to racist stereotypes, particularly coming from a Home Office led by a man who has referred to black people as “piccanninies” with “watermelon smiles.” It comes from a Home Office whose immigration policy devoted itself to generating a “hostile environment”; it comes from a government who recently announced an increase in discriminatory stop-and-search powers, with black men already nine times more likely to be stopped than white men. It comes from a government who, as youth worker and journalist Ciaran Tharpar wrote in April, has built policy in which “public services -- child mental health support, youth clubs, policing -- are shredded by the state,” leading to “a sense of isolation and insecurity [starting to] seep into the collective experience of urban communities at a higher rate than ever before.” Engaging young people in the spaces they feel safe in with friends on a systemic issue is not a bad idea: the organisation that forced those spaces to be one of few available through cuts, aggressive policing, and structural racism attempting to do so is definitely a bad idea. Trust deficits mean a lot.

That’s what makes this more than a clumsy, ineffectual advertising campaign. It bespeaks a structural inability — or unwillingness — to do the hard work that could start to change London for the better for BAME communities. To spend the money needed to provide, maintain, and fund community spaces and resources of support — spaces that this government has closed down. To introduce policing models that don’t lead to a cycle of opression and adversarial violence. To consult with, and involve, black advertising specialists, community leaders, and politicians, instead of, as Kuba Shand-Baptiste writes, addressing a “complex issue around crime, policing and society that ought to demand a careful and deep policy response” by “courting former Tory party voters who like their politics with a side of xenophobia and racism.” The Home Office and government at large fails to understand that its policies, its initiatives, and its rhetoric is what fuels knife crime — and what, when the community centres are closed, the police numbers are increased, and more young people die on London’s streets, leaves them turning to chicken boxes like it’s a bright idea.

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