A few days ago, George Embiricos wrote a piece about Hattie B’s, the relatively new-to-the-game hot chicken joint. He stirred up a few embers, though, with some cultural appropriation, however unintentional it may have been:
Lengthy lines — packed with locals, tourists and celebrities alike — regularly stretch down the block during peak times. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack may have created hot chicken in the 1930s, and institutions like Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish may have helped preserve the tradition over the years, but Hattie B’s has made hot chicken cool.
The drama has been unfolding over a few days. First, commenters on a Facebook group raised heck about it, but moved on. Betsy Phillips of the Nashville Scene, though, was not having it:
We’ve lived through white people “inventing” rock & roll so they could sell it to white people and then half a century of people — black and white — pointing out that it’s an older art form than that. We’ve lived through a century of “vulgar” “exotic” “indecent” dances done by black kids becoming “fun” and “energetic” and “cool” when white kids do it — see everything from the hop straight through breakdancing through whatever kids are doing today. Graffiti, when black kids were doing it, was criminal and fed into gang culture. Banksy does it and now it’s worth preserving and spending money to collect it. There’s not a black art form, food included, that by this point hasn’t been popularized by white people and then the popularized version celebrated by white media like white people invented it, or at least, perfected it.
Then just today, Phillips’ colleague, Chris Chamberlain, waded into the fray to sort-of defend Embiricos:
In my opinion, Embiricos’ piece is not a bad piece; it has a bad headline and a few awkward phrases in it that I imagine Embiricos wishes he could rework.
And he added a few good points about the whole situation:
It’s probably worth mentioning, as well, that a Nashville editor might have raised some of these issues [of racism], while Embiricos’ editor, working out of Manhattan for a national food site, didn’t see some of the landmines here.
Regular tourists flock to both Nashville locations, because … if you’re on a Pedal Tavern, it’s a long-ass trip up Dickerson Pike [to Prince’s].
All three pieces are worth a read, in order, when you’ve got a little free time.