The need for serious racial dialogue in America has been called for by presidents and protesters, pundits and people who reply to pundits with “#WhiteGenocide” hashtags alike. And as 2017 dawns, it seems that dialogue is at last ready to begin, thanks to the efforts of one
Bob Ice Bo Bice. The former American Idol contestant may have come in second to Carrie Underwood on the reality show’s fourth season, but he arrived first on the front lines of racial healing this week after calling out the “racist behavior” he recently experienced at a Popeye’s Chicken, where one employee referred to Bice, a white man, as “that white boy.” Bice took his outrage over this slight first to social media then the actual world, sitting for an interview with Atlanta’s FOX 5 in which he wept openly, his serious glasses heartbreakingly askew, as he described how the humiliation he felt at having to “come down a notch and look like a petty little brat by tweeting and Facebooking this, just to open up dialogue so we can have an adult conversation, is ridiculous.”
“America, you should be ashamed,” Bice concluded of the nation’s cowardly refusal to confront its deep-seated racial prejudices, which has now played out across centuries marred by slavery, lynching, segregation, hate crimes, denials of basic human rights, beatings and deaths at the hands of police officers, and being treated rudely at restaurants.
Bice first decried the “RACIST EMPLOYEES” of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Popeye’s on Facebook, recounting how one in particular had remarked, “He’s already got his [food], that white boy over there.” According to Bice’s post, this slight was also preceded by the employees “laughing and mocking my name (Bow-Bow, Boo-Boo, Bo-Bo) for 5 minutes straight.” Still, it wasn’t until Bice was so blithely tarred as “white” that he realized his humiliation wasn’t just your ordinary, Yelp-able experience of poor customer service at an airport chicken-hole. Rather, it was a harrowing embodiment of the “racist double standards that have infested our society.”
Unfortunately, after amassing a system-overloading “800 likes,” his clarion call was soon deleted, forcing Bice to repost it as a screenshot, along with a threat of legal action against Popeye’s. Bice also issued the equally alarming threat to delete the “communist media platform” that is Facebook, which had now become complicit in his systematic oppression.
While Bice has yet to make good on that part of the revolution, he was soon given another platform via FOX 5, where he sought redress for his public embarrassment by crying on television about being called “white,” “Bo-Bo,” and other hurtful slurs.
“If tables had been turned and I used something as insensitive as to say something like that… I would be boycotted, there would be people not buying my albums, there would be people coming and picketing at my shows,” said Bice, whose most recent album, 2010’s 3, may not have moved all 11,000 of its copies had he, for example, derided Black Lives Matter protesters as “chaos mongers” or suggested that all Muslims are terrorists, in a year when he still had albums to sell. Fortunately, such statements seem as unlikely to derail his career as his two, early-2000s arrests for cocaine and marijuana possession, charges that were ultimately dismissed (and surely would have, again, had the race tables been turned).
After Bice’s interview went viral, he once again took to social media to respond to the comments it’s received, saying the backlash only “proves my point that we have a major problem with racial prejudice in our country and society”—specifically, the kind of racial prejudice that was exacted upon Bo Bice when someone called him “white boy” one time. He also took pains to explain that his tears weren’t solely over the pain of being called “white boy,” but because “I began to cry and got emotional because I told a story of buying a build-a-bear for a young girl for Christmas this year in Birmingham who was black.”
That Bice could do this for a girl—who was black—yet still find himself so callously described as “white,” he believes, only goes to show that there’s simply “NO STANDARDS” in America anymore. But on the agora for the free exchange of ideas that is Bo Bice’s still-not-deleted Facebook page, at least, Bice welcomes the opportunity to at last have an “adult dialogue,” so long as it doesn’t resort to such petty insults.
“There will be no more calling of names and defamatory hateful laguage [sic] toward people on my page,” declared Bice, who four days ago called Mariah Carey “trash.”
In addition to finally getting America to talk openly about race, Bice also got the apology he was seeking from Popeye’s franchise owner Mack II, who assured Bice that “corrective action” was taken against the employee who had insulted him. Bice made it clear that the employee in question “wasn’t fired, and the reason she wasn’t fired is because I asked … her manager not to do so,” a benevolence he bestowed upon this woman even though she had briefly made him feel so small and trapped within an institutionalized racial power structure beyond his control. Consider it an expression of gratitude for the opportunity we now have to talk about this inequality, all through the prism of Bo Bice.
On a tangential note, Bo Bice was hospitalized more than 20 times in 2005-2006 for an intestinal disorder and should maybe lay off the Popeye’s. Otherwise who will lead us through all this racial dialogue he started?