As the chicken wars of the week persisted on who had the most delectable chicken breast sandwich between Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, a viral meme of an exhausted Black female Popeyes employee crouched over on a bench with her hands delicately clasped, made its rounds on social media on Thursday.The day was marked as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, a moment where multiple individuals and organizations socialized stats which reflected the wide wage gap that Black women face as the most unappreciated population of the work force.
As social media circulated the meme of the lonely woman worker who could’ve been anyone’s mother, or aunt, I began to think about the use of social media as an often times, tone-deaf way of communicating. The back and forth of Twitter’s argument over who reigns supreme of seasoned breaded chicken had its comedic fill, no doubt, but looking at the agony of the woman made me feel a sudden desire to shield her from any commentary that was sure to come her way.
A tweet from Twitter user @DanaVivianWhite sums up this very sentiment when she answered a call to “caption” the image.
“‘I work on my feet for 8hrs a day and don’t earn enough to save for retirement to take a vacation or help my child with tuition or buy a home, but now the same people who dehumanize me while I’m working are dehumanizing me on Twitter.’ How’s that,” she wrote.
And White was not alone in her assessment. Many others chimed in to discuss how disrespectful and dismissive it was to capture this unknown woman in a private moment.
In this woman I see another reiteration of the Black mammy figure who was reduced to the shadows of rearing children and other unthinkable atrocities. Instead her daily labor is providing processed food under a corporate system that does not see her value.
If Black women are already fighting to merely earn .61 cents to the dollar of their white male counterparts, what financial feats exist for a fast food worker, a Black woman one at that, who is fighting to make at least $15 an hour as part of the national conversation to raise the minimum wage. It is shameful and abhorrent practice that descendants of the Transatlantic slave trade still continue to struggle under the weight of capitalism and greed.
And it is even more horrific to realize that her suffering was made into content consumption for the masses as the next internet trope. I hope she knows that she is appreciated. I hope she knows that she is seen.