California teen launches petition calling on Trader Joe’s to change ‘racist packaging’ https://t.co/EUkjGmnSt5
— East Bay Times (@EastBayTimes) July 20, 2020
On my first read of this, I thought… well, yeah. That’s definitely racist. Of course you can’t have Trader Ming products. Unless it were a collaboration with Yao Ming. Trader José seems bad too. Unless it were a collab with José Aldo, or Canseco, but I don’t see Canseco getting his wheat thins in the TJ’s aisles anytime soon. Finally, I don’t know enough about Italy to understand the nuances of Trader Giotto. Sorry, ignorant hand up.
Point is, this one made sense to me. Frankly, I was more surprised to find out that those products were still on the shelves at Trader Joe’s. Here’s a better explanation from the expert:
NY Times– “They’re racist because they exoticize other cultures, present ‘Joe’ as this default normal, and then the other characters — such as Thai Joe, Trader José, Trader Joe San — falling outside of it,” said Briones Bedell, 17, who started the petition.
Got it. Thanks 17-year-old Briones.
Not who I was expecting, but cool. Good work.
Then I started reading some of the tweet replies.
I’m Latina &its a slap in the face to consider something so trivial like this racist. It’s offensive telling us how to feel or saying we lack empathy ; when our children are in cages and black people are being killed senselessly. People gotta do better deciding what to fight for
— 🧚🏼♀️✨ (@DaGlamaTrappa) July 20, 2020
I don't think this branding is racist so much as it's inclusive. I am 2nd Generation American with very many family roots in Italy and I was happy to buy products with "Trader Giotto" branded on them.
— kn0wmad1c (@kn0wmad1c) July 20, 2020
This is getting f***ing ridiculous. I am part Hispanict – and I can tell you that I am not offended by "Trader Jose" – I thought it was kinda funny. Some teenage kid w/ too much time on their hands needs to get over themselves & ask if anyone needed this to be an issue.
— Giovanni L Valentino – XBIZ MIAMI (@gilv) July 20, 2020
Yeah, "José" is Joseph in Spanish. Joe is short for Joseph. I don't see how that's racist. And I'm latino.
— Cartagena (@nelcartagena85) July 20, 2020
Now my head is spinning. Am I racist for thinking these products were racist? Clearly, my racism-dar is broken. Or maybe it never worked in the first place. Do I get credit for acknowledging that at least? Can someone please validate that I, as a white person, have pointed out that I don’t know what is/is not racist? Briones, if you’re reading this, please weigh in.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen many brands “update” and “evolve” their signature characters: Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Mrs. Butterworth, the Land ‘O Lakes Native American woman, the Cream Of Wheat chef… it’s all changing. And that’s good. Of course. Many of these characters were created decades ago and bore exaggerated features that harkened back to the “othering” of blackface and minstrel shows. Moving away from these characters seems obvious. About time.
But after reading these tweet responses, “Trader José” doesn’t seem that crazy. Trader Ming still does. And I still have no idea on Trader Giotto. I guess what that tells me is that offensiveness can be subjective. And the best way to figure it out is by asking members of the offended group. Right?
Sorry Briones. Please don’t @ me.
PS- Gary Gulman here to save the day…