Trader Joe’s, who said earlier this month he was set to change the names of some of his products after an online petition denounced them as racist, now says he will stick to labels like Trader Jose’s and Trader Ming’s for Mexican and Asian cuisine.
The eclectic nationwide supermarket chain has 19 locations in Massachusetts, including Route 9 in Shrewsbury.
“We want to be clear: we don’t agree that none of these labels are racist,” the famous grocery chain said in a statement posted on its website. He added: “We don’t make decisions on the basis of petitions.”
The petition posted on change.org by a high school student claims that the names create “a tale of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.”
Other Trader Joe names cited include Trader Giotto and Trader Joe San for Italian and Japanese foods.
After the petition was launched, Trader Joe’s issued a statement indicating that it is in the process of updating these product labels.
“While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a slight attempt at inclusion, we recognize that it can now have the opposite effect – an effect contrary to the welcoming and rewarding customer experience that we strive for. to create every day, ”Kenya Friend-Daniel company spokesperson said at the time.
But in its recent statement, the grocery chain said it still believes the names, mostly created decades ago, represented light efforts to be inclusive, adding that its customers say they love them. always.
“We thought then – and we still do – that this product naming could be fun and show our appreciation for other cultures,” the company added.
This was news for Briones Bedell, the high school student from the San Francisco Bay area who started the petition.
“It appears to be this complete reversal of their previous commitment to remove international food names that the company itself has described as not conducive to creating a welcoming customer experience,” she said. told The Associated Press.
In an email Friday, Friend-Daniel said the company had indeed dropped some names over the years, including Arabian Joe’s and Armenian Joe’s, and may drop others in the future. But it will only be on the contribution of its employees and customers and not on Bedell’s petition.
“In the future, we will continue to evaluate these products with name variations that remain in our stores,” said Friend-Daniel. “If we find that certain product names and / or products do not resonate with customers, we will not hesitate to make changes.”
Bedell, who described herself and her family as frequent buyers of Trader Joe’s until she started her petition, said she still found the names in question offensive.
But she did not launch her petition campaign, she said, before delving into the history of the company founded by the late Joe Coulombe in 1958.
The chain’s website describes how its name and South Pacific decor was inspired by its reading of the book “White Shadows in the South Seas” and a ride on the Disneyland Jungle Boat Cruise, a comedic attraction that takes people around. along rivers populated by rhinos, native head hunters and others who threaten to attack them.
She saw the book and the merry-go-round as being filled with racist stereotypes of native savages and white gods that she says Trader Joe has appropriated to sell food and drink.
“It aims to enable the consumer to develop this perceived sophistication through their knowledge of worldliness through their choice of food,” she said. “But this is not a celebration or a cultural representation. It is exoticism. These marks are shells of the cultures they represent.”
Although her petition garnered more than 5,000 signatures on Friday, it brought Bedell intense love at first sight on social media, where she was the frequent target of vile and sexist slurs and other slurs.
Interestingly, she said, criticism has come from all walks of life, with Conservatives denouncing her for promoting the culture of cancellation while the Liberals accusing her of wasting time on a trivial matter.
Despite this, she wants the debate to continue.
“I’m really grateful that it sparked so many conversations like this,” she said. “I hope that in any future endeavor I can act as a facilitator so that people can decide for themselves what is right.
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