More than 5,000 people have signed a petition calling on the grocery store chain to change what they call its racist branding names, using phrases like “Trader José” “Trader Ming’s” and “San Joe” on some of its international food products.
But Trader Joe’s is defending the practice.
“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions,” the grocery store said in a statement on July 24.
“Decades ago, our Buying Team started using product names, like Trader Giotto’s, Trader José’s, Trader Ming’s, etc. We thought then — and still do — that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures,” it continued.
This is the correct response in a couple ways. First, this packaging is not racist. Trader Joe’s isn’t discriminating or prejudiced against anyone. You can’t even argue bad intent: They’re just trying to have fun and sell more product. Second, they’re also right not to bow to the Twitter mob. If people are so offended they should shop elsewhere. Let the market decide.
The problem, according to the petition and those on its side, is that this kind of packaging exoticizes other cultures — presenting “Joe” as the norm and Ming, San Joe, José, and so on, as falling outside of that realm.
Other cultures are “exotic” compared to ours, and the reverse would be just as true, which is to say that American culture would seem exotic to those outside it. So what? That makes no value judgment.
This is what carelessness and thoughtlessness about language gets you: An uneducated mass who finds offense in anything.