22 May 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Cooking Racism – Fojol Brothers Food Truck

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I see this truck on my way to work every day.

I wonder why Marion Barry isn’t complaining about the Fojol brothers food truck as a ‘dirty Asian shop.’ Is it the kind of Asian that people here prefer — white, caricatured minstrel show exoticizing brown people?

What is wrong with this food truck? I quote from the petition letter:

  • The names of your trucks, “Merlindia,” “Benethiopia,” and “Volithai,” presented as mythical lands, detach consumers’ experience of their cuisines from the geographic and cultural origins from which people in our city identify and call home. This process further weakens the ability of your customers and passersby to identify with the human experiences of people in the countries from which those cuisines originate. Moreover, this process dehumanizes the people in those countries and the those in our city who are refugees and immigrants from those lands.
  • The circus or traveling carnival has a long history of utilizing stereotyped depictions of foreign and Native American cultures to make money. Your references to the Fojol Brothers’ “travelling culinary carnival,” ignores that history of exoticism and racism in carnival and circus origin that profits from the other-ness and exoticism that continues racist systems in our city and the larger world we live in.
  • Intent and impact are different. We don’t mean to accuse you, Justin Vitarello, of being racist. We do mean to point out that the business that you’re promoting presents racist caricatures.  It’s important to realize that racism is a structural basis of the world we live in. We see yourintent to honor foreign cultures with your food; but your unwillingness to acknowledge your impact in a larger racist system halts the conversation we seek to promote around anti-racism.

This isn’t celebrating my culture. It is ridiculing it.

Additionally, it is rather interesting to note who is defending the food truck: mostly white people. Listen, as a white person, you need to take your cues about what is culturally and ethnically offensive from people of color. I shouldn’t have to explain why!

Stop buying from this food truck.

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