(Editor’s note: I know I just posted a TJ’s piece, and I swear I’m not picking on them. I just wanted to try my hand at satire, despite being thematically identical to my last post.)
Daly City, CA – National grocery chain, Trader Joe’s, has come under fire in the past year for labels they place on some of their products such as: Trader Ming’s, Trader Jose’s and Trader Giotto’s. According to this KQED article from July 2020, a change.org petition started by high school senior, Briones Bedell, titled, Trader Joe’s Remove Racist Packaging From Your Products alleged that, “The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it — they are ‘Arabian Joe,’ ‘Trader José,’ and ‘Trader Joe San.” and “belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.” The petition is no longer accessible through change.org‘s site.
Filipino Bay Area local, Danilo Lim, 43, is upset about the labels for a different reason. “I know you can’t tell if I’m Brazilian or Korean but that doesn’t mean I just want a bunch of Trader Jose’s and Trader Ming’s and Trader Joe San’s products,” Lim said as he filled his cart with Trader Jose’s Taco Shells, Trader Ming’s Mandarin Orange Chicken and Trader Joe San’s Sokayaki sauce. “Filipinos have a rich culinary tradition that deserves to be introduced to the rest of the world! Where are all the Trader JoMar’s products? How about some Trader JoMar’s kare kare sauce or Trader JoMar’s sinigang packets? Everyone loves sinigang, especially in this crappy Daly City weather.”
When informed of the change.org petition and asked if such labels could be considered racist, he countered with, “Who started that petition? I bet it was some white kid, right? Listen, Trader Joe’s found a cool way to showcase food from all around the world. What’s racist about that? Point being, we’re the second largest Asian population in the US. Why are we so invisible?”
Ramesh Gupta, 38, also a Bay Area local who was shopping on the other side of the aisle replied, “Third largest now.”
“What?” Lim called back.
“Filipinos used to be the second largest Asian group in the US, but now you’re third. Behind Indians. But I’m not out here complaining that there’s no Trader Sanjay’s even though they sell stuff like this,” said Gupta, waving a packet of Jaipur Vegetables bearing the Trader Joe’s brand.
“What are you, a census taker?” Lim asked, clearly irate.
“Yeah,” Gupta replied.
“Oh.” Lim seemed momentarily stunned into silence.
“What you really should be asking is: What is this supposed to be?” Gupta asked, brandishing a package of Trader Ming’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower. “Are they using Ming, a traditionally Chinese name, as a catch-all for all Asian food? I ain’t mad about Asian fusion, in this case Chinese and Japanese, but don’t put it under a Chinese header. That’s just disrespectful, man.”
“Does it taste good?” Lim asked.
Gupta paused. “Actually, yeah,” he said and tossed it into his cart. “ You should try it.”
Lim walked over and placed a package in his cart. When asked if he plans to boycott Trader Joe’s for their lack of Filipino representation he replied, “No way! I get all my groceries here! I’d starve to death without this place.” He then paid for his groceries and left with a friendly wave at Gupta.