The New York Times reports that Trader Joe's has declared that its ethnic food labels, using terms such as "Trader José," "Trader Giotto," and "Trader Ming," are not racist, and that it will not change them.
The announcement comes after an online petition argued that these names tended to reinforce racial stereotypes. Trader Joe's responded by saying last month that even before the petition it was re-evaluating the names.
Kenya Friend-Daniel, the company’s national director of public relations, said that "while this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day. With this in mind, we made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe’s name on our products moving forward."
This weekend, however, Friend-Daniel said that she only was referring to labels created since 2017.
Now, the company is saying that "we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions."
- KC's View:
I don't know what decision Trader Joe's ought to be making about its labels, but I am pretty sure that they need to make some changes in how it handles public relations. There are few things worth than the kind of public dithering in which it engaged.
I assume that Trader Joe's decided that it would do less harm to its brand by keeping the names than changing them, and that's a legitimate conclusion … as long as they realize that they may take a hit from consumers who feel differently. It is a calculation.
Me, I would've changed the names and erred on the side of sensitivity. I would've decided that what I saw as lighthearted might be seen as offensive by others.
When people use derogatory terms to talk about me, they usually are not specific to my heritage. I can imagine that I might be offended if a retailer started describing Irish products as being perfect for "bog trotters."