‘Trader José’s’ Racist?

CNN – More than 1,700 people have signed a petition urging Trader Joe’s to change the labeling of some of its international food products, calling the grocery chain’s branding “racist.” [Since CNN published this report, the number of online signatures has surpassed 2,200.]

“The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of “Joe” that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” the petition, which a California high school senior launched two weeks ago, reads.

It cites:

  • “Trader Ming’s,” the grocery chain’s label for its Chinese products,
  • “Arabian Joe,” for its Middle Eastern products,
  • “Trader José,” for its Mexican products,
  • and a handful of others as examples.

“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,” the petition says.

The grocery store chain, which first opened in Pasadena, California, in 1967, said it has already “been in the process of updating order labels, and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe’s.”

Taco shells sold at Trader Joe’s branded with “Trader Jose’s … ” Read more.

Trader Joe’s: Remove Racist Packaging From Your Products

Change.org – 2,218 have signed

We demand that Trader Joe’s remove racist branding and packaging from its stores. The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of “Joe” that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. For

example, “Trader Ming’s” is used to brand the chain’s Chinese food, “Arabian Joe” brands Middle Eastern foods, “Trader José” brands Mexican foods, “Trader Giotto’s” is for Italian food, and “Trader Joe San” brands their Japanese cuisine.

Furthermore, the Trader Joe’s company takes pride in the fact that the founder, Joe Coulombe, took inspiration in building the Trader Joe’s brand from a racist book and a controversial theme park attraction, both of which have received criticism for romanticizing Western Imperialism and fetishizing non-Western peoples.

We learn directly from the Trader Joe’s website that the first Trader Joe’s store:

“had a nautical theme and it was run by people who were described as “traders on the high seas.” At the time, Joe had been reading a book called “White Shadows in the South Seas,” and he’d been to the Disneyland Jungle Trip ride, and it all just…coalesced. To this day, Trader Joe’s Crew Members consider themselves “traders on the culinary seas” and are known for their bright, tropical-patterned shirts…”

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