Stock up on any Middle Eastern couscous this week? Snag a jar of El Paso picante sauce for Taco Tuesday?
Find any of it in the international food aisle? Yes? Congratulations, you’re a racist!
According to a new Washington Post expose, the fact that certain ethnic foods – namely Asian and Hispanic items – are in their own section at the grocery story is a latent sign of “racism” that echoes – wait for it – the Jim Crow era.
The Washington Post writes:
The sting occurs whenever they walk down the “ethnic” food aisle, the section of the supermarket that, to some, plays out like a remnant of the Jim Crow era, when laws established separate facilities for African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South. Sometimes known as the “international” food aisle, or even “Asian” and “Latino” aisles, these rows can come across to the shoppers they seemingly target as de facto segregation, another kind of “separate but equal” policy that marginalized African Americans for generations.
Never mind that putting the taco shells and curry paste in their own easy-to-find, open-to-everyone section in Walmart has absolutely nothing to do with the segregationist policies that once prohibited blacks from using the same water fountain as their white counterparts. And never mind that simply clustering the refried beans next to the enchilada sauce for more convenient shopping isn’t the same as prohibiting a certain segment of the populace from touching it. It’s racist – and you’re a racist if you disagree.
“If you go to the ethnic food aisle, that is sort of the last bastion of racism that you can see in full daylight in retail America,” Momofuku chef David Chang said, per the Washington Post. “It is something that’s got to go.”
“All the foods in the ethnic food aisle are already accepted. So why do we even have them?” he added, claiming that the aisles remind him of “1950s America, which was not a particularly good place to be, especially if you were Asian.”
Using Chang as a conduit, the Washington Post goes on to explain how certain foods made their way into grocery stores in the first place, many of them originally being placed in their own section of the store to supposedly keep them from mixing with more “white people” cuisine. But despite the fact that grocery stores are about as mixed as you can get without just jumbling in all up in a giant pile in the middle of the floor, our cultural progress means nothing when there are echoes of racism to be found.
(Cover Photo: Elvis Batiz - Flickr)