Grocery chain Trader Joe’s won’t be changing its supposedly “racist” product labels. In an era where suspect tweets can ruin careers, the decision is a reminder that online activism doesn’t always matter in real life.
According to more than 5,000 signatories of an online petition, some of the chain’s branding – which sees its Italian range labeled ‘Trader Giotto’s’, its Mexican range called ‘Trader Jose’s’, and its Chinese food named ‘Trader Ming’s’ – is racist.
The branding “exoticizes other cultures,” the petition states. Furthermore, the petition alleges that the company’s founder Joe Coulombe drew inspiration from a “racist” book about “traders on the high seas” that has been accused of “romanticizing Western Imperialism and fetishizing non-Western peoples.”
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The verbiage is typical of the woke left, and such is the cultural sway of that movement that the media took notice and Trader Joe’s felt obliged to respond. In a statement to CNN, a spokeswoman said that the company recognized its apparent insensitivity and would be rebranding any offensive packaging.
A week later, the grocery chain about-turned and said that its packaging isn’t “racist,” that nothing would be renamed “based on petitions,” and that its actual customers – not a small group of online busybodies – quite like the branding.
The resolution to the non-issue grabbed national media attention and garnered praise online. Fox News’ Stuart Varney called the company’s response a “win for sanity,” while podcaster Bret Weinstein commended the firm for standing “up against lunacy.”
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Trader Joe’s is an outlier in that it stayed resolute in the face of an online outrage campaign. Similar crusades have seen the Washington Redskins rebrand as ‘Washington Football Team’, Quaker Oats drop ‘Aunt Jemima’ from its syrup labels, and Nestle rename its ‘Eskimo Pie’ ice-cream.
Ultimately, these campaigns succeeded because the companies in question decided to give in, instead of standing their ground. What Trader Joe’s evidently realized is something known instinctively by most of the population: Twitter isn’t real life. That’s not to say people haven’t had their lives and careers ruined for online snafus – just ask the Cisco employees fired for writing “all lives matter” in a group chat last month – but if you control your own business and income, there’s not a whole lot the mob can do.
As a privately held company, Trader Joe’s doesn’t even have shareholders to appease or a stock value to protect. Unless customers desert the store en masse, the woke petitioners have literally no power here.
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Not that this should have ever been a national issue. 5,000 anonymous signatories is not a critical mass of outraged people. It’s just under four people for every one of Trader Joe’s 505 US locations. Four times as many people have signed a petition to save a cat sanctuary in New York, for example, and CNN hasn’t dispatched reporters to the scene or asked local authorities for a statement.
Media attention gives these witch hunts the oxygen they need, and the prevailing climate of wokeness gives them fuel, but those targeted – like Trader Joe’s – often have the final say. A short, sharp “no” is all it takes.
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