Zooming Toward Xanadu: Petition Demands Trader Joe's #Cancel Its 'Racist' Exotic Food Names

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
AP featured image
Pablo Martinez eats two hot dogs at a time during the men’s competition of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in New York’s Coney Island. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


Are you triggered at the grocery store? Do you get PTSD-like email flashbacks from the very sight of SPAM? Are you troubled by food product names? How can those doughnuts be both Krispy…and Kreamy?

Do black-eyed peas make you fear being punched? Do you find chickpeas misogynistic?

If emotionally navigating the supermarket’s a mighty foe indeed, you’ll be glad to hear the news: Trader Joe’s just might be removing some of the abject racism from its shelves.

As reported by USA Today, a Change.org petition’s demanding the fantastically-priced national health haven change the labeling on its ethnic product packaging.

Here’s how the official page of protest puts it:

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.

Here we go:

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.

The author doesn’t document how using common names from countries to represent those countries causes “harm.” And by the way — if that’s the case, why isn’t “Trader Joe’s” racist, too?


And when did geography become a race?

Regardless, the force behind the food fix goes on to suggest the very foundation of the grocery chain is downright depraved.

I give you the wicked origins of the joint on the corner that hawks 19¢ bananas:

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.

The racist regime even took cues from that malignant mecca of malevolence, Disneyland–

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…”

The book White Shadows in the South Seas was also made into a silent film. This work demonstrates the horrific legacy of trading companies as they exploited and enslaved the South Pacific in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these regions are still at a disadvantage today because of how traders ravaged their peoples, their societies, and their natural resources.


The petition takes time to further drill Disney:

Likewise, the Disneyland Jungle Cruise Ride has received criticism of misappropriating Indigenous culture and perpetuating stereotypes of native people as primitive and savage.

Back to TJ’s, in summary:

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.” The book, White Shadows in the South Seas is racist because it perpetuates the myth of the “white god” and the “noble savage” stereotypes. It becomes even more racist in context because the founder of Trader Joe’s said that he was inspired by this book in some way when creating his company, a book which shows traders’ exotification of non-Western peoples turned into violent exploitation and destruction. The Disney Jungle Cruise is racist because it displays caricatures of non-Western peoples alongside exotic animals, as an attraction at a theme park to be gawked at.

So are you still sitting at home reading this, or are you already on your way to CVS for poster board and markers, Mission Picket Trader Joe’s impending?

Personally, I think if someone wants to rally for food moniker modification, they should lay off Trader Joe’s and major in the majors.


How about starting here:



See more pieces from me:

Horticultural Horror: The Art World Loses a Masterpiece as a Gallery Patron Grabs the $120,000 Banana and Eats It

We Can’t Brush Anything Off: Seattle Business Owner Melts Down Over Her Dreadlocks, Apologizes for the ‘Pain’

Beer Gets Yanked From National Restaurant Chain Because It Looks Like the KKK

Find all my RedState work here.

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