Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Really? Round Eye Noodle Bar

I don't know about you, but I've about had it with White people who think they can get away with making what they believe to be cryptic racist commentary. 

As you can see, this restaurant is owned by two White men.  They have decided to serve noodles which btw is a familiar form of cultural appropriation.  Food is one of the every day examples of how Whiteness has colonized cultures of colour.  If you doubt this assertion, watch a few hours of the Foodnetwork, where you will absolutely find White chefs teaching viewers how to cook dishes from cultures of colour.  This may not seem readily offensive, until you think about the fact that because they have set themselves up as teachers, they are claiming expert status in cultures which they do not belong to -- while the people indigenous to the cultures in question -- can't even get five minutes on the air.

So, not only do we have cultural appropriation through food, the name of this restaurant is racist. The community organizers at Asian Americans United very aptly explain why this is a problem in the following comment:
"But if these self-named 'white boys' are the 'roundeye' noodle makers what does that make the Asian noodle places they're modeling their place after? As a city notoriously home to Chink's Steaks, it's really a shame that a well-regarded spot like Matysons [sic] would lower their reputation to a legacy of petty, derogatory names in an effort to be 'hip.'"

She continued: "I don't think the owners of 'Roundeye' had specific intent, but that's exactly the problem with racial stereotypes - they're so deeply ingrained people don't even question it.

I also heard from AAU executive director Ellen Somekowa, who wrote: "If you grow up Asian in America, there is no more common put down than ridicule of the shape of our eyes. There is no way to hear the name, 'Roundeye,' without at the same time hearing what it is being contrasted to. .. A very hurtful racist slur -- SLANTEYES." [source]
When I saw the name of the restaurant in question, it was pretty evident to me that it is absolutely problematic, and I'm not even Asian.   I don't see how anyone could come up with a name like this, and not immediately see the racist implications, but I suppose if you're White, and considered the default -- you don't have to put a lot of thought into how your actions are perceived -- other than making sure that you deny being racist quite vehemently on cue.
Darragh said he heard from an AAU representative Saturday. "We're not really sure what to do with this," he told me. "She was very nice,. We intended it as a play on words, making fun of ourselves - not trying to be offensive to anyone.  We're not racist, but this is making us out to be racist. The weird thing is that the majority of our customers are Asian. Some of the them think it's a funny name. Some people get offended and some don't."

He said they might consider changing the name once a permanent home was found for the noodle restaurant.
Once again, I feel the need to say that intent does not magically erase the hurt that was caused.  They may have intended it to be fun, but the fact is that it was hurtful and racist. He made sure to point out that he is not racist, and only appeared to be, because of a misunderstanding -- yet said that he would only "consider changing the name once a permanent home was found."  Okay, so Darragh has been told that his actions are racist, but he has made no real concrete moves to either make amends, or stop the offending behaviour, but yet he expects the world to believe that he is not a racist.  It must be nice to have your cake and eat it to.



The fact that some people are offended and have very clearly said that the name is racist and why, should serve as an impetus for change.  Pointing out that he has found some Asian people who are not offended by the name, does not mean that those who are, are being too sensitive, or wrong to be offended.  People of colour do not operate with a hive mind, and we do not have to feel the same way about any issue.  If some are not offended by the name great, but the point he needs to remember is that some still are.  If Darragh wants the world to believe that he is not a racist, then he needs to stop acting like one, and more specifically stop trying to excuse what he did. 


H/T Angry Asian Man