Culture

Trader Joe’s Reverses Course, Will Keep Ethnic Food Names

Update July 31, 2020: Trader Joe’s will not be renaming ethnic food packaging that some find offensive. Instead, the grocery chain released a statement dismissing a petition signed by customers seeking a change to the packaging.

Trader Joe’s officials have changed the minds about renaming packaging of ethnic food.

In a very visible flip-flop, Trader Joe’s is no longer changing the packaging name of its ethnic products. The decision comes after mounting calls for the grocery chain to do better and change the name of ethnic products.

“In light of recent feedback and attention we’ve received about our product naming, we have some things we’d like to say to clarify our approach,” reads the statement on the Trader Joe’s website. “A few weeks ago, an online petition was launched calling on us to ‘remove racist packaging from [our] products.’ Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action. We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions. We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and Crew Members. If we feel there is need for change, we do not hesitate to take action.”

Looks like Trader Ming’s and Trader José are here to stay.

Original: If you’re feeling a little disenchanted by the progress of nationwide protests over racial inequality, you might find some light looking at the recent mass of rebranded products by companies. Protests online about companies who have amassed their wealth on products that promote racial stereotypes have prompted brands like Quaker Oats, PepsiCo, Colgate, and Nestlé to acknowledge their roles in perpetuating racial issues through their products and make changes. That’s right brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s rice are changing. Now, Trader Joe’s is up for its reckoning.

Over 1,700 people have signed a petition pressing Trader Joe’s to make changes to some of their food products.

The petition, which was kicked off by Briones Bedell (high school senior from California) two weeks ago, accuses the grocery chain’s branding of being “racist.”

“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 explains.

The petition points to the grocery chain’s international food items whose names include Trader Ming’s, Trader José, and Trader Giotto’s.

Those products and others reflect “a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” according to the petition, which on Sunday had been signed by more than 1,500 people. “They’re racist because they exoticize other cultures, present ‘Joe’ as this default normal, and then the other characters — such as Thai Joe, Trader José, Trader Joe San — falling outside of it,” Bedell wrote in the petition.

Bedell’s petition also underlined that Trader Joe’s approach to branding has roots in the “fetishization” of non-Western people.

“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…'” the petition explains.

As the petition also points out, the 1919 book White Shadows in the South Seas follows the exploitive nature of trading companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which worked to enslave Polynesian islands.

In response to requests for changes, Trader Joe’s has said that they have already set in motion updates to replace “any variations with the name Trader Joe’s.”

“While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day,” a spokeswoman for Trader Joe’s, said in a statement according to NYT. “Packaging for a number of the products has already been changed, but there’s a small number of products in which the packaging is still going through the process,”

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People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

Things That Matter

People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

@KRISTENCLARKEJD / TWITTER

Cities across the U.S. are seeing a new wave of unrest following the grand jury’s finding on the Breonna Taylor case. Emotions are high as people protest against the lack of charges against the officers who were involved in Taylor’s death.

Protesters are raising their voices after the decision not to charge all of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death.

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed on March 13 when police raided her apartment. The 26-year-old ER technician was sleeping when the police executed a “no-knock” warrant. However, police had the wrong address and Taylor’s boyfriend, believe their lives were in danger, fired at the police. Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment that night.

Major cities across the country saw major demonstrations spurred by the anger against the justice system.

A grand jury found one officer responsible for wanton endangerment after firing his weapon into neighboring apartments. There were no charges tied directly to Taylor’s death. The lack of charges has angered activists and advocates who are seeking significant police reform to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

People have become hyper-aware of the issue and are paying attention to the outcomes.

Protest signs in different crowds show that the American people are paying attention. The Black Lives Matter movement became the cause at the forefront of American mentality since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked national outrage and renewed energy into fighting to stop the disproportionate violence Black men, women, and children face at the hands of police.

Some motorists have turned violent against the protesters.

Video captured in both Denver and Los Angeles show vehicles driving through crowds of protesters. In Denver, the driver claims to have acted in self-defense after protesters surrounded his car. The driver claims that he did not intend to hurt anyone but reacted when protesters shattered his windshield.

In Louisville, police arrested the only Black woman in the Kentucky state legislature for protesting.

State Rep. Attica Scott was arrested for first-degree rioting, which is a class-D felony. The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department arrested 24 people Thursday night while protesting the decision not to charge the officers. Rep. Scott was arrested with other and charged with first-degree rioting and two misdemeanors for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.

“Our call to action is to continue to make sure that the city of Louisville understands that we will not go away, that we will continue to demand the defunding of police and the dismantling of this police department because it’s corrupt from the inside out, from the bottom to the top,” Scott told NPR before the grand jury decision. “And it cannot continue to function in the way that it does.”

Taylor’s death has mobilized the nation with celebrities and politicians calling for justice.

The fight for racial justice and a systemic change to our justice and policing systems is ongoing. The people are tired of being scared and are taking a stand with their protests.

If you are out there protesting, send us your videos and photos so we can see your activism in action!

READ: Oprah Winfrey Honors Breonna Taylor With Historic O Magazine Cover

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Twitter’s AIs Prefer Ted Cruz With Boobs And White Skin Over Black

Things That Matter

Twitter’s AIs Prefer Ted Cruz With Boobs And White Skin Over Black

Ever notice how on some social platforms like Twitter or Instagram that you yourself are mysteriously unable to crop your display images on your own? That’s because Twitter prefers to let their algorithms make the decision. Over the weekend users on Twitter discovered the surprising dangers of letting algorithms crop your own images.

Education tech researcher Colin Madland drew attention to the issue while speaking out about how the video-calling program Zoom, often crops the head out of his black person coworker while on calls.

It didn’t take long for Madland and other users to discover that Twitter’s AIs use discriminatory equations to prioritize certain faces as well. In short, the social platform’s AIs prefer white faces over Black ones.

In response to the discoveries, a Twitter spokesperson acknowledged that the company was looking into the issue “Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’re looking into this and will continue to share what we learn and what actions we take,” they stated.

Of course, Madland’s discovery is nothing new. In 2019, test results from the National Institute of Standards and Technology revealed that some of the strongest algorithms online were much more likely to confuse the faces of Black women than those of white women, or Black or white men. “The NIST test challenged algorithms to verify that two photos showed the same face, similar to how a border agent would check passports,” Wired points out. “At sensitivity settings where Idemia’s algorithms falsely matched different white women’s faces at a rate of one in 10,000, it falsely matched black women’s faces about once in 1,000—10 times more frequently. A one in 10,000 false match rate is often used to evaluate facial recognition systems.”

Still, it didn’t take long for users on the platform to ask what other physical preferences Twitter has.

Turns out the AIs prefer Ted Cruz with large anime breasts over a normal-looking Ted Cruz.

(To better understand this Tweet, click the link above)

The user who tested the image of Cruz, found that Twitter’s algorithm on the back end selected what part of the picture it would showcase in the preview and ultimately chose both images of Cruz with a large anime chest.

It’s nothing new that Twitter has its massive problems.

For a platform that so controls and oversees so much of what we consume and how we now operate, it’s scary to know how Twitter chooses to display people with different skin tones. The round of jokes and Twitter experiments by users has only revived concerns on how “learning” computer algorithms fuel real-world biases like racism and sexism.

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