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Letters to the Editor: Ethnic labeling at Trader Joe’s is whimsical and fun, not racist

Trader Joe's
Customers line up outside Trader Joe’s in Sherman Oaks on July 20.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Taking offense at Trader Joe’s use of ethnic labels for its products is “political correctness” overkill.

As an American of Chinese descent, I never found the name “Trader Ming’s” offensive. When I noticed the other ethnic labels such as “Trader Jose’s” and “Trader Giotto’s,” I thought they were amusing and quite clever.

Instead of being racist, these ethnic names draw attention to the fact that many popular, beloved foods in America originated in other countries, thus paying tribute to their country of origin and highlighting the fact that immigrants have contributed to the enrichment and expansion of our culinary repertoire and gustatory pleasure. In truth, American cuisine is a “melting pot,” or smorgasbord, of foods from all over the world.

Trader Joe’s said its labeling was “a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness,” and I believe it succeeded at that. Before eliminating these colorful product names, Trader Joe’s should perhaps survey its clientele.

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Mabel Wong Hogle, North Hills

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To the editor: There is no blackface or demeaning pictures on these packages at Trader Joe’s, just popular names from Italy, Mexico and elsewhere. Only the most ignorant can find ways to label them racist.

Shame on Trader Joe’s for caving in and rushing to remove these whimsical reminders of the origins of its products.

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I am an immigrant who came to this country as a very young child and was cruelly bullied and even beaten for not speaking English. I found comfort in how far our country had come when it finally began to appreciate immigrant contributions to our culture.

And now this? Is our society going backward?

Please, Trader Joe’s, I’ve always loved you, and I’ll love you even more if you grow a spine and stand up for what’s right.

Marija Navickas, Westlake Village

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To the editor: I must disagree with the assertion that the way Trader Joe’s labels some of its food is racist.

“Racist” to me denotes hate or evil. These products celebrate the country they are associated with and create an international flavor to shopping.

While it is certainly a good thing that today we are more aware of racist practices, it is a shame that we cannot tell the difference between real racist ideology and celebrating the fact that differences and variety make our world so wonderful.

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Karen Tiregol, Placentia

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To the editor: Have we all gone completely mad? Are the clever, humorous marketing labels given to ethnic products at Trader Joe’s to be denied?

Are these titles any more ethnic or offensive than Polish sausage, English muffins or German chocolate cake, to name a few? Or will there be another demand to also change these names?

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Enough is enough. At least let’s keep our sense of humor.

Elizabeth Richell, Santa Ana


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