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Opinion: Our TJ’s-loving readers aren’t ready to bid good riddance to Trader Giotto or Trader Ming

Trader Joe's
The original Trader Joe’s grocery store in Pasadena is seen on Feb. 26.
(Associated Press)

After Trader Joe’s announced it was eliminating ethnically themed food labeling like “Trader Ming’s” and “Baker Josef’s” in response to an online petition decrying such marketing as racist, every reader who sent us a letter on the topic — including those who described themselves as liberals — reacted along the lines of, “Are you kidding me?”

The four letters published July 23 reflected that unanimity, and I thought that such a one-sided presentation of opinions would provoke at least a few readers who agreed with Trader Joe’s expression of cultural sensitivity to write us. Instead, the letters had the opposite effect, eliciting even more criticism of the seldom-disparaged grocery chain.

As of this writing, more than 70 readers have sent us letters on the topic, and not a single one has bid good riddance to Trader Giotto or Trader Jose.

Kathleen Siu of Los Angeles provides friendly advice to the petition writer:

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Sorry we missed the memo that perceived political correctness trumps all. Kudos to the four readers whose letters you published for agreeing it’s OK to laugh.

I am Chinese and a fifth-generation American. My father’s name was Ming, and he always got a chuckle out of seeing “Trader Ming” in the grocery store’s Fearless Flyer newsletter.

Kudos to the young woman who saw a problem and took action. However, I would like to respectfully suggest that there are many problems more worthy of her time and energy.

Eric Menyuk of Los Angeles similarly encourages the activist who petitioned Trader Joe’s:

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As a dyed-in-the wool liberal, I nonetheless have to agree with the letters indicating that no offense should be taken at Trader Joe’s lighthearted ethnic branding.

However, I still believe that the 17-year-old who started the online petition should be applauded for her social consciousness. We often complain about the lethargy of today’s teenagers, and the fact that she took the time to start such an effort should be applauded, as should her parents for raising such a caring, assertive young woman.

Utkarshini Vashishtha of Los Angeles does not want anyone to be offended:

Reading the unanimous response to the Trader Joe’s “racist” labeling article, I heaved a sigh of relief. I’ve been terrified of today’s “cancel culture” and therefore afraid to express myself.

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I’m an immigrant and I relish with delight the sight of people wiping off the Trader Joe’s Indian food offerings as I pick up the products labeled “Trader Ming’s” and “Trader Jose’s.”

Please don’t make humor impossible. As other immigrant letter writers said, there is nothing racist going on here. We are not offended, so please do not be outraged on our behalf.

Mario Valvo raises the age-old question of where does this end:

Why stop there? Wasn’t it “traders” who arranged transport of slaves to this country?

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Maybe we should rebrand the whole company as “Professor Joseph’s.”


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