There's an online petition calling on Trader Joe's to remove their "racist branding and packaging" from their stores. When I read this I was amazed that the food chain would do anything like that and even more amazed when I saw what the problem was.

The problem calls out their national food products such as Trader Mings, Trader Jose, Trader Giotto's, Arabian Joe and Trader Joe San. If the idea that "Trader Joe" brings food from around the world to your table, then why would it be offensive to use the translations of Joe from those other places? Funny you should ask.

From The Hill, "Briones Bedell,17, a rising high school senior, told The New York Times that the products are 'racist because they exoticize other cultures' and 'present ‘Joe’ as the default normal.'"  I think that is because it's called "Trader JOE's"  All the company is doing is making a harmless play on a name.

The definition of "exoticize" according to Lexico, the Oxford English and Spanish dictionary, is to, "Portray (someone or something unfamiliar) as exotic or unusual; romanticize or glamorize." Again, I see nothing wrong with using the name translations to enhance their foreign products. But Trader Joe's is not taking any chances nor should they. Trader Joe's rep Kenya Friend-Danie told the New York Times:

“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. With this in mind, we made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe’s name on our products moving forward.”

Personally I like the "lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness." I like buying into the fantasy that my product may actually have come from a foreign land endorsed by someone with a foreign name who takes pride in what they are selling me. It may even make the product taste better to me and my imagination.

But marketers change their campaigns all the time and if someone's offended, I can see Trader Joe's making the move. But it bothers me that people are finding racism where, in my opinion, it doesn't exist. If ever there was a time when we need to embrace each others cultures and diversity this is it.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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