There is no denying that racism continues to be rampant even in today’s world. While a Pakistani brand recently drew flak for using African tribal people as props for an ad campaign that reeks of ‘slavery’ and ‘colonialism’, Donald Trump’s reference to African nations as ‘shithole countries’ is no different. But there are those who are trying to right the situation. Challenging disparities still prevalent in today’s progressive world, a pop-up restaurant in New Orleans, US, has been asking its White customers to pay more than people of colour — all part of a social experiment.
The disparity between Black, immigrants and White people in America, be it in treatment, privileges or access to wealth and resources is still huge. And to start a dialogue, New Orleans-based chef Tunde Wey started an eatery called Saartj. At the food joint, White customers are asked to pay an additional $18 in their bill, compared to others.
In the city’s Roux Carre venue, where the Nigerian man opened the joint in early February, listed price for the food at $12. But when White people walk up to order, they are asked if they are willing to pay $30 for the same meal. Reason? “It’s two-and-a-half times more than the $12 meal, which reflects the income disparity” between Whites and African-Americans in New Orleans, Wey told NPR. But there is no compulsion.
To all his customers, he tells them that his food stall aims to engage people on the topic of racial income and wealth disparities and to share statistics on these disparities. The raised amount is then redistributed to minorities who buy food from the joint. According to 2013 The Data Center’s New Orleans Index at Ten data, the median household income for African-Americans in New Orleans is 54 per cent lower than for Whites.
Has the experiment worked? According to Wey, while “some of them are enthusiastic, some of them are bamboozled a bit by it. However, he added most don’t mind paying extra. “But the majority of white folks, nearly 80 per cent, decided to pay.”
Much like his experiment, the name of the joint is also significant. The restaurant is named after 19th-century South African woman infamously paraded as a “freak show” in Europe. The Black woman who died at the age of 26, was ridiculed owning to her protruding buttocks as she suffered from steatopygia. Her harrowing experience even today is considered as one of the most disturbing examples of colonial exploitation and racism.
As the social experiment is also helping others to gather data. “Customers who agree to buy lunch were asked to fill out a brief survey online. A subset of these diners were also pulled aside and interviewed about how income and wealth disparities have played out in their own lives,” the news report added.
This is the final week to experience Tunde Wey’s social experiment highlighting the racial wealth divide in New Orleans at his pop-up at Roux Carre. Bridging this divide through entrepreneurship education and economic inclusion advocacy is at the heart o… https://t.co/StF7pbeks7 pic.twitter.com/U6WcP1Pxed
— Roux Carré (@RouxCarre) March 1, 2018
After the experiment worked well and helped social scientist gather more concurrent information about racial disparities, the pop-up restaurant closed its doors on March 11. Tunde has avoided publicity around the project in order to gauge genuine reactions from customers, the Metro report added.