As the world continues to pay attention to the systemic racism that affects minorities, an Oakley High School student’s note of a company’s racial insensitivities made waves around the world. The 17-year-old student’s Change.org petition went viral after pointing out racial stereotypes of Chinese and Mexican cultures commonly featured on the packaging. For example, Trader Joe’s calls its Chinese food “Trader Ming’s,” Middle Eastern food is called “Arabian Joe,” and so on.
Briones Bedell’s petition received so much positive attention that it was noticed by Trader Joe’s. The company released an official statement, saying, “We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions.” But that didn’t stop the 17-year-old high schooler from speaking out. Her petition gained international recognition and made the world aware of the continuous racial injustices that can be found on the company’s branding.
The Backlash and Response
Bedell was surprised the petition gained enough traction to force Trader Joe’s to release a statement. But she wasn’t satisfied with their response. She pointed out that even though the statement says the company constantly reevaluates its strategies, it said exactly the same thing more than a year ago. So far, a change has yet to be made in response to any public outcry about Trader Joe’s racial stereotypes portrayed on their packaging.
However, the company wasn’t the only one that had to deal with public backlash. Bedell herself was subjected to plenty of criticism online, with some even claiming oversensitivity by focusing on such issues. But the high schooler made it very clear that this dialogue is only encouraging and she’s glad she brought it to a forefront. Unexpected voices continue to rise to raise support and bring awareness to racial injustice, even if they’re standing alone.
Teen Activism and Online Bullying
As teenagers continue to have an important voice in our communities, it’s essential to highlight many issues that surround online bullying due to differences in views and opinions. Bedell stated that going viral has been incredibly overwhelming. While she has received praise for speaking out, she also noted that she has received some concerning death threats from those who didn’t agree with her statements.
Going from not having any social presence to reaching international recognition has been a surreal experience for Bedell. Although she was no stranger to activism, this was the first time her voice had an international reach. It exposed the teen to many online voices, including harmful ones. However, the teen was aware of the dangers of speaking out online and it didn’t stop her from voicing her opinion and standing up for herself.
Trader Joe’s Past Scandals
This wasn’t the first time Trader Joe’s was the subject of controversy. The company’s past scandals include being called out for using too much plastic. Their excessive plastic use has led many of its shoppers to take their money elsewhere. Trader Joe’s ethics also came into question after it was noted that it’s not disclosing its suppliers. Despite saying shoppers are supporting small, local brands by purchasing products from Trader Joe’s, investigations have revealed that many of those brands are actually supplied by bigger corporate chains.
Along with several product issues, the company also came under fire for its unfair labor practices. Many of its crew members revealed they have been reprimanded for not maintaining a positive attitude, which is an illegal practice. While the company is known for having a friendly and approachable staff, its crew members pointed out they are often disrespected by managers and at times have to contend with unfair business practices. Trader Joe’s statement noted that the company would never fire its employees based on trivial reasons.
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