Not all burritos are made in good taste

HUMAN 1
Progressives succeed in forcing a burrito shop run by two white women to close over “cultural appropriation.”

Yeah, this is real. This is not a joke.

Now, the alleged “appropriation” comes from the fact they observed and talked to locals in Mexico on vacation. It’s a pretty common thing to ask a few basic questions on food people like at restaurants. The shops didn’t give very much info to the women. They didn’t teach them in an intensive training. The former owners simply had a few brief conversations and showed interest in the local technique. For this crime, liberals force them out of business.

This is awful. And per the patent office, traditional recipes can’t be patented.

The women took an idea—that people apparently actively didn’t want to give to them—and then behaved with respect for the cultural source akin to someone opening a wine bar with a Communion/Mass theme.

You can understand how people with a connection to the source might react critically, how that might be persuasive to folks willing to empathize with them, and how that negative reaction might convince (but not force) them it’s better closing down.

Now, I think ‘force’ would be better applied to the city revoking their license on some other pretense or people threatening physical violence against those women or their establishment. A restaurant isn’t necessarily ‘forced’ to shut down when word gets out of maggots in their kitchen, although the reduction in revenue may make it more difficult to pay their bills. That’s a market issue.

Second, you’re totally right that traditional recipes can’t be patented. But they’re not being /sued/ for anything. Like with the U.K. fashion label who took the religiously meaningful design of an Inuit man and slapped it on a sweater without talking to anyone, the issue isn’t the legality of what’s happening but the propriety. Everything is permissible; not everything is beneficial.

In this case, their interview was especially telling because they said they tried to see how the food was made, were rebuffed, and then started peeking in folks’ windows before just trying a bunch of different ingredients till what tasted similar enough. They’re legally within their rights to steal this intellectual property, but it’s a bit distasteful how they went about it, and I think it’s fair for people to have a reaction based on that.

It’s also important to think about the context here. This isn’t like Brownsville or Los Angeles: Portland, Ore, is very white for a U.S. city. That’s not any sort of mystery or coincidence. Black people weren’t legally permitted to live in Oregon prior to 1926; other non-whites letting the sun go down on them were also not looked upon favorably.

Portland is not the center of the Klan anymore, but there are historically inherited reasons that white people in the city, including those who immigrate, can be expected to also have inherited more wealth, be able to fly on vacation to foreign countries, get the capital to start a business, more easily navigate the municipal permits for approval—before working really hard to be successful. Therefore it’s easier for you to start a restaurant using a cursory knowledge of someone else’s food culture than it is for those people with more experience and concern for their own cuisine to start their own eatery.

So some people are upset about it.

It’s like a Chinese tourist coming to my hometown for a week and they decide to make money as a tourguide. Because they speak Mandarin and few other people in my town do, they can have a solid legal business. But I’ll be a bit put off about it, especially if I notice the tour involves them wearing loud cowboy boots and saying ‘Howdy Yeehaw’. Being reduced to some curious ethnic thing to be imitated is less than ideal. Or the Marfa effect of having someone from the city come there, buy a funeral home that treated your family members, and turn it into a bar for other people from far away. You understand it’s legal, but you might complain about it.

Being reduced to some curious ethnic thing to be imitated is less than ideal. Or the Marfa, Texas, effect of having someone from the city come there, buy a funeral home that treated your family members, and turn it into a bar for other people from far away. You understand it’s legal, but you might complain about it.

HUMAN 2
What if these young entrepreneurs had been Hispanic? Then would that be okay?

That’s an interesting question with a not-obvious answer. For example, there’s some disagreement about whether black Americans utilizing African aesthetics for music, fashion, and so on, is appropriation or not.

And that’s complicated because if you are a black American, your entire cultural history was violently stolen from you and supplanted by someone else, down to your very name. But also, if you’re grabbing something without bothering to study it or understand its context, that’s rude to the people you’re taking it from, and you may be engaging in the same sort of activity of stealing from people who can’t defend their traditions and profiting from it.

While I find that to be an incredibly interesting set of issues, I don’t have a dog in the hunt, so I don’t have a voice in deciding it. It’s like walking into someone else’s church and voting on their upcoming budget: it’s not my place to weigh in.

You asked, ‘What if they were Hispanic?’, which is an extremely broad category of people. But let’s say they were of Mexican descent, and even from that part of Baja California. If they went down there, tried to learn how to make that food, but were rebuffed, then came up with their own fake version and bragged about that, I bet lots of people would still be irked. However, the assumption is that if you’re from a group, you tend to behave with a little more empathy and respect for other people in your group. The assumption is that people with actual ties would behave a bit better about it because you probably wouldn’t steal your own grandmother’s recipe if she didn’t want you to.

And ultimately, you don’t have to be Japanese to prepare sushi or French to prepare French cuisine. That’s not the issue. But you also would not be celebrated if you went to France for a couple of weeks, watched some people cook something, and then started a food truck with your own half-assed approximation of it. A Japanese person isn’t inherently better at making Japanese cuisine than a white, black, or Latino person. A Japanese immigrant or Japanese American might well be an impostor. But they’re also much more likely to have people in their lives who will call them out and be upset about it if they start their own restaurant.

If you read the Portland Mercury article linked in the NY Post article above, they do a pretty good job about talking about some of this and why culinary cross-pollination isn’t a bad thing while the way these women went about it pretty clearly is, and why it’s reasonable for people to express displeasure and use market forces to convince them to shut down.

HUMAN 2
Welcome to the rabbit hole. No, it doesn’t end. It just carries on, until everything is grey and lifeless.

There is no answer. There’s just cherry picking, as you well demonstrated.

If you call it cherry-picking, I don’t know how much empathy you’re exerting here.

‘Is it OK if someone calls me an asshole?’

The answer to that question depends on a lot. My close friends have a lot more latitude than a stranger or person I’m on actively bad terms with. And if I’m asking someone directions, it’s different than if I pulled out in front of them in traffic. If the question expects a simple, universal answer, it’s not a very good or meaningful question.

Context matters when people are reacting to a thing, and here it seems like people reacted rationally given the context and their principles, and the free market worked as advertised.

In this situation, people are expressing their personal values with a financial vote and there are enough people sharing those values for that to be an effective tactic.

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