By Alex Horton | The Washington Post
Kelly Kim and her husband needed the title of their new pan-Asian restaurant to face out, eschewing bland or stereotypical phrases, like bamboo, dragon and lotus.
Then it hit them. Yellow Fever.
“That’s memorable,” Kim remembers saying to her husband Michael earlier than they opened their first location in late 2013, in a Saturday interview with The Washington Post.
After Wednesday’s opening of a 3rd location in a Whole Foods 365 retailer in Long Beach, California, it might be memorable in a unique away.
The announcement triggered a nationwide outcry on social media, with many criticizing the title’s racist undertones.
— 365byWholeFoods (@365byWholeFoods) April 25, 2018
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne an infection that kills hundreds yearly, principally in Africa, and named for the jaundice hemorrhage that the virus produces. But the phrase is additionally a standard reference to a time period related to a white man’s sexual fascination with Asian ladies.
Kim, who mentioned that earlier than this week the title wasn’t a difficulty, did not take the time period to have an overtly sexual and even destructive that means, including that it is extra nuanced than what critics have mentioned.
The time period implies “an attraction or affinity of Asian people or Asian things,” comparable to Korean pop music or karaoke, she mentioned. “I never took it to a have deeper meaning. … It’s a little tongue in cheek, but I never saw it as offensive or racist or anti-feminist,” she mentioned.
Kim, who is additionally the manager chef, mentioned she mentioned the charged nature of her restaurant’s title with Whole Foods, however may not recall if her companions or the corporate raised the problem.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods did not return a request for remark. The firm lists Yellow Fever and one other retailer, Groundwork Coffee, as “friends of 365,” a Whole Foods program through which native companies are offered an area inside the shop to attract extra prospects. (Whole Foods is owned by Amazon.com; Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief government of Amazon, additionally owns The Washington Post.)
The restaurant, which serves bowls of rice, noodles, or salad with numerous toppings and sauces, has lengthy embraced its title and interpretations.
“Yellow Fever … yeah, we really said that. Yes, the name definitely gets your attention. But rather than narrowly associating it with a deadly disease or with perpetuating racial stereotypes, we choose to embrace the term and reinterpret it positively for ourselves,” Yellow Fever firm materials offered to The Post mentioned.
In earlier media interviews, Kim has acknowledged the potential for destructive reactions to the title.
“Once, I had a friend who was grabbing our food for lunch and her white friend wasn’t sure if he was allowed to eat here,” she instructed Asian tradition web site Next Shark final yr, including that she needed to “re-appropriate” the time period to outline it her method.
The dialogue taking part in out on social media has been extra heated.
“An Asian ‘bowl’ resto called YELLOW FEVER in the middle of whitest Whole Foods – is this taking back of a racist image or colonized mind?” Marie Myung-Ok Lee, an creator and professor at Columbia University, wrote Saturday on Twitter. Others on social media referred to as the title racist.
While some noticed the title as racist, others famous affiliation of the lethal illness that ravages poor nations.
“I can’t separate the name from yellow fever (the disease) or the freaking painful vaccination shot against it,” Laura Seay, a authorities professor at Colby College and an Africa analyst, wrote on Twitter.
Yet some on social media, like Seay, dialed again their criticism as soon as they discovered the shop has existed for a while and was created and named after an Asian-American lady.
Much of the dialogue is aimed toward Whole Foods and the notion of the shop catering to an affluently white demographic.
“Don’t understand why “yellow fever” is racist? THAT’s precisely the issue,” one Twitter person wrote Saturday. Brin Inks, a lady interviewed outdoors the shop by CBS 2, mentioned the time period carries an offensive sexual and racist cost.
Others have been involved that the restaurant’s title and partnership with Whole Foods legitimizes the time period.
Kim is sticking by the title, she instructed The Post.
Negative feedback and messages she has obtained this week have been from non-Asian Americans, she mentioned.
Asian-American and white prospects alike have come to assist her, she mentioned, and enterprise has been good at her new location, with no protests or backlash up to now.
Long Beach is a meals desert, she mentioned, and the shop has been a welcome addition. That makes an issue all of the extra irritating, she mentioned.
“We’re just a small business. Now all of a sudden people are bashing on us,” she mentioned.
Reviews of the chain have been principally optimistic, noting the intense decor and broad number of Asian-themed dishes, such because the Seoul and Tokyo bowls. Diners on the lookout for a light-weight refreshment can go for the “Bruce Lee” – a inexperienced tea and lemonade combine. “So so SO delicious,” one Yelp reviewer glowed.
But different Yelpers took offense to the title.
“First off, change the name. Do you think it’s cool to use Racial term to yourself? Do you think it’s OK if Asian are calling themselves with that name?” one reviewer wrote in October 2016, leaving one star.
Another diner struggled to reconcile the title together with her affection for the meals.
“Ugh the name of this place skeeves me out,” a lady mentioned in an August five-star assessment, “but I’ll be damned if they don’t make a tasty bowl.”