Whole Foods sparked social media outrage after its newest store partnered with an Asian restaurant with the racially charged name of Yellow Fever.
The independently owned and operated restaurant is located in the Whole Foods 365 store that opened in Long Beach, Calif. last week.
The name comes from a disease spread by mosquitoes. It’s also a slang term for a white man’s sexual attraction to Asian women.
Here’s the plot twist. Yellow Fever is co-founded by executive chef Kelly Kim, who is originally from South Korea. She said she was aware that the name choice would be attention-getting and controversial.
She and her husband wanted the name of their new pan-Asian restaurant to stand out, eschewing bland or stereotypical phrases, like bamboo, dragon, and lotus.
“One night, we just said ‘Yellow Fever!’ and it worked. It’s tongue-in-cheek, kind of shocking, and it’s not exclusive — you can fit all Asian cultures under one roof with a name like this. We just decided to go for it,” Kim told Asian American news site NextShark six months ago.
“I think it’s been silly, and I think it’s a bit funny that it’s all of a sudden a big deal,” Kim told the NY Daily News.
So is it OK because the restaurant owner is Asian? Kinda like it’s OK when Blacks use the n-word?
Kim said she was re-appropriating the term and that the issue actually came up while working out the details of partnering with Whole Foods.
Kim said negative comments and messages she has received have been from non-Asian Americans, she said. Asian American and white customers alike have come to support her, she said, and business has been good at her new location.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee, an author and professor at Columbia University, tweeted, “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?”
What do you think? Is it re-appropriation? Or inappropriate?