If you stop by Roux Carre in New Orleans your food may come with a side of lecturing.
Chef and owner Tunde Wey believes there is a great “racial wealth disparity.” Since the venue opened in early February it has been charging white customers more for the same order, in what Wey calls a “social experiment.”
The Nigerian food on the menu is listed at $12, but all white patrons are asked if they want to pay $30. “It’s two-and-a half times more than the $12 meal, which reflects the income disparity,” Wey says.
The Data Center’s New Orleans Index at Ten says in 2013 the median income rate for African-Americans took a dip from $32,332 in 2000 to $27,812. In the same period white households took less of a drop off going from $61,117 to $60,070. On average, the household income in New Orleans for white people was 54% higher in 2013, halfway through Obama’s second term.
Wey intended on belaboring financial disparities to people good enough to stop by his stand with statistics on income inequality. He then offers the white customers the same meal for $30, or if they choose they can pay $12 (or find a less presumptuous place to eat).
Wey his customers the price difference will be “redistributed” among the minority customers.
The customers have mixed feelings on the policy. “Some of them are enthusiastic, some of them are bamboozled a bit by it,” Wey admits. “But the majority of white folks, nearly 80 percent, decided to pay,” according to NPR.
Anjali Prasertong, a graduate student in public health at Tulane University, assisted the chef in designing the experiment, touting the amount of white people guilt-tripped into paying more, “that was definitely higher than we expected.”
Customers who choose to have a meal are also be subjected to a survey. Some of the patrons who just wanted a bite to eat are then be interviewed about how wealth disparity may have affected their own lives.
Prasertong recalls one African-American diner she spoke with saying, “I asked her, ‘If you had been given access to more resources while you were growing up, would that have changed your life in any way?’ ” adding, “She immediately had an example.”
The unidentified woman was apparently offered a White House internship but passed after the realization that she’d need a job to support herself in Washington D.C.. Prasertong said, “she realized, ‘Oh, it’s just for rich people’ ” – meaning she was under the impression that all interns have their parents pay for living expenses and don’t get secondary jobs or student loans.
Prasertong explained, “One of the things I took away from interviewing people was a greater awareness that people of color have thought about wealth disparity and how it has touched their lives and the kinds of things they’ve lost out on because they didn’t have access to the resources their white friends did.”
She went on to say “Not that [white people] weren’t aware, but they never really thought about how … that might have affected where they are in the world in relation to people of color. They never stopped to think, ‘Oh, that car my parents gave me in college allowed me to drive across town to get a good job.’ “
Prasertong realizes this isn’t exactly an objective experiment in the truest sense of the word, telling NPR, “It’s not a strict scientific study.”
The food stand also found that people frequenting the establishment were a higher income bracket -including blacks, Asians and Latinos. This lead to the many well-to-do minority customers rejecting the “redistribution.”
The food stall, named Saartj, after a 19th century black women taken to Europe as an outdated sideshow attraction. The temporary pop-up concluded its social-justice experiment and closed up shop last Sunday.
Wey was happy with the experiment which he wanted to use to make people think about income inequality and change.
“We think of this as a systemic issue, like something that happens outside of ourselves, when in fact the aggregate sum of all of our actions and choices exacerbates or ameliorates the wealth gap,” he said.
Wey included choices such as “where we choose to send our children to school, where we choose to buy a home and critically, how we choose to spend our money and where we choose to spend our money. “
As a whole, all household income is on the rise and black unemployment is the lowest in U.S. history at 6.8%, since Donald Trump took office. One out of every six blacks in the United States who is an immigrant earns on average 30% more than blacks born in the U.S.
Pew research data shows that despite whites of European decent being a vast majority, Asians on average have a vastly higher income than any other ethnic group in the U.S.
Asians were not asked to pay more at the food cart.
feature image via The Maroon
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