A break from the ongoing fustercluck, from the Washington Post:
Approach Tunde Wey’s lunch counter/sociology experiment at the Roux Carre market in New Orleans, and — if you’re white — you’ll have a decision to make. And it’s not just whether you want to try his jollof rice or his fried plantains. Wey serves his Nigerian food with a lesson about racial wealth disparity: The median income among African American households in New Orleans is only $25,806, compared to $64,377 for white households. According to the Urban Institute, the national average wealth of white families is $919,000, while the average wealth of black families is $140,000. Wey will share some stats with his customers, and then he’ll tell them the price of their lunch.
If they’re a person of color, they pay $12. If they’re white, he’ll tell them they can either pay $12, or they can pay $30 — two and a half times the base price, which reflects the wealth disparity in New Orleans. He tells them the profits will be redistributed to people of color, but not as charity — just to any minority customers of his who want it, regardless of their income or circumstance.
“When I tell black folks what’s happening, 90 percent of them start laughing, like, ‘For real?’ They’re tickled,” he said. “White folks, there’s this blank — ” he paused and laughed, “— this blank look. They’re like, ‘Huh, okay.’”…
The lunch counter, Saartj, is named after Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman who was put on display in the early 1800s in Europe because of her large buttocks, and given the nickname “the Hottentot Venus.” When Wey devised the project in New Orleans, he wanted to study people’s reactions to it, so he enlisted a student from Tulane University to devise an exit interview that would help him understand why people decided to pay the amount that they chose. After the price reveal, the conversation would typically take one of several established paths. People of color, who were asked if they wanted their money back after the conclusion of the experiment on March 4, typically said no — many said it should go to someone who needed it more than them. Some black people tried to also pay the $30, saying that because they could afford it, they felt obligated to pay the higher price. (Wey would accept only $12 from people of color.) In the end, when Wey totals up the profits, he expects the customers who opted to receive money will get about $75 each. He says he is not keeping any profit for himself.
As for white customers: A handful of them immediately canceled the transaction and walked away. The remainder were faced with “this awkward moment where they have to make a choice” — and, importantly, they had to make that choice in front of Wey.
Initially, he expected that few white people would pay the $30.
“I thought, if given the chance to voluntarily give up privilege, folks would not because it is not in their interest,” he said. But he was wrong: So far, more than 80 percent of white customers have opted to pay the higher price, and Wey realized that he had been underestimating the power of social pressure…
Read the whole thing, if you want to know Wey’s targeted suggestion for “us[ing] food to address racial wealth disparity”.
Apart from arguing about the worth of a restaurant meal, what’s on the agenda for the day?