Thursday, May 25, 2017

weapons-grade stupidity

A blogger with the handle Skippy Stalin, who used to write trenchant political commentary, often liked to use the phrase "weapons-grade stupid" or "weapons-grade stupidity" to describe particularly egregious examples of the worst folly humanity has to offer. I miss his blog and his insights, and I wonder whether he would have used his favorite label in relation to this incident:

Two white women have been forced to close their pop-up burrito shop after they were accused of cultural appropriation.

Kali Wilgus and Liz 'LC' Connelly opened Kooks Burritos in Portland, Oregon, after taking a trip to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico, last December.

For the first few months, the weekend pop-up shop housed in [a] taco truck was a smash hit. It gained so much popularity, a local weekly newspaper decided to profile the entrepreneurial duo.

But that's when the trouble started for Wilgus and Connelly, after quotes they gave to the Williamette Week led to them being accused of stealing their success.

Explaining their trip, Connelly told the newspaper: 'I picked the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever, and they showed me a little of what they did.

'In Puerto Nuevo, you can eat $5 lobster on the beach, which they give you with this bucket of tortillas. They are handmade flour tortillas that are stretchy and a little buttery, and best of all, unlimited.

'They wouldn't tell us too much about technique, but we were peeking into the windows of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look. We learned quickly it isn't quite that easy.'

Those comments were latched onto by a food blog in the Portland Mercury, which accused Wilgus and Connelly of 'preying' on the women they met in Mexico.

'This week in white nonsense, two white women—Kali Wilgus and Liz 'LC' Connely—decided it would be cute to open a food truck after a fateful excursion to Mexico,' the piece opened.

'The owners of Kooks Burritos all but admitted in an interview with Willamette Week that they colonized this style of food.

'So let’s recap the story thus far: These two white women went to Mexico, ate tacos, and then decided they would just take what the locals clearly didn't want to give them. 'If that wasn't bad enough, they decided to pack up all their stolen intellectual property and repackage it.'

The piece went on to claim getting the weekend taco truck closed was a 'victory' in Portland - a city it accused of having 'underlying racism'.

'These appropriating businesses are erasing and exploiting their already marginalized identities for the purpose of profit and praise,' it stated.
Many on social media and the comments section of the Williamette Week article shared in the outrage.

'Stealing is in their nature so I'm not surprised. They're not creative so they had to get the idea from someone,' Tee McNeill wrote on Facebook.

'Kooks Burritos is now closed. Good riddance!' Jonas Lord said.

'Awww, so you nice ladies stole hard-working and low-income Mexican women's tortilla recipes and are now turning a profit. That's not white basic privilege at all. #disgusting,' Alicia Dominguez commented.

'Now that you all boldly and pretty f***ing unapologetically stole the basis of these women's livelihoods, you can make their exact same product so other white ppl (sic) don't have to be inconvenienced of dealing with a pesky brown middle woman getting in their way. Great job,' Shauna MacKinnon added.

However, after news of the closure spread, many came to the defense of Wilgus and Connelly.

'1. Burritos are from L.A. 2. Tortilla making is easy and not a secret 3. Breakfast burritos=white people food,' one person wrote.

'Seriously!!!!? Do you not think they were speaking metaphorically "looking in people's windows"? She ended up with a tortilla recipe she developed herself and she puts french fries in them. Such cultural appropriation,' another said.

'Oh my god. you cannot be serious,' another wrote.

'If learning how to make a food from another culture and selling it is now considered cultural appropriation, then why not take this issue up with the successful Portland businesses that have been doing this at a much larger scale for years, and stop harassing these two women struggling to start a small business,' another added.

Kooks Burritos has deleted its website, Instagram account, Facebook page, and Twitter profile.

While not the central topic of this post, I've written about appropriation before. The way I see it, appropriation is just what we do. There's no good or bad about it; it's simply a natural human phenomenon with no more moral import than breathing.

The above article is cited on Instapundit under the heading "leftist autophagy." It's true: the left definitely eats its own. This could have been the triumphant feminist story of two women, open to other cultures, starting a business and doing something they loved. Instead, the PC crowd descended and turned a perfectly decent, initially thriving business into a shit show. I'm having one of those "Glad I'm not in the States right now" moments.

One Instapundit commenter summed things up nicely by saying, "I better not see any comments in English by anyone whose heritage is not 100% British Isles!"

David Chang, the Korean-American who founded the Japanese-named Momofuku restaurant ("lucky peach," but according to Chang, also a sly phonetic reference to "motherfucker"), had better shut his place down. A Korean guy has no business riffing off Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Meanwhile, white people had better eat only white-people food (whatever that is); blacks had better eat only black-people food (whatever that is); everyone else had damn well better stick to his or her own ethnic traditions. Let's each crowd into our own little cultural corner and just stare at nothing so as never to offend each other, learn from each other, or enrich each other's lives. It's the only way to live peacefully!

Christ, how utterly asinine.


Surprises Aplenty said...

I'm torn. This sounds like it relates to patent law which I think is too lenient in the creation of patents. On the other hand, if someone invents a new technique, they have some legal right to protect it.

So I don't see the problem as cultural appropriation but as infringement.

Kevin Kim said...

Apparently, under US law, you can't copyright a technique, e.g., a burrito-making technique. It also seems to me that these ladies publicly gave credit for their tortilla-making to the workers they saw in Mexico. I'm not sure what more could be done. The whole thing reeks of idiocy.

TheBigHenry said...

As a white person, I suppose this idiocy mandates that I can only eat white bread. Unfortunately, I hate white bread. I love French bread, but I am not a Frenchman. Moreover, I don't particularly care for the French. Thank goodness I really don't like German bread ...

I also hate Leftist idiots (but I repeat myself).

Kevin Kim said...


Upon further research, I see that you CAN indeed patent a technique, but I really don't see what these ladies did as a kind of thievery or corporate espionage. They probably could have used better language to describe how they learned what they learned without giving the impression that they were sneaking from window to window to "steal" techniques that the Mexican ladies were unwilling to show them (according to the American ladies, some people did show them/tell them about certain techniques).

I bet the real story is something more like this: the American ladies realized that tortilla-making wasn't as easy as they'd thought it would be, especially in terms of making tortillas with the fantastic consistency that they loved. They learned a lot through observation, then went back to the States and perfected their own techniques (on the assumption that they already knew how to cook) that were based on, but not out-and-out imitations of, the techniques they sort-of witnessed in Mexico.

This is all conjecture, to be sure, but it's certainly not a case of Nasty Whitey going down and stealing these poor Mexican ladies' livelihoods. That's a ridiculous claim, especially since the Mexican ladies' customer base is primarily Mexicans while the American ladies' customer base is (was) primarily Americans way up north in Portland. How is/was any business being stolen or diverted? Absurd.

Oh, well. It's too late now. The business is defunct, and I doubt these ladies will ever try their hand at ethnic cuisine ever again. Sad.

Charles said...

I'm struggling to see how learning a technique from people in another country and then bringing that home to your own country is somehow "stealing" from those people. Are those poor Mexican women now all out of jobs because two women in LA opened up a burrito pop-up shop? Did the people in that Mexican community say, "Oh, now the gringos are doing it, so I guess we'd better close up shop and find some other way to make a living." How exactly do we get from A to B here?

Seems like underpants gnome logic to me.

Surprises Aplenty said...

Yeah. I don't have an opinion on the specifics; I was just trying to find a rationale for what happened. The existence of a patent is not much of a rationale but I have heard some patents have been given too easily.
I agree that simply cooking Mexican food should not be an offense. If it were, the homemade salsa I have in my fridge puts me at risk!