By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
The Union Market in Washington, DC thought the caption in its newsletter was funny.
“Me love you oolong time,” the headline read next to an image of a cup of tea.
For Kevin Tien, chef of Moon Rabbit and co-founder Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate, the caption reminded him of a painful chapter in Asian American history.
Reading the phrase brought back painful memories of a racist scene in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket when an Asian prostitute solicits an American GI.
He and fellow chef Erik Bruner-Yang launched a change.org petition demanding an apology.
“To many Asian American women, hearing the phrase “Me love you long time” can be completely de-humanizing and traumatic…. It’s a weaponized phrase deployed to put down Asian diaspora women, to make us the joke. It’s used to reduce Asian and Asian-American women to sex objects,” the petition read.
1500 people signed the petition and Union Market apologized via its Instagram account.
“Your concerns about offensive marketing language that was used in our last Field Report newsletter have been heard, and we are deeply sorry. While it was not our intention to offend anyone, we are clear that intent does not matter in this situation.”
Up to that point, the market had been issuing apologies to individuals who complained to them, but had not done so publicly.
Bruner-Yang applauded the apology, but urged the market to go further by recognizing the other demands of the petition.
The petition encouraged market owner Edens to launch an employee support group to advocate on behalf of its AAPI employees. It also demanded a community meeting between concerned AAPI community members and Eden management.
“We strongly believe that every mistake is an opportunity to learn something new. The AAPI community leaders would like to offer Edens the opportunity to learn more about anti-Asian hate and AAPI issues and partner in efforts that foster a greater understanding of these issues, and work to prevent future incidents,” the petition read.
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