Kali Wilgus and Liz “LC” Connelly have a fondness for a popular Mexican food – tortillas. During a road trip, the two “white” friends made an effort to find out the secret to making a good tortilla. After determining the right mix of ingredients and technique, the pair decided to open Kooks Burritos, a food cart that offered customers hand made tortillas, rolled out and cooked in front of them.
Connelly and Wilgus would then create custom breakfast burritos, serving the tortillas with eggs, guacamole, cheese and special neon-green or orange salsa’s.
The eatery was off to a good start, with Willamette Week writing a review of the shop and suggesting breakfast burrito fans “Get up a little early this weekend” and try Kooks.
A few days after Willamette Week’s story was published, Kooks Burritos was forced to close up shop due to some of the comments Connelly made in the article.
Stating that she’d “picked the brains” of women she observed making tortillas, Connelly said:
“They told us the basic ingredients, and we saw them moving and stretching the dough similar to how pizza makers do before rolling it out with rolling pins. 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.”
Mic responded to the article with a story whose headline read, “These white cooks bragged about stealing recipes from Mexico to start a Portland business.” The story suggests that Kooks Burritos is the “latest example of white folks profiting off the labor of people of color.”
Some agreed with Mic, and comments on the Willamette Week story included gems like, “White girls using their whiteness to steal from brown people” and “This is about stealing aspects of a culture without credit, and laughing about it like the two little idiotic privileged white girls they are.”
Some Twitter comments echoed those sentiments. One user called it “Polite White Supremacy.”
— Bob Hopkinson (@rjhopjr) May 18, 2017
After the negative reaction, Connelly and Wilgus closed Kooks Burritos and deleted much of their online presence.
A Portland Mercury piece called the closure a “victory,” and warned readers to watch for other types of cultural appropriation, saying abuses will happen “unless we continue to call this out.” It also released a list of six restaurants in Portland which were deemed acceptable to purchase burritos from due to the ethnicity of the owners, labeled “Latin.”
Another list that offers hungry folks an option to purchase their food from “POC” (i.e., people of color) was released to the internet. In addition to the POC options, it provides a handy “white-owned appropriative restaurants in Portland” list, so that consumers can avoid cultural appropriation abuses.
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