popup holdup As part of a month-long “social experiment,” a pop-up restaurant in New Orleans is asking white customers to pay extra for their meal in the name of wealth redistribution. According to Civil Eats, the pop-up called Saartj gives white customers — and only white customers — the option to pay “$12 for lunch or the suggested price of $30” while black customers are “charged $12 and also given the option to collect the $18 paid by a white patron as a way to redistribute wealth.”
Restaurant creator Tunde Wey says that his project seeks to educate patrons on the “nation’s racial wealth gap.” After they order, Wey tells each diner about the nation’s racial wealth gap, pointing to stark facts, such as higher education increases a Black family’s median income by $60,000, where as it increases a white family’s median income by $113,000,” reports Civil Eats.
Once the conversation finishes, Wey then asks his white customers how much they will pay. The “white guilt” definitely pays off, with close to 78% of his white customers paying more than double the required price, according to Wey. This guilt, which Wey calls “positive social pressure,” is entirely intentional and designed to elicit payment. “Refusing to pay more comes off as anti-social and people don’t want to be judged for that,” Wey said. “People look on the other side of the till and see me standing there and they’re thinking that I’m judging them. If they couldn’t pay a higher amount, they gave a me a list of caveats why they couldn’t.”Should white customers ask important questions like “where does the money go?” Wey chides them for their attempts to make their “wealth virtuous.”
“The ownership of wealth has been contingent on taking from someone else,” Wey tells customers, relying on the “zero-sum” economics fallacy, “and money doesn’t distill virtue on you. If black customers offer to pay the extra $30 themselves alongside their white counterparts, Wey denies them the dignity of doing so.
So, is his social justice social experiment working? Does the wealth redistribute? Actually, no. A vast majority of the black diners refuse to take money from other people guilted into paying more. “After looking at the preliminary data collected from the survey, one of the most interesting results is that of 70 or so diners, 76 percent of the Black diners refused to take the $18 that they were offered,” reports Civil Eats.
“The current racial wealth gap is very much the result of decades of discriminatory public policy,” said Janelle Jones, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. “Besides facing discrimination in employment and wage-setting, for generations even those African-American families that did manage to earn decent incomes were barred from accessing the most important financial market for typical families: the housing market.” Even after the policies that made these practices possible were dismantled by the Fair Housing Act in 1968, Black families could still be discriminated against when purchasing a home or land, whether through overt segregation efforts like redlining or other less explicit but discriminatory practices.
I am imagining a conversation I might have with the proprietor:
Wey: Welcome to SAARTJ white man, are you here for the conversation or the cuisine?
Me: Since Nigerian food isn’t high on any white person’s cuisine list, and I can go down the street and get the Thai lunch special for $9.95 without a helping of guilt, it must be for the scintillating conversation. In fact, why not dispense with the food altogether and get right to the point–extortion by race and the resultant expiation of “white guilt”. Why else would a whitey come to a restaurant specializing in cassava root?
Wey: Do I detect a note of white supremacy in your sarcasm?
Me: No, it’s just good old fashioned cynicism. I might be melanin-challenged in my skin, but not in my soul. What I am most cynical about is this: I read that even if a black patron wanted to pay the arbitrary $30 extra, you would refuse it. Why?
Wey: To whom would I give that money? The guilt dictates that the direction of money is strictly white gives to black. If I kept their money, that would be black to black, and even worse would be to give it to whites. Transfer of money is transfer of power I have said.
Me: But if that is so, isn’t the one giving the money the one with more power, and the one taking it the one with less power? Another thing, 76% of your black patrons refuse your attempt to give them the white person’s overpayment, even though they or their forebears suffered wealth discrimination. If the principle of your restaurant is “past oppression is best treated with coerced transfer of present wealth”, why does the majority of your constituency vote with their money against you?
Wey: They haven’t been woke yet.
Me: You ask if we whites have ever received cash gifts from parents, and how that money changed lives. If you really want to know, I suggest you read the Millionaire Next Door. The author shows conclusively that parental giving of cash impoverishes their children! Why? Because they then get into the habit of living beyond their means. All the millionaires interviewed for that book also agreed that wealth is less related to income and more related to controlling spending. By accusing patrons who ask where the money goes of trying to appear virtuous, you therefore discourage accountability for spending, the lack of which is THE MAIN CAUSE of poverty.
Wey: My thesis assumes that wealth creation is the result of passing down wealth that has been misappropriated from others. If you’re wealthy it’s at the expense of others.
Me: Rich DeVos, a famous billionaire, was asked “the secret to wealth.” He said, “I always spent less than I made and invested the difference consistently.”
Wey: That’s too simple and racially neutral to be true. So anyway, now it’s time to pay up. What’ll it be, $12 for the cheapskate, $30 if you’re woke.
Me: Neither. Since the utility of the meal and the conversation was not even worth the $12, I am going to pay you what I would have paid the Thai restaurant for a much better meal without the indigestion–$9.95. Since I have a high melanin soul, you can make up the difference from the white guilt money. I mean really, it’s cassava!