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[OPINION] #Misohawni, bros so dumb

“Don’t you love the name?” That was one of the first tweets posted by ultimate bros Ryan Vermaak and Fabio di Cosmo this week when the sign of their new Korean restaurant in Melville went up.

They thought it was funny. Cool. Catchy. They even thought it was really smart. A real sense of witty humour. Silver-tongued wordsmiths they thought they were. But as always, the privileged white owners of food they get to appropriate forgot to think about the racism and offence their “bright minds” would cause.

Do we love the name? No. And here are five reasons why:

  1. We don’t love it because it is demeaning and degrading. The Asian diaspora in South Africa is one that is largely ignored. Most conversations about appropriation and racism focus on larger demographics like black vs. white. Asian people and Asian culture, for the most part, is treated like a free for all.

  2. The name of the restaurant comes from a really offensive scene from the film Full Metal Jacket that centres around the Vietnam war. In one of the scenes a sex-worker says to two soldiers: “me so horny” and “me love you long time”. Perpetuating this kind of racism in 2017 is not only in bad taste, it is also just blatantly ignorant. Words matter, cultural sensitivity matters and women matter. Asian women matter.

  3. To make bank from another culture’s cuisine is one thing, to extend your income by exploiting ills like sexism and exploitation is just plain stupid. It’s pretty screwed up that the owners are so robbed of enlightenment that they could not perceive how and why mocking Asians who speak broken English because it is not their first language – nor should it be – is a pretty messed up, backward idea.

  4. It is a shameful and disgusting display of white privilege and white arrogance. It is also a display of the owner’s lack of intelligence, which, to be fair, is already displayed enough. We don’t need to be reminded of your arrogance or your ignorance Have some self-respect. At least.

  5. You have crap friends and a terrible team. If anyone thinks that in this day and age you can get away with some trash like this, well, be prepared to say goodbye to a lot of money and a lot of hard worked hours. Someone should have told you that!

The owners have since issued an apology.

First, they say sorry for the hurt they may have caused – they are truly and deeply sorry.

Then, to get the most out of their already wasted marketing, they explain that the page will remain as it is until the rebrand has taken full effect.

The next bit of the statement deals with some sob story of dreams of a restaurant and inspiration from the food.

Vermaak goes on to explain: “In our enthusiasm to open the restaurant however we fully admit that we showed serious lack of expertise and understanding when it came to the name and fell back on an ingrained stereotype that we clearly did not understand - and for that we are sorry.”

Then there’s a bit more of the above. And the statement closes with something about striving to provide inclusive spaces for all races and women.

I fear the bros have shut the door before they have even opened it. And it is not the public’s fear to have. It is their own. I’m sure they will make it. Many miso soups will be sipped on with a side of blatant indifference. But as a public, I think it’s fair to say #wesooverit.

Don’t be sorry. Be better.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter.

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