Yelp has further expanded its rating system, adding the option to identify as an Asian-owned business to its already prodigious list of ethnicities.
The business-rating site will offer business owners the option to declare themselves an ‘Asian-owned business’ if they wish, according to a Tuesday post on Yelp’s blog by chief diversity officer Miriam Warren. To aid in the warm fuzzy diversity, Asian advocacy group Gold House has joined the company in supporting their new initiative, making race-based dining even easier.
Asians and Pacific Islanders have been added on the surface to Yelp’s ever-growing list of protected ethnicities, all of which can be featured as a search option – though paging through ‘black-owned’ and ‘AAPI-owned’ options tells one precisely zero about the food one is about to be served.
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After the company experienced essentially zero pushback from rolling out its “black-owned businesses” tag in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Yelp probably assumed there would be no trouble in further ‘racially segregating’ its menu databases. After all, restaurants still needed free advertising – many were still freaking out over their inability to pay rent, thanks to state governments who mouthed one set of reopening platitudes while following another.
Restaurants can also be searched by whether they’re Black-owned, Latinx-owned, and/or Women-owned – an easily scammable setup that often sees the company in question hire or promote a ‘MINO’ (minority in name only) that they can parade around for the auditors while caring not a whit for them otherwise. This individual would be seen pejoratively as nothing more than a diversity hire, a skill-less bore who literally exists to check a box and cross a T. A difficult stereotype to shake once it has set in, it nevertheless seems to form the core of Yelp’s social justice policies, leaving some employees doubting their minority co-workers’ abilities.
The company has also justified its decision to expand race-based restaurant advertising by pointing out that searches for Asian-owned businesses had jumped 130% over last February. The statistic sounds positive, but actually suggests Asian-owned businesses had the slowest rate of search growth, even as Yelp trumpets indicators on its site that show thousands of percent more people searching for business owners with other minority characteristics. However, Yelp’s positive reviews have disproportionately gone to Black, Latinx, and female-owned businesses, according to the site’s Diverse Business Report, which does not mention any overarching trend for positive Asian-owned business reviews.
The survey’s results did not include an explanation as to why users were more frequently searching for black- and women-owned businesses, a curious oversight given how little any of these diversity-focused characteristics would presumably influence the quality of a meal – especially given that most users have been forced to get acquainted with takeout and delivery over the past year. Without even seeing the restaurant, how can one possibly rate a restaurant based on the diversity of its waitstaff, or the ethnic sensitivity of its menu design?
More importantly, why would one want to?
It’s not clear at what point celebrating another culture by enjoying its cuisine, watching or listening to traditional performances, learning the language, or even accessorizing in that country’s traditional style can be unilaterally dismissed as ‘appropriation’. Arguably, it can’t – there’s no evil in respectfully enjoying recipes borrowed from halfway around the world. Lumping cultural appreciation in with actual racism risks the latter being overlooked while a ridiculous amount of energy is wasted tracking down the former – minor infractions that would go unnoticed if the social justice police hadn’t stepped in to ‘protect’ employees from the risk of getting a paycheck from a company someone believes is racist.
The new feature echoes some of the problems inherent in the recent unveiling of Yelp’s “business accused of racism alert” feature, which made it possible for any angry pack of social justice crusaders to whimper unsubstantiated rumors, get them published in a local paper, and flog their experience on social media in order to wipe out a business that refused to play ball with the thought police. Few, if any, questions are asked, and the only sob stories put forth are the sort that place the blame on someone else other than the complainant. Minority employees who end up losing their job as the result of an attack on ‘racist businesses’ don’t even enter the equation – never mind the difficulties they will experience trying to find a new job in the middle of a Great Depression-level economic crisis – they can just learn to code!
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To fully grasp the absurdity and damage potential inherent in Yelp’s racial rewards system, one need only imagine the situation from the opposing point of view. It would be quite pathetic indeed for a group of, say, Vietnamese college students to start picketing their local McDonalds in Hanoi, arguing the facility is appropriating ‘American culture’ – a point which many Americans would find simultaneously objectionable and depressingly true – by their own rules, at least. But should a horde of Americans land in the tourist sector and walk into that McDonalds, they’d have zero right to start complaining that a bunch of Vietnamese kids are working the counter.
Yelp is even managing to disprove its own thesis by handing out big red ‘ASIAN OWNED’ Yelp stickers to businesses that apply for the label to be put on their profiles, similar to the ‘Open for All’ stickers Yelp was selling during the summer in partnership with a company of the same name.
But one must ask: amid all the mainstream media-heated panic about the rise of ‘anti-Asian hate crimes’, do the members of the community in question really want to advertise their ethnic persuasion?
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