In Philadelphia, restaurateur Joe Groh experienced a 10 percent drop in business in June and another 15 percent drop in July when he changed the name of his restaurant to Joe’s Steakhouse + Soda Shop. Joe was also attacked on social media. His restaurant has been vandalized. Some old time customers have furiously vowed never to return.
Why did the name change piss people off so badly? Because it made a statement about racism. Used to be that Joe’s Steakhouse + Soda Shop was called Chink’s Steaks.
“Chink” was the nickname of the founder and former owner, Sam Sherman, given to him because of the almond shape of his eyes. According to the Daily News, Joe decided that it was time to change the name at the end of March because “I am Joe. It’s 2013. It was time to do it.”
Joe Groh has worked at the steakhouse for 35 years. It’s the only place he’s ever worked. He provides 14 jobs to residents of the neighborhood and holds the former owner, Mr. Sherman, in high regard. He just wanted to change the name of a business he owns because he’s Joe, and he wants the name to be a reflection of him, his values, and the legacy he wants to pass on to his son who has already joined him in the business.
Apparently, being someone who would rather not retain the name of a business you bought because it contains a word you find offensive makes you too politically correct to thousands of people. Those thousands, 10,000 to be exact, were so attached to the ability to make other people feel miserable, and demeaned, even scared, by retaining a business name that contained a racial slur that they’ve signed a petition of protest against Joe demanding that he change the name back. I remind you, this is Joe’s own business, not some publicly traded corporation. This would be like buying a house that has a racial slur painted on it and painting over it only to find that your neighbors are circulating a petition to force you to put the slur back up again.
How did we become this country? Or, is this is how we’ve always been? I’m double dipping and going with both options. We are becoming something, and that something goes against the grain of what we are and have been. Joe’s decision to rename his business is a symbol of that change.
Remember, he said he changed it because “I’m Joe. It’s 2013.” Joe dumped the name “Chinks” to acknowledge that the cultural tide is turning against white racism. Worse, at least to his opponents, his acknowledgment is changing the cultural landscape of Philadelphia. So by changing the name of his restaurant, Joe is contributing to that turning tide. That’s why folks are pissed at him. The new name is provoking the anger rooted in the fear that many whites in Philadelphia and around the country are feeling over the sense that they are losing control of American culture.