The pernicious labeling of products on supermarket shelves by the ethnicity of the owners of the company that made them

Now that race and ethnic (or sexual) identities are being emphasized by media, the academy, and the entertainment industry as the most important possible thing to know about a person — a suicidal practice in a diverse democracy — the inevitable corollary is appearing.  Products are being offered to the public based on the racial, ethic, or even sexual identity group of the owners of the company that produced them.

This is visible, for example, on the shelves of Giant supermarkets in the Washington, D.C. area.


Via Facebook.

The owners of the chain, Giant Food of Maryland, LLC, a $5.6-billion-a-year subsidiary of European retailing colossus Ahold Delhaize, seem pretty proud of themselves.  The trade publication Supermarket News featured the program late last year:

Giant Food is rolling out updated shelf labels that enable shoppers to identify products from minority-owned businesses. 

Plans call for all Giant supermarkets to post the new shelf labels starting in January, the Landover, Md.-based regional grocer said yesterday. The labels will inform customers about items from companies that are women-, Black-, Asian-Indian-, Hispanic-, LGBT-, Asian-Pacific- or veteran-owned. 

It doesn't seem to bother anyone at the company or the trade publication that this is an invitation to boycott products that don't come from the preferred groups.  We've seen this sort of thinking before — in Nazi Germany.


Photo via Yadvashem.org.

Clarice Feldman emailed me about this:

There seems to be a well-organized plan to promote black owned businesses — something seen here at Giant, but I also saw on my online grocer Fresh Direct. It's kinda like the Nazi campaign to dissuade shoppers from buying from Jewish owned businesses — in this case, white owned businesses discriminating against suppliers that are not minority owned. 

Clarice wrote to Giant and got this reply:

Hello Clarice, 

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

At Giant Food, we value our stakeholders' diversity — associates, customers, and vendors — as one of our greatest strengths. We are committed to fostering and maintaining an open and inclusive environment where all are welcome in our stores and organization. 

At Giant Food, we are committed to making it easier for customers to identify product attributes that are important to them by fostering a diverse and inclusive network of suppliers that reflects the unique backgrounds and experiences of our Giant family, our customers, and our communities. The new shelf labels are just one example of Giant's commitment to giving customers the tools they need to quickly identify products with characteristics that are important to them. In 2017, Giant rolled out the HowGood rating system which identifies products based on factors ranging from ingredient sourcing to labor practices. In 2018, Giant also launched Guiding Stars, the nutrition navigation program that takes the guesswork out of nutrition by decoding product labels into one clear rating.

The new shelf labels initiative comes as part of Giant's supplier diversity efforts in developing strong relationships with businesses that offer quality products, excellent customer service and competitive prices to shoppers. We continually work towards providing a better, safer, more inclusive, and convenient work and shopping experience for all our stakeholders.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact Giant Food.

Sincerely,

Adam S
Specialist, Customer Care

So, if you are a heterosexual white male, and you own a company that makes products sold in supermarkets, this practice identified you the same way that the Jude sign in Nazi Germany identified stores to boycott.  And Giant, Ahold Delhaize, and Supermarket News are all fine with it.

As one Facebook commenter put it:

Could anything be better designed to get us at each other's throats? To return us to the xenophobia and tribalism woven into our animal natures that civilization takes generations upon generations to mitigate?

The answer is no.