At least twice a month at my home, Friday is pizza night. I am sure that other families have their own traditions, especially at this time when children are home on vacation from school.
I know too that the malls, particularly the food courts, are abuzz with teenagers pouncing on fast food outlets like KFC, Subway, Mario’s and Dominos. In all estimation, Trinis are more predisposed towards fried chicken but pizza remains a standard fare and staple for ravishing adolescents.
The children of the 1980s have a soft spot for our local pizza outlet Mario’s, we have seen in recent time foreign competitions from franchises such as Pizza Hut and Papa John’s restaurants that are both American brands.
These brands are associated with popular American sporting leagues—such as the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB)—and also play their part as corporate citizens in pumping millions of dollars into charities and community programmes throughout the United States.
But while their altruism is commendable, wealth should not allow them to get away with being disrespectful to other races and cultures.
In this country, I believe our colonial experience left us with a penchant for things foreign; and we have a particular weakness for embracing everything American. However, we must look closely at the companies that set-up shop here—their history and their business practices—before accepting them into our society.
Therefore, let’s look at Papa John’s founder, John Schnatter, who stepped down as company chairman recently, due to the fallout over his use of the ‘n’-word during a conference call training session in May.
The use of the ‘n’-word is a highly contentious, sensitive and belligerent subject in American society and holds dark memories of the humiliation and abasement against blacks during slavery. It is a stinging lash against people of colour and is often used by non-blacks to rebuke and debase, insult and degrade.
In Trinidad and Tobago, despite a diverse racial mixture of people, we are not immune from our own ethnocentrism and prejudices; but we are still able to eat, lime and share the same space without feeling unwanted or unwelcome.
At present, Papa John’s has at least three restaurants in Trinidad. However, citizens and pizza lovers should demand a press conference by representatives of its local franchise to denounce and distance itself from Schnatter’s slur.
We must send a message that the ‘n’-word has no place in our vernacular.