Two white women have been forced to close their pop-up burrito shop after they were accused of cultural appropriation.
Kali Wilgus and Liz 'LC' Connelly opened Kooks Burritos in Portland, Oregon, after taking a trip to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico, last December.
For the first few months, the weekend pop-up shop housed in an taco truck was a smash hit. It gained so much popularity, a local weekly newspaper decided to profile the entrepreneurial duo.
But that's when the trouble started for Wilgus and Connelly, after quotes they gave to the Williamette Week led to them being accused of stealing their success.
Cutting to the chase, according to the quotes in the Williamette Week article, the two women went to Mexico, liked the tortillas, asked about them, watched ladies making them in Mexico, then came home to Portland and did research to figure out how to do it themselves. Then they spent a bunch of money creating a successful business out of it. Then came the ravening hordes of the perpetually offended, screaming for their heads.
And call attention to it we did. As soon as Willamette Week, who has a history of publishing racially insensitive food commentary, published this story, people of color were outraged. Even some of those aforementioned super liberal white people. The comments on the article went up in flames, and pretty soon the story was even picked up by a national outlet.
Following the WW's article, one commenter said: "Now that you all boldly and pretty fucking unapologetically stole the basis of these women's livelihoods, you can make their exact same product so other white ppl don't have to be inconvenienced of dealing with a pesky brown middle woman getting in their way. Great job."
Week after week people of color in Portland bear witness to the hijacking of their cultures, and an identifiable pattern of appropriation has been created. Several of the most successful businesses in this town have been birthed as a result of curious white people going to a foreign country, or an international venture, and poaching as many trade secrets, customs, recipes as possible, and then coming back to Portland to claim it as their own and score a tidy profit.
In less than six months, Wilgus and Connelly have managed to build a business. And, depending on how you look at it, their methods are either genius or the latest example of white folks profiting off the labor of people of color.