When I was asked to do a simple food review on a menu trialling at a South London pub the other month, the last thing I expected was to be on the receiving end of racial abuse because of it. However, when I also add that the owners of the company are two white women who greatly suffer from white saviourism – suddenly it all makes sense.
I had been wanting to get involved in food blogging for a while now as I’ve found a lot of the vegan food bloggers repetitive and borderline ass sucking. I jumped at the chance to review a meal from What The Fattoush?, that was not only completely vegan but featured solely Palestinian dishes – something I thought would tie in really well considering the politics of my blog. The press release I was provided with was a bit unexpected; I was surprised to see two white girls at the focus of this Palestinian food-based company, accompanied by a happy go lucky story about how they met volunteering for refugees. I definitely had some questions from the get-go, and although I contemplated not attending – I thought it would be better to give them a fair chance to answer the questions whilst also being able to do a review of their food and provide my followers with the full picture. On the day of the review, the pub hosting the company was oddly not full for a Saturday evening, so the PR person found us quickly and showed Konrad and me to our table. She sat us down and told me she was amazed by me juggling my job, studies and blog and in my head, I was slightly impressed she had apparently done her homework (not that common in PR oddly). It wasn’t long before she was gushing over the owners of WTF; Jess & Meg, telling us how inspirational they were for going to another country, learning some recipes and bringing them back to the UK in order to donate proceeds to a Palestinian charity. Konrad and I did not react, but I took the chance to let her know I had actually had more questions about their charity work – a statement that was met with a look of confusion – almost as if to say “how could you question their blatant act of kindness and purity?” – it was then that I realised that she had not done her homework on me.
I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt despite the red flags. The food review varied from average to good, but my follow up questions were likely going to be the real star of the show; no other blogger had pushed past the “they donate to charity, how wonderful” trope, but after being Black for 26 years and learning from @nowhitesaviours on Instagram as well as the amazing Kelechi Okafor’s (@kelechnekoff) podcast “SYM”, I knew never to take white people being involved in charity at face value. Below is a copy of the questions I put to them; they appeared happy to answer them and gave me a response relatively quickly. Shortly after they were posted, they unfollowed me on Instagram and they never posted any of my pictures or quotes from the review. I personally was happy with the pictures and review as well as the response so I unfollowed them back and rolled my eyes at their fragility. Despite some of the answers not being to my liking, a fair amount of my followers were still happy to give WTF a try and go taste their menu. I didn’t post any more about them after the answers were shared but about a week later, I happened to come across their Instagram profile again and saw one of their recent posts was actually taking a dig at me and my review. It was a picture of a customer eating their falafel (which I said was dry) with a caption saying they “recently had an “influencer” come and try our food who called our falafel dry – we’ll be passing it on to the person we got the recipe from – not #sensitive”.
Now skimming over the mocking, butthurtedness and general unprofessionalism because I already dealt with that on Instagram at the time – I want to get into the nitty-gritty of why this business is trash for their behaviour and how they run their shit. The reason they felt it appropriate to mock me was that (in more or less their words) they felt that my questions were not well-intentioned and it upset them so much they had to drag it up a week later. I would argue that the days of harassment and racial based abuse I received because I dared criticise them in any way was more something to cry about but in true white womanhood, they just cried and victimised themselves. Unfortunately for them, no one was buying it. Back story: The business comprises of two white women who met volunteering for refugees in Calais, they soon became besties and jetted off to Palestine to volunteer some more, they fell in love with the cuisine and decided it was theirs to bring back to the UK to create a business from. They donate some proceeds from their dish(es)to a charity called “SkatePal”, another company that is not founded by Palestinians but does hire some and unlike WTF, seems to understand the importance of de-centring whiteness. The menu I reviewed only donated money from one of the dishes on it to the charity, so if you didn’t order that dish – there would be no donation made. Their socials are mainly comprised of images of their food and the owners with the occasional blogger review or vague political message. Despite their informative answers to my questions, it’s not immediately clear that they support BDS, or source their ingredients from Palestinian businesses or that they ‘support’ CADFA. So if anything, my questions helped shine the light on what they actually do but white fragility is one hell of a drug, and these women are severely intoxicated. There is nothing in these questions that warranted isolating a bloggers review to mock and bully, and surely the most logical thing to do is to apologise, right?
Their mocking post
My comment in an attempt to explain why their behaviour was not acceptable and their…apology?
Wrong – apparently, the most logical thing to do as a white woman is to not hold yourself accountable and just behave like a child throwing their toys out the pram. They thought it was a really good business-move to respond to those questioning their professionalism with sarcastic and abusive comments. They were at it for a few hours before eventually taking the post down overnight – if only they gave their cooking skills this much dedication. Prior to it being deleted, I commented a few times in an attempt to diffuse the situation and explain that I was happy to put it to bed if they acknowledged their bullying, but I never saw an apology or any form of accountability, shocker that. I started receiving harassment in the form of dm’s and accounts being made about me targeting my followers, friends and family with racial abuse and general trolling. The PR’s response to this was to co-sign their abusive behaviour and blame me for being harrassed, and WTF just blocked me the same way their dry falafel blocked my oesophagus…
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