As part of a month-long “social experiment,” a pop-up restaurant in New Orleans is asking white customers to pay extra for their meal in the name of wealth redistribution.
According to Civil Eats, the pop-up called Saartj gives white customers — and only white customers — the option to pay “$12 for lunch or the suggested price of $30” while black customers are “charged $12 and also given the option to collect the $18 paid by a white patron as a way to redistribute wealth.”
Restaurant creator Tunde Wey says that his project seeks to educate patrons on the “nation’s racial wealth gap,” using statistics, according to Civil Eats’ coverage from an EPI study that looks at income distribution broadly, similar to the debunked 22-cent “gender pay gap” statistic.
“After they order, Wey tells each diner about the nation’s racial wealth gap, pointing to stark facts, such as higher education increases a Black family’s median income by $60,000, where as it increases a white family’s median income by $113,000,” reports Civil Eats.
Wey also asks his white customers personal questions like “have you ever inherited money or received gifts from family like a car, college tuition payments or other high value gifts?”
Once the conversation finishes, Wey then asks his white customers how much they will pay. The “white guilt” definitely pays off, with close to 78% of his white customers paying more than double the required price, according to Wey. This guilt, which Wey calls “positive social pressure,” is entirely intentional and designed to elicit payment.
“Refusing to pay more comes off as anti-social and people don’t want to be judged for that,” Wey said. “People look on the other side of the till and see me standing there and they’re thinking that I’m judging them. If they couldn’t pay a higher amount, they gave a me a list of caveats why they couldn’t.”
Should white customers ask important questions like “where does the money go?” Wey chides them for their attempts to make their “wealth virtuous.”
“The ownership of wealth has been contingent on taking from someone else,” Wey tells customers, relying on the “zero-sum” economics fallacy, “and money doesn’t distill virtue on you. You cannot transfer money without transferring the agency that comes with it.”
“I tried to just say the money is not need-based or merit-based, it’s neutral,” he said. “In fact the folks with the agency are the Black folks, because they get to take the money or not.”
If black customers offer to pay the extra $30 themselves alongside their white counterparts, Wey denies them the dignity of doing so. “Black people have even tried to pay the $30 and I’m like ‘No, it’s not for you,'” he said.
So, is his social justice social experiment working? Does the wealth redistribute? Actually, no. A vast majority of the black diners refuse to take money from other people guilted into paying more.
“After looking at the preliminary data collected from the survey, one of the most interesting results is that of 70 or so diners, 76 percent of the Black diners refused to take the $18 that they were offered,” reports Civil Eats.