Victoria

Brunswick East cafe Fried and Tasty accused of perpetuating racist stereotypes

Brunswick East restaurant Fried and Tasty has provoked criticism for its interior decoration that is said to stereotype ...
Brunswick East restaurant Fried and Tasty has provoked criticism for its interior decoration that is said to stereotype African-Americans. Photo: Facebook

A Melbourne restaurant accused of displaying artwork perpetuating racial stereotypes about African-Americans has vowed to replace some of the offending images.

Comedian Aamer Rahman took to Facebook to criticise the popular Brunswick East eatery Fried and Tasty (F.A.T.) for putting up a photoshopped mural of slain rapper Biggie Smalls.

The restaurant, which features "old school southern fried chicken, buttermilk waffles, burgers and beers", shows Smalls, also known as The Notorious B.I.G, holding a fried chicken drumstick in his hand.

The cafe, which was started by cousins Jonathan Ioannou and Terrence Farrugia, also has pictures of white families with guns as part of its interior decor. 

Today in gentrification: Melbourne hipsters pay tribute to a dead black artist by opening a Biggie Smalls themed fried...

Posted by Aamer Rahman on  Tuesday, February 9, 2016

His post attracted 128 comments, the majority condemning the posters, and was shared more than a thousand times. 

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Commenter Rafi Alam in a mocking post said: "'Nah this is just a 21st century innovative response ton [sic] dangerous PC culture. This isn't racist because there's only race, the human race. Gentrification isn't a thing it's just sharing.' - Melbourne white hipsters everywhere".

And another said: "Everybody knows fried chicken tastes better with white supremacy sauce".

However, Fried and Tasty co-owner Jonathon Ionnou defended the posters saying they were intended to give the joint a "retro feel".

In an apology also posted on their Facebook page, Mr Ionnou said they were "really surprised" at the criticism.

"...When my cousin and I were talking about setting up a restaurant we wanted to have good food and a fun, friendly vibe and somewhere that we would want to go to to eat," Mr Ionnou said.

"Last year we opened F.A.T, and we serve comfort food.

"We wanted a retro feel with the decor, music we grew up with and a Southern American theme."It was that simple."

When my cousin Terrence and I took the plunge and decided to open our own restaurant last year our idea was to cook...

Posted by FAT Fried and Tasty on  Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mr Ionnou said they chose to put up the Biggie Smalls murals imagery because they were his fans. 

"We used to listen to Biggie Smalls and we liked his music so we wanted him to be part of our restaurant," he said. 

"We didn't mean to offend and we do apologise to people who are offended."

Mr Ionnou said they would replace some of the offending artwork.

"Biggie Smalls is part of our restaurant and we want him to stay," he said.

"As for the other images we will be replacing them."

The post drew a barrage messages ranging from criticism to support. 

One message said: "Your food looks good. I honestly want to try some of your burgers but I can't patronize [sic] a place that mocks and trivializes [sic] what it means to be Black in America."

Another said the restaurant had been in trouble before for using the same image as a "massive shop front signage prior to opening".

A commenter said it didn't matter if the owners didn't intent it to be offensive, because it was offensive. "...and the people who are offended are telling you so. You started out ignorant of the social, historical and racial implications of your decor, but now that you have been made aware, how are you going to fix it?"

Dr Naomi Priest from the Australian National University's Centre for Social Research and Methods said racism was a complex form of oppression that included prejudice, stereotyping and discriminatory behaviours, and importantly could be deliberate or unintentional, conscious or unconscious.

"Racism is harmful to individuals and to society. (There is) overwhelming scientific evidence that experiences of racism, including stereotypical portrayals such as seen in this artwork, cause lifelong impacts on mental and physical health including anxiety, depression, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic disease," Dr Priest said.

"It can also cause poorer birth outcomes for infants, sleep problems and learning difficulties at school, and physiological changes linked to early chronic disease for children and young people.

"It is far more than 'just a joke' or something to be passed over as political correctness."

* An earlier version of this article took Rafi Alam's quote out of context. His full post was as it now appears.