Covert Racism or Trendy Use of K?

by multilingualmania on March 29, 2009

in Language in Society, Linguistic Landscapes, Racism

Language can send powerful messages regarding power, privilege and the social structure in given locations. Ever since I read Elana Shohamy’s book “Linguistic Landscapes: Expanding the Scenery”, I have been extremely interested in the ways in which language and images are presented in public places. 

Yesterday I went to my cousin’s house in a certain inland city, which has in my opinion been a more or less rural, conservative area until the past five years or so. I have always been a bit uncomfortable in the town because there is not much diversity. Well, there are many Latinos in the town, but it seems that the town is relatively segregated because many of the places in town are populated by white people and I’ve yet to figure out where the Latino part of town is. Yesterday my cousin invited me to breakfast and I drove over to her city of residence.

We drove around looking for a place to eat and she told me that there was a well-known restaurant that has good pancakes and bakery items. As soon as I got out of the car, I noticed the sign on top of the restaurant:
kopper-kettle5

This sign made me feel very uncomfortable because of all the k’s in the title. The first thing I said to my cousin was, “Don’t you think it’s strange that there are so many k’s in that title”? She definitely agreed. I was very perplexed as to whether the k’s were used intentionally as a subtle form of white supremacy (KKK) or if it was an unintentional use of spelling in an effort to be trendy.

When we got into the restaurant, I read on the menu that the restaurant had been around for about twenty years or so. A quick look around the restaurant revealed that all the customers were white, but the cooks in the kitchen were Latino. On the front wall there were pictures of a pretty baby contest, and there were at least two pictures of African American babies. So, I figured maybe they weren’t a bunch of white supremacists after all because if they were they wouldn’t have any Latinos working in the building. Over the past day though I have been asking myself, “Who started this restaurant twenty years ago? What is the real purpose that they used so many k’s in the title? Was it intentional or unintentional?” It reminds me though of the ways in which white supremacist groups spell certain words (e.g., I have seen California spelled as “Kalifornia”). 

All I know is that just looking at the sign brings a very uncomfortable feeling to me and I never want to go back to the place. Even the k’s in the sign seem to be larger and stand out more so than other letters. I’m not saying that the current owner is a white hooded, cross burning member of the klan, but just looking at the sign makes me very, very uncomfortable and I am slightly offended. Am I overexaggerating??

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn February 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Ummmmmm….yeah. You need to calm down. Waaaaaaaay down. Looking for racial smut wherever you go will only drive you crazier than you obviously are. Stop overthinking things. Live life. Stop cageing yourself mentally. Perhaps the owner is named Kniesha. Or Karen. Or.. Nevermind. I suppose I’m the racist here for not being sensitive enough! Perhaps the racist people are the real victims! Why do they keep repeating their filth ad nauseum?
Who cares? Stop looking for racism. Stop looking for victims. The very fact that you could see possible racism in the setup you described says that You’re probably a racist.

multilingualmania March 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm

We’re sorry that you are obviously very angry. Actually, it’s not too much of a stretch to wonder about such things when there is history of the kkk in the area. I am a white woman and it strikes me as a little bizarre, and I can only imagine how the African American community who has an actual history with white supremacy groups would feel about it. If I saw a restaurant that had a artistically done sign that reminded me of a swastika, it would remind me of the same thing. That’s the great thing about the United States–both you and I have freedom of speech to state our opinions. It’s a shame though that you are calling me names and saying that I am crazy, making it a personal attack. I could have responded similarly but I choose not to engage in attacks. Have a great day=)

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