Civics: Yelp’s anti-racist social credit nightmare

Melissa Chen:

It’s seven in the evening and you’re working late. You’re interrupted by the soft rumble of hunger pangs, an unmistakable reminder that you haven’t eaten dinner yet. There’s this newish fusion restaurant a couple of blocks away that you’ve been wanting to try, but haven’t had the chance to. Every time you’ve walked past, it’s buzzing with activity. So you look the restaurant up on Yelp to see if it’s worth your time and money. You launch the app and search, only to be hit with an alert emblazoned with an ominously large exclamation point:

‘Business Accused of Racist Behavior’

The R word. It’s the new scarlet letter. You’re so taken aback that you almost forget that you’re hungry. Your mind races to find a possible explanation. Could it be that the staff racially profiled a diner? Perhaps, like Starbucks, the staff allegedly denied bathroom access to a non-customer who happened to be black? Then you remember that these days, fusion cuisine itself is often a flashpoint in debates about cultural appropriation. Maybe the restaurant is just racist by virtue of its existence?

Who knows. Luckily, Yelp has kindly provided a link to a news article where you can learn about the incident. Another stomach grumble urges you to stick to your original mission to find sustenance quickly. You’ll do the research later. Instead you order takeout from somewhere that’s familiar, consistent and fast. You’ve seen ads promoting the Travis Scott meal at McDonald’s and he just won BET’s rapper of the year so there’s no way you’re making a racist dining decision. McDonald’s it is.