An Open Letter To The Owners Of Certe Pizza, Makers Of The Racist “Pik-A-Nika” Pizza
Dear Certe Pizza Owners,
By now, you have been made aware that your “Picnic Pizza” (previously named “Pic-a-Nika”) is highly offensive. Its ingredients – “Southern fried chicken, sea-salted watermelon, arugula, goat cheese, ricotta and blue cheese atop a sunflower crust seed crust” – coupled with the reference to the word picnic (or pik-a-nika) which has long been associated — though mistakenly – with the lynchings of Black people, a problematic for some pretty obvious reasons (fried chicken and watermelon, REALLY?!). The most poignant: it is display of ignorance and disregard for a population’s history and pain. And as a 25-year-old Black woman who has spent years as an on and off New York resident, I want to thank you for that display. I’ll explain why in a second.
Multiple sites have reported that your front of house manager, Victor Guzman, said the pizza was one of the restaurant’s best-sellers. This is why, despite changing the pie’s name, it remained on your menu for quite some time after public outcry from people of color. I understand that in America, the land of profits over people, any publicity is good publicity. And I think your ignorant decision to serve an obviously racist pizza displays just that. Especially because White America, who happens to be the country’s majority, will often find reason to support or explain-away racism. Matter of fact, many Whites (of both the liberal and conservative variety) will flock to support your business and racist pizza-naming endeavors merely because they think Whites are the primary victims of racial discrimination. They also decry “political correctness” — a progressive attempt at promoting sensitivity – and dismiss it as infringement on personal (white) self-expression. In this case, your tactlessness lands you smack dab in the middle of a modern political struggle, surrounded by many who will support and even applaud you. But none of this is the reason why I, a Black woman, want to thank you.
The immense “success” of your offensive pizza and its subsequent support from mostly white customers (per the comments on your Facebook page) allows for a rare glimpse into the pervasive nature of racism rampant throughout the “liberal” East Coast and even more specifically New York City. It also shows the city for what it is: deeply divided, segregated and extremely racialized. I have long been trying to explain this to various “friends” and colleagues who view NYC as the epicenter of racial progress and diversity, to no avail. However, you may have single-handedly provided me some much need exemplification. Your insensitivity, that mealy-mouthed attempt at an apology, the dismissal of justifiable offense, the rallying of support around your right to freely “express your heritage,” and the rampant claim that the pizza’s name is in no way racially insensitive, demonstrates, so wholly, the kind of city I have long come to understand the Big Apple to be. One where diversity is a charade and inclusivity is a dream, and where white liberalism rules but “whiteness” is still the rule. Where Black or minority feelings are secondary to white comfort.
First, let’s discuss the non-apologies you issued via Facebook (and shamelessly tagged a news station in):
Followed by this statement a few days later:
I will not take the time to outline why this “apology” is problematic, because you undermined any possible sincerity with your participation in the comments section of your Facebook page anyways. So I’ll just move right along.
Here are a selection of comments pulled from your Facebook page and screenshot representations of the individuals who showed support for the sentiments expressed in the comment by hitting “like”. About the initial outcry surrounding the pizza’s name:
(You liked this post along with your mostly white peers who did the same.)
(You also liked this post, as did mostly white people.)
And of course, there are the white folks who view your apology as sincere and feel for the pain you must be going through because this was made public:
Now let’s look at some Black opinions on the matter:
It seems that Black and white opinions are very much divided. Though, of course, there are some white people who agree this stunt is entirely offensive, it should not be disregarded that the majority of the people who have shared dismissive opinions have also been white. Opinions that you, yourself, have publicly supported. Opinions which undermine your supposed apology and acknowledgement of the offensive nature of the pizza. This is what white comfort over Black feelings looks like on the East Coast.
Whether or not you named the pizza with the intention of being hurtful or disrespectful to the Black community, you have succeeded in being just that. However, more importantly, you have also showed what it looks like when white people — even white “liberals” — have blatant disregard for minority feelings or offense. The success of your pizza and the ongoing success of your pizzeria will always be a testament to New York City’s ongoing race problem. A problem that deeply divides white and Black America. A problem of “political correctness” and “hypersensitivity” for whites versus a problem of freedom and liberty for Blacks. Thank you for giving me the perfect example of this problem at work, so I can point to it in the future.