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Cultural Appropriation


In a local magazine, aspiring journalist Steve Haruch wrote an article on restaurateur Patrick Burke.  In it, Haruch raised questions about Burke’s “cultural appropriation” by opening a Japanese restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee, given that Burke is not Japanese by ethnicity nor race.

Here are snippets from Burke’s open letter response:

“It’s true that I still have a lot to learn about Japanese cuisine and culture.  Raised in Louisville by parents from Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, I’m perhaps not the most obvious choice to be selling Japanese cuisine.  Believe it or not, in seven years of pursuing my dream of creating the best neighborhood Japanese restaurant, this isn’t the first time my ethnicity has come up.  I am fortunate that my own life experience, and I imagine that of my white colleagues, has not been marred by ugly, prejudicial and racist actions and words from others.  While I find this behavior disgusting, I obviously can’t completely empathize with you, Steve, or anyone else from a minority group who’s experienced prejudice.  But that shouldn’t stop me from working to share a love of Japanese cuisine with others.  Should it?”

“Insisting that someone be of a certain ethnicity to prepare your ‘authentic’ food is, in fact, a prejudiced viewpoint, in my opinion.”

“And as I’ve already mentioned, Steve, it’s true that I still have a lot to learn about Japanese cuisine and culture.  Which is why I’m returning to Japan later this year.”

Mr. Burke, I agree.  True Globalization is when talent has no boundaries.

Roam the planet.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of a virtual consultancy of OD experts, CLG.  She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive Advantage, required reading for the second year at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business & Management course Foundations of Global Competence.  Visit us at

©Rossina Gil, 2014

Resource: The Nashville Scene, April 17-23, 2014, pg. 44