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Restaurant charges white customers £13 more than people of colour

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Around the world, different races have varying levels of access to wealth and resources. And in America, the disparity between black and white social mobility is still huge. Which is why one chef is challenging the way people understand racial wealth disparity by charging white customers at his pop-up restaurant more than people of colour. SAARTJ is the brainchild of New Orleans-based chef Tunde Wey. Anyone can dine there but white customers will face an $18 (£13) increase in their bill, compared to others. Tunde is originally from Lagos, Nigeria, and he’s previously organised a nation-wide dinner series called ‘Blackness in America’. His latest experiment comes from discovering that, according to a 2013 study, the median household income for Afro-Americans in New Orleans is 54% lower than for whites.

The restaurant is named after Saartji Baartman, a South African who was enslaved and paraded around Europe as a freak show thanks to her having ‘steatopygia’ – resulting in extremely protuberant buttocks. She died aged 26 and her story is seen today as the epitome of colonial exploitation and racism. Customers have two pricing options: a standard price of $12 (£8.66) and a suggested price of $30 (£21.66). ‘The standard price was available to all customers, while the suggested price was offered to white customers,’ Tunde explains. ‘The pricing differential represents the wage disparity between black and white households in New Orleans. The net profit collected from sales at the suggested price was redistributed to customers of colour.’

Tunde’s avoided publicity around the project in order to gauge genuine reactions from customers. But after running for a month already, he’s found that around 78% of white guests have chosen to pay the higher amount.