Similar to the word Exotic, the word ethnic is often used to describe foreign food or foreign people. People use the descriptor “ethnic” for “a category of things they don’t know much about, don’t understand much about and yet find it valid to express opinions about. An ethnic group is a category of people who identify with each other based on things like a common language, religion, ancestral location, and history. This definition means that all people belong to an ethnic group, including white people. Because of this, using the term solely to describe People of color is racist, because it is a form of white supremacy, implying that white is the norm and does not need to be differentiated as do other ethnicities. Part of white privilege is not having to acknowledge their ethnicity. The solution to this problem is not completely getting rid of the term ethnic, it is just recognizing that ethnicity belongs to all people, not just people of darker skin.
Another problem with the usage of the term ethnic to describe food is that the word is never used to describe Western European cuisine. Ethnic cuisines are considered low, and fusion cuisines are considered haute cuisines. Because of this, when people talk about “ethnic” food, they expect to pay less for it.
Instead of defining someone or something as ethnic, it is better to describe it exactly the way it is. For example, we could call food Vietnamese, Italian, Cambodian, or whatever it truly is, instead of ethnic.
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