Americans love the South Asian and Southeast Asian citrus commonly known as kaffir lime, which has a bumpy peel and fragrant leaves that are deployed locally in everything from Pok Pok’s super-tall gin and tonics to Le Bernardin’s prized escolar, but should everyone have a little more trouble swallowing that name? A social-media campaign picking up steam says yes, tweeting as @KaffirNoMore, with an attached description that reads, bluntly, “Kaffir Lime is like saying N*gger Lime - let’s stop & call it Makrut.”
“Makrut” is often used in place of kaffir, because that word has a long history of racist connotations. It was once used by Arabic speakers to identify non-Muslims, but colonialists, doing what colonialists do, co-opted it to the point that it was just a term for all black people they came across. The word’s meaning became even more controversial during Apartheid, to the point where it’s now even actionable in South Africa’s courts.
The anti-Kaffir Twitter group caught the eye of PCC Natural Markets, the giant Seattle co-op, which, the Seattle Times , has now decided to banish the word from store labels, and vows to do the same with any brands that won’t change it at the wholesale level, too, saying the plan “isn’t remotely complicated: hate speech doesn’t belong in the produce department.”
Last week, Veronica Vinje, KaffirNoMore’s founder, invited social media users “to post photos of menus, recipes, and signs using the K-lime term and tag the establishment that is using it” in hopes that people will “wake up and stop using this racist word!” So far, Public has been K-word-bombed for for its dark and stormy, and Marc Forgione for his scallops.