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Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis are the creators behind the popular vegan website and cookbook collection known as Thug Kitchen. After years of being criticized for their brand, they decided to reevaluate and change things to get beyond “the racist connotations” of the name.

A statement was issued on the Thug Kitchen website, titled: “We’re Changing.” They talk about why 2020 is the right time for a change and how they are using it to “signal our brand’s grit in the otherwise polished and elitist food scene,” according to a previous report by The Takeout.

They talk about how the brand has been criticized for quite some time. It is also mentioned how they sometimes use foul language and rap lyrics, along with references to films by black artists to stick with the style. In 2014, it was learned that two white people were behind the website, leading to more backlash with some referring to it as “digital blackface.” Chef Bryant Terry even posted a powerful article on CNN.

“The contrast drawn between the consciously progressive dishes shown and the imagined vulgar, ignorant thug only works if the thug is the kind of grimy person of color depicted in the news and in popular media as hustling drugs on a dystopian block, under the colorful glow of various burger stands, bulletproof take-out spots or bodega signs,” he wrote. “‘Those kind of people,’ the visual gag suggests, ‘intimidating you into… preparing arugula or tempeh? How absurd, how shocking, how hilarious!'”

This statement talks about why the couple decided to stick with the branding, even though they were criticized:

“Over the years, as our critics pointed out the racist connotations of two white people using the word ‘thug,’ we tried to contextualize it by talking about our backgrounds and our beliefs. We realize, however, that whatever our original intention, our use of it reflected our privilege and ignored the reality that the word is assigned to black people in an attempt to dehumanize them. That’s fucked up and not at all what we want to stand for. We apologize. We recognize we need to do better.”

For now, they decided to “discontinue the use of Thug Kitchen as the title of all our previous cookbooks, and closely re-evaluate the content of each book.” They did say, however, that it is not going to happen instantly. For now, Thug Kitchen is not featured quite so heavily on their homepage, although it is still found in their URL and LLC, which is at the bottom of the page. They still claim to be “verbally abusing you into a healthier diet.”

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