New Study Reviews Yelp Reviews, Gives One Star for Rampant Racism

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A new study by sociologists at the City University of New York titled “The omnivore’s neighborhood? Online restaurant reviews, race, and gentrification” looked at 7,046 Yelp reviews in Greenpoint, a predominantly white gentrifying neighborhood, and Bed-Stuy, a pre-dominantly black gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The study revealed a larger prejudice towards these neighborhoods was reflected in these online reviews:

A framing analysis of 1056 reviews that mention the neighborhood indicates that most Yelp reviewers feel positive about the White neighborhood, where they consider the traditional Polish restaurants “authentic” and “cozy,” while they feel negative about the Black neighborhood, which they criticize for a dearth of dining options and an atmosphere of dirt and danger. This language represents “discursive redlining” in the digital public realm, with Yelp reviewers contributing to taste-driven processes of gentrification and racial change.

The results aren’t surprising to me, as white people writing Yelp reviews have been a sort of running joke among POC. (“The meal was so spicy. This water is too spicy.”) It’s a bit mean-spirited, but at least now there’s some scholarship backing it. “Fine dining” has traditionally been very Euro-centric, and ethnic food is often seen as cheap, or an “adventurous experiment” where patrons are treated as brave and worldly for trying out “weird” foods that plenty of people eat every day.

Yelp reviews are often pretty ridiculous in general, but they can have a big effect on businesses. Hopefully, understanding the racial implications of these word choices will introduce more healthy skepticism towards online reviews.

(via The Daily Dot)

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