A series of complaints have been directed at Cafe Coco on Cowley Road by students this week, concerning a poster which they hold to be racist displayed inside the café which is clearly visible from the street.
Yussef Robinson, BME officer-elect at St. Hilda’s College, the closest college to Cafe Coco, told Cherwell, “The poster is a clear example of old racist advertising. Comparing black people to monkeys and caricaturing our features. It is the familiar trope of black people being portrayed as happy apes. If you look at the poster yourself, the racism is clear.”
Complaints about the poster had been made “in a lengthy email, sent about a month ago to Cafe Coco, [and] which gave a full explanation of issues with the poster’’. Robinson added, “On top of this another student at St. Hilda’s complained over a term ago about the poster in a suggestion slip; this was also ignored.”
On Thursday, a further student, Rowan Davis of Wadham College, who had gone into Cafe Coco to raise concerns, told Cherwell, “I made a complaint to the manager, emphasising the racist nature of the picture and instead of taking constructive criticism about his establishment he ignored the concerns and burst out laughing as I walked away, showing complete disregard for the very real issues that people of colour have brought up to me.”
Zuleyka Shahin of Balliol College, who went into the café to complain yesterday, said, “They basically heard me out and refuted what I stated. It was a long, but calm discussion of sorts. They do not see an issue.’’
A spokesperson for Cafe Coco commented, “No complaints have been laughed off by the management. We take all complaints very seriously.’’ He added, “The complaints are being addressed, and looked into.’’
Yussef Robinson, however, has yet to receive a response from the establishment, saying, “Coco’s management have repeatedly ignored concerns and belittled complaints surrounding this deeply racist poster. Perhaps they think the ‘vintage’ decor theme should be accompanied with 1930s racism too.”
Update 09/09/15: Cafe Coco has told Cherwell that it will be painting over the poster.