A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the “626″ Asian American youth subculture in the San Gabriel Valley that got at least one anonymous commenter rather upset. I argued that the attempts by this self-proclaimed “movement” to brand the San Gabriel Valley as a second-generation Asian foodie playground creates a narrative that minimizes non-Asian ethnic groups, immigrants, and people on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.
It seems like I’m not the only “626″ native uncomfortable with this re-branding. Food blogger Justin Aung Lee responds to the controversy with a well-written post and a cool graphic:
Just because an Asian night market bears the name 626 doesn’t grant the right of a select few to anoint showcase communities (with vibrant Asian-inspired food scenes) as the undisputed representatives of the 626. Does that mean only sushi bars and Korean BBQ restaurants, pho joints and Taiwanese cafes can represent the 626?
The 626 should be about celebrating a vibrant and dynamic community that already exists, not about vested business interests conjuring up a static definition that osbcures the realities on the ground and the incongruities in our community. To us at Oh My Food Coma, the 626 has always been inclusive of the many communities that inhabit this expansive swath of the San Gabriel Valley.
To even imply that the 626 is an exclusively Asian domain is a narrative that leaves us uncomfortable. It’s a symptom of the greater problems immigrant communities face in America. When people espouse these sorts of ideas, they inherently marginalize other groups and render them invisible. It’s exclusion, plain and simple.