Taco comment heard round the world

This is old news by now on the internet, but perhaps pertinent to our discussion. If you don’t hang out on the internet much, though, the story goes like this: The FBI arrested four police officers in East Haven, CT on charges that they had terrorized latino members of the community. When asked what, if anything, he was doing to help the latino community, the mayor of East Haven answered, “I might have tacos when I get home.” For a mayor named Maturo, it’s an awfully immature comment, right? (Watch the baffling video at my favorite news source, videogum.com.) While I think it’s probably not the best thing in the world that this comment has overshadowed the very serious charges against the East Haven police department, it has been taken as evidence of troubling and pervasive racism in East Haven’s leadership. In the days following, protesters sent thousands of “protest tacos” (best neologism ever!) to the mayor’s office.

I raise it here for two reasons. First was this mayor’s immediate impulse to link a community  with a single food item, to reduce a heterogenous group of people to a(n inaccurate) metonym. Second was the response to the mayor’s statement, with criticism focusing more on his racism than on his stupidity. A Connecticut state rep compared the comment to a “slighting the African American community with a fried chicken joke.”

We should probably talk about the connection between food, race, and racism. And also about the way the banner ads on the urbandictionary definition of East Haven are ads for making tacos with Old El Paso taco sauce? Right? We should probably talk about that.

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