ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Lock Her Up,” “No Collusion,” and “The Wall.”
By now, you’ve started to see the pattern — a pattern that’s offended some, who say some of the names make light of hurtful phrases. But owner Hanif Mohamed, a Muslim immigrant from Kenya, says he doesn’t see the problem with it.
“I think they’re getting angry about it now because of what’s happening at the border,” he told CNN. “As painful as it is, keeping quiet about it doesn’t solve the problem.”
Urban Taqueria just opened six weeks ago, but the menu is actually a carryover from Mohamed’s old restaurant, Crazy Lizard Taqueria, a breakfast-lunch joint.
It was 2016, and all these catchphrases were being used, like “nasty woman.” He and his staff, who are also mostly immigrants, thought they could have some fun with it. And they did.
It was only recently, with his new restaurant, that some people have started having problems, though he says more than 99% of people don’t seem to have an issue with it.
Patricia Perea, a professor at the University of New Mexico, told CNN affiliate KOAT that the problem lies in the normalization of hate speech.
“The more that you do that, the more likely people are to repeat them and perhaps forget the contexts in which they were said,” she said.
But Gabriel Sanchez, also a professor at UNM in the political science department, said the context matters here.
“Give that this is a restaurant that’s immigrant-owned and the staff are all immigrants, how I interpret the goals that they have … is much different than if the owner is a white conservative,” he told CNN.
“Because I think using the language that they do could be perceived as really poking fun at the administration and provoking a sense of endearment. Like, ‘Hey we’re immigrants and we obviously don’t agree with what the president is saying, but we’re going to take away from some of his power by reusing some of his language.'”
That can be a positive thing, Sanchez said. He also mentioned that people who have a negative reaction may not know the full context, like that the restaurant is actually owned by an immigrant.
“The messenger matters,” he said. “If it’s somebody who’s not from the community that’s been targeted by these policies … that’s going to matter in terms of the public’s perception and reaction to it.”
Mohamed, for his part, says he’s not going to remove the political names any time soon. With Elizabeth Warren’s success in the polls, he’s even thinking about a “she persisted” menu item – so, no signs of slowing down.