Over the last several weeks, as the country has witnessed numerous killings of black men at the hands of the police, there has been much talk about the tragedy of one’s life being reduced to a hashtag. Now, with race relations as tense as they’ve been in decades, a hashtag for a social movement is being reduced even further, serving as a pun for a restaurant sign in New Mexico.
According to KRQE, Paisano’s, an Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, is under fire after its owner put out a marquee sign with the words “BLACK OLIVES MATTER – TRY OUR TAPENADE” printed across the front. Feeling proud of his clever idea, the owner, Rick Camuglia, posted a photo of the sign to Facebook.
“We use our reader board to promote our specials,” Camuglia told the local news station. “We thought it was a cute, play on words to promote our special Ahi tuna tonight.”
“We didn’t think anybody would be offended by that,” he added. “It was not our intent to offend anybody.”
Still, the Facebook comments started to roll in shortly thereafter, and local residents were not amused. Though it appears the post has since been deleted, commenters aired their grievances at the time, writing “How insensitive,” “What the hell is wrong with you people?” and “Very poor taste,” according to KRQE.
Predictably, there were also those who supported the insensitive sign, leaving racially-charged and offensive comments on other photos. “Lighten up! All lives matter and olives are just a vegetable,” one commenter wrote. “Black olives matter because they behave,” another added.
And though Camuglia ultimately took the sign down, and claims it wasn't his intention to offend anyone, he's failed to grasp why his actions are being viewed as reprehensible by the African-American community.
“I think if that offends some people, a statement about black olives, that somebody needs to reevaluate their politically correct meter,” he told KRQE.
In the end, the local NAACP weighed in on the controversy, calling on Camuglia to be more sensitive in the future.
“Unjustified killing of innocent Black men is nothing to joke about. Whether it was intentional or not, it sent the wrong message to many,” Harold Bailey, the president of the Albuquerque NAACP, said in a statement to KRQE. “I’m sure they would feel the same way if someone had an offensive marketing idea that placed Hispanics, Italians or any other ethnic group in a controversial concept."