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‘This Is Bigger Than Carnitas:’ How an ‘All Lives Matter’ Post by El Momo Underscores Deep-Rooted Anti-Blackness

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]f you found out one of your favorite and best taqueros in Los Angeles advocated for #AllLivesMatter and not #BlackLivesMatter and continued to defend the police during the country’s biggest uprisings since the Civil Rights Movement of 1964, would you still eat that delicious taco? 

This is the new ethical taco conundrum that many of Carnitas El Momo’s fans are pondering after Juan Carlos Acosta, aka Billy, posted a now-deleted image on Instagram earlier this week reflecting this sentiment.  

As thousands of folks take to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many Black people have lost their life due to police brutality, conversations about anti-Blackness continue, and linger within communities around the country. 

Many businesses have taken to Instagram to denounce anti-Blackness, posting #BlackLivesMatter in solidarity and donating proceeds from food sales to countless organizations who do work to support the movement to hold the police system accountable. As we see a rise in solidarity from community businesses, we have also seen either the silence or opposing views. Many establishments fear that they will lose business and support from their loyal fans if they begin posting their political views on social media. After all, we are still very much in a pandemic, and folks are struggling to stay afloat, so steering free of community conflict seems like an easy option. 

In the case of El Momo, they paid their respects to law enforcement for “doing their duty for survival and not for power,” as the original post stated, and shared that they believed All Lives Matter, and damn it hurt. Fans of the juicy tacos de carnitas and caramel-like cueritos responded with disappointment, and Billy responded to criticism with a “bye!” 

The controversy actually began when Billy posted a story to the Carnitas El Momo Instagram imploring, “Protestors please include #brownlivesmatter on your posters please.” Billy tells L.A.Taco that this story and the subsequent post was his response in solidarity for a friend of his who recently got “beat up” by the LAPD. 

“I got so much negative feedback about that. It was funny, as if I was trying to take shine away from #blacklivesmatter or some shit. Which was not my intention.”

To say “FUCK THE POLICE" does not mean “Fuck your homie, tio, tia, dad, primx, nino" who made the decision to become a police officer to fight the system from within. 

It is important to understand the history and context behind the #AllLivesMatter slogan. It was born in direct opposition to Black Lives Matter which was born out of resisting the systemic racism behind the murdering, imprisonment, and targeting of Black Americans. Some have compared this attempt to share in the pain of the Black Lives Matter movement as a type of “oppression Olympics.” Simply stated, the “All Lives Matter” is racist rhetoric. It is deeper than love for all races. It appeases whiteness and White supremacy. It is rooted in hate, illogical jealousy (I.e. why don’t brown lives matter, too?) and anti-Blackness. 

When asked if Billy knew the racist origins of the slogan, he shares what many of his close followers suspected. “What ‘All Lives Matter’ means to me is [that] each person on this planet matters. I had no clue it was a White supremacy slogan which made me look like a bad guy I guess. This might [have been] a bit ignorant on my part.”  

Allies of the Black Lives Matter movement argue that working to dismantle the systems that keep Black people oppressed also fights the same oppression of other people of color.

Billy goes on, “I’m not sure if you’ve been seeing all the innocent Hispanic hardworking people being robbed or punked by Black people? Again I am not racist or anything like that but I felt that our people need to be spoken for as well. And those incidents were really just swept under the rug and overshadowed by the death of George Floyd, which I totally understand and support full force any protest.” This deeply ingrained anti-Black sentiment is all too common among some old guard non-Black Latinos in L.A.’s barrios, some of who still freely refer to African Americans with racist slurs in Spanish. 

Allies of the Black Lives Matter movement argue that working to dismantle the systems that keep Black people oppressed also fights the same oppression of other people of color. They are working to fight the systems that also discriminate against food vendors and have kids locked in cages. 

Besides repeatedly stating the “All Lives Matter” slogan and engaging in inflammatory and dismissive conversation with their loyal followers, another point to shed light on is Billy’s support of police. Billy tells L.A. Taco, “I have friends in law enforcement that are super down to earth fellows that work out of the necessity to survive and do not use their power to their advantage... I swear my intentions were good. I just wanted to tip my hat to those good police officers doing their job.” 

For many of us, food and supporting local businesses is political. Having a platform of over 40k followers comes with responsibility. It’s bigger than carnitas. 

In these dire times, it’s important to remove our individualistic thinking and think big picture. We must be aware that showing support to a larger police force continuously murdering innocent Black people, who are too trying to survive, is triggering. To say “FUCK THE POLICE" does not mean “Fuck your homie, tio, tia, dad, primx, nino" who made the decision to become a police officer to fight the system from within. 

For many, it means to fuck the system they support and the violent acts they protect and cover-up, and the violent behavior they are called to perpetuate. I can understand attempting to enter a system to make the change from within and represent good, but when a system is so powerful, and when it continues to commit crimes without accountability, this cannot happen. Case in point is Christopher Dorner, who abided by the rules and tried to hold his partner accountable, which ended tragically. His story was recently made relevant again after Dave Chappelle referred to Dorner’s experience in his recent standup special.  

As writer Chaz Lamar Cruz so clearly puts it, “Perhaps there are cops who at times do ‘good’ acts, but that does not mean they are ‘good cops’...The police force and system are fundamentally flawed, designed to protect the State and property. When ‘good people’ decide to become a cop they decide to become part of a system that is flawed and protected.” 

It starts by taking accountability of your own actions and thoughts.

That is just it, Black Lives Matter is urging for an end to the protection of a violent group. The system needs to be held accountable, dismantled, and restructured. The police state is inherently violent, if we cannot take a couple of steps back to understand this, to remove the feelings that come with having intimate affiliations with cops, then we have more work to do.  

It starts by taking accountability of your own actions and thoughts. Speaking as a non-Black Chicana and as an ally, challenging racist systems many times means challenging our own internal anti-Blackness. Accepting that we are born into an inherently anti-Black world, allows us to then understand that we are going to make mistakes. 

We must listen. We must learn. We cannot accept these mistakes as a part of our identities, but we must accept them as behaviors, thoughts, actions that we must grow from. All in all, it feels wack when a community gem like Carnitas El Momo takes part in perpetuating ignorance, anti-Blackness, and racism. 

What Billy from Carnitas El Momo is lacking is the complex understanding and layers of racism behind the slogan. Accountability on the matter is what is important to most loyal fans. Having racist, problematic views affect the ways in which community members choose to support many businesses. 

Biting into a taco just hits differently when we know that the taco was made by someone willing to do the work to break down White supremacy. 

In his attempt at an apology post to his Instagram following, Billy shared, “This post was misinterpreted. We created it with intent to support good people, period. I’m not into politics, nor do I want to be. I [won’t] tolerate BS, we are not the bad guys in this story, we just wanted to show support and love and apologize to those we offended.” 

For many of us, food and supporting local businesses is political. Having a platform of over 40k followers comes with responsibility. It’s bigger than carnitas. It's about the community. Biting into a taco just hits differently when we know that the taco was made by someone willing to do the work to break down White supremacy. 

L.A. Taco checked in with Billy to see if he would still use those three words again, even after knowing about its racist origins. “It was an honest mistake and I would not use it ever again.”  

Defending #AllLivesMatter, after learning its historical context, or staying silent for fear of losing followers and business appeases to racism. It appeases the fear we’ve all been taught to live with. Whiteness seeps into every aspect of society. It becomes our norm. We are taught to stay silent and cause no trouble. We are taught that this is how we’ll get through life successfully. As you read this article, I challenge you to get uncomfortable. Listen to folks when you are being called into a conversation about how your words may be powerfully hurtful. Ignorance is not bliss, it is violent. We are all born and raised in a society and communities that are anti-Black by default. 

Let’s do the work to dismantle that shit, and hopefully enjoy all the tacos while we’re at it. 

Full disclosure: Carnitas El Momo is a taco partner who provides perks to L.A. Taco Members

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