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LeBron James Is Not the King of Tacos and He Can’t Have Taco Tuesday

1:59 PM PDT on August 31, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]H[/dropcap]ey, LeBron James, you didn’t invent Taco Tuesday, you didn’t make it a thing on social media, you aren’t the king of tacos, and you can’t patent Taco Tuesday because white people already stole that shit from us. 

    I hate to think the Latinx community is invisible to James, a modern day Renaissance man who I admire. But what else would explain the audacity, as reported by USA Today, of James trying to trademark Taco Tuesday as it pertains “to downloadable audio/visual works; advertising and marketing services provided by means of indirect methods of marketing communications, namely, social media; podcast services; and online entertainment services, namely, providing a website featuring non-downloadable videos, and social media posts in the field of sports, entertainment, current events and popular culture.” 

    [Update: Since this article was published, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied LeBron's trademark application of Taco Tuesday saying it is "a commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources that merely conveys an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized concept or sentiment message."]

    That grito at the end though, always made my racial spidey sense activate like it did when I watched Speedy Gonzales cartoons.

    Long before LeBron’s Taco Tuesday videos became ESPN’s favorite fun fact, first-generation Mexican American millennials were creating the modern taco craze in the streets and online, where taco memes became as ubiquitous as the racism against us. In fact, this very publication was founded on a Taco Tuesday nearly 10 years ago.

    One of the most well-known and earliest taco memes that helped make Latinx social media feel seen and turned tacos into the currency of cool on the internet and in everyday life.

    Now, LeBron has “discovered” the Taco Lifestyle and, being the savvy mogul that he is, wants to make money off of it. Which would be fine, but the expansive trademark LeBron’s team is seeking would restrict the free market of taco related branding, marketing, and ideation. 

    Young Latinx creators made tacos a serious business and we did it because it was one of the few ways Americans have accepted us. We were smart about it too. Relying on Adam Smith-style reasoning, we knew that the best way for it to flourish was for information to flow freely and for us to support one another.

    The trend was part of a larger effort by our generation to embrace Latinidad and reclaim our roots. Previous generations of Chicanos fought hard to preserve that cause in the face of tremendous racial erasure. And Latinx millennials were able to build off of that and create an American identity after generations of "ni de aqui, ni de allá."

    It’s incendiary and frankly a dick move for James and his team to come in and say, “We have a million views of Bron affecting a cringe-worthy Mexican accent over hard shells and ground beef, so now Taco Tuesday is ours.”

    Cheyenne-based Taco John’s trademarked “Taco Tuesday” 30 years ago and is not afraid to use cease-and-desist letters and other legal means at their disposal.

    It’s a move on par with Disney trying to Christopher Columbus Dia de los Muertos. But it’s not without precedent. Author Gustavo Arellano covered extensively in Taco U.S.A. this country’s history of co-opting Mexican food culture for financial benefit.

    There's the story of Glen Bell taking credit for inventing the hardshell taco. And then there's the story of John Turner of Wyoming, a perhaps less known white taco savior, who in 1989 claimed and trademarked Taco Tuesday for his Taco Bell-esque chain Taco Johns. They were allowed to do so despite the fact that Taco Tuesday has been around for at least 70 years. Arellano has traced the term back to 1933.

    It feels like such an out-of-touch old corporate greed move that it’s reminiscent of Montgomery Burns trying to block out the sun so everyone has to pay him for electricity.

    I’m sure Bron’s people did their research, which is why they are focusing on trademarking Taco Tuesday for videos, podcasts, and graphics.

    That’s even more maddening. Not only does it show a fundamental lack of f*cks given about what tacos mean to Mexican Americans, but it also shows a complete disregard for the unwritten rules of social media. It feels like such an out-of-touch old corporate greed move that it’s reminiscent of Montgomery Burns trying to block out the sun so everyone has to pay him for electricity. 

    Why does King James think he should own Taco Tuesday memes and so-themed video series? Because we have been giving him a pass on his cringy Taco Tuesday videos.

    In a world of family separation and El Paso – even Jay-Z Rickrolling Kap – are there bigger fish to fry? Sure. But this is the mojarra that we Americans of Mexican heritage have been quietly debating in our secret Taco Tuesday meetings: Are Bron’s Taco Tuesday videos racist?

    I have been a defender of the videos because I love LeBron, I love his social justice work, I love that he often risks financial hits by speaking to power, I love the Lakers, and, more importantly, I love him as an ambassador of the Taco Lifestyle. That grito at the end though, always made my racial spidey sense activate like it did when I watched Speedy Gonzales cartoons.  Anyone else would have been checked by the whole woke internet long ago. 

    Now this unchecked aggression has given the King the confidence to try and take one more thing from a Latinx community that already feels so invisible in American pop culture. And because it is from someone who has so much support and love from us, it feels truly awful.

    In that way, it's much worse than when that Fox News troll tried to claim Americans invented tacos in San Diego. Anyone that isn’t willfully ignorant knows Mexicans invented tacos and San Diego and Taco Tuesday.

    So look a little harder at your new hometown, LeBron James. Los Angeles is nearly 50 percent Latinx, and dying to support you on and off the court. Not to mention, we already have a King Taco. And it’s so good. Yet, I've never tried it and after found the need to mockingly do the Mexican yell of independence.

    RELATED: Take a Chance on Me, Hollywood: Why the Current System to Get Your Film Made Simply Doesn’t Work for Latinx Stories

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