One of Donald Trump’s top Latino supporters wants you to be afraid — very afraid — of … taco trucks?
Yes, taco trucks. That’s the message Latinos for Trump co-founder Marco Gutierrez sent while on MSNBC Thursday night: “My culture is a very dominant culture,” he argued. “And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.”
Many people immediately mocked this on Twitter. After all, who wouldn’t want a taco truck on their corner? (Maybe it could get people from New York City to finally stop whining about the lack of good Mexican food there.)
That doesn't sound like a bad outcome to me. https://t.co/ZGBhMwTct8— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) September 2, 2016
you get a taco truck— Oliver Willis (@owillis) September 2, 2016
you get a taco truck
everybody gets a taco truckkkkkkkkkk pic.twitter.com/BFdReW1suz
Hell, even Trump doesn’t seem like he’d mind this much — as long as he profits from the tacos:
But there’s something serious going on in Gutierrez’s message: This is yet another Trump surrogate trying to activate the racial resentment among American voters to get them to support Trump. Hand-wringing about a certain racial or ethnic group’s “culture,” after all, is a common form of coded language that politicians and pundits use to get away with explicitly racist messages — from crime to immigration and terrorism. In this case, the worry is that America’s apparently great culture will be replaced by a supposedly criminal Mexican culture, in Trump’s view.
Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics, explained: “Current racial code operates by appealing to deep-seated stereotypes of groups that are perceived as threatening. But they differ from naked racial terms in that they don't emphasize biology — so it's not references to brown skin or black skin.” He added, “It allows people to say, ‘Hey, I'm just criticizing the behavior, not criticizing a racially defined group.’”
Trump supporters are more prone to this kind of thing. An analysis from Daniel Byrd and Loren Collingwood found white Trump supporters are much more likely to show high levels of racial resentment than other candidates’ white supporters.
This is exactly what the Trump campaign is playing into. The image of taco trucks lining the streets may be hilarious, but it’s also part of the campaign’s well-known attempts to pander to the “economically anxious” (read: racist).