2020 has characterised this new decade through a state of instability, emphasising long-standing inequalities. By recognizing the divisions along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and socioeconomic status, we can begin to understand how there has been a lack of a cohesive and consistent public health response to current Coronavirus pandemic. This rings true especially for those living in America. But, as if this year wasn’t bizarre enough, beans – not the pandemic, nor the upcoming U.S. presidential elections or the retaliatory U.S.-China relationship – are at the forefront of America’s political consciousness.
The hashtags #Goyaway and #BoycottGoya began trending last week, after Robert Unanue, CEO of Goya Foods, voiced his adoration and unwavering support for the current U.S. President. After attending an event at the White House as a member of President Trump’s new Hispanic advisory panel, the President signed off on the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative that aims to improve social mobility.
“We are all truly blessed … to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder,” the CEO described from the Rose Garden. Unanue went on to declare that “we have an incredible builder, and we pray. We pray for our leadership, our President.”
The President, which Unanue commends, is the same one who began his 2015 presidential campaign by describing Mexican immigrants as delinquents who “…have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” This ‘incredible’ leader is the same one who offensively referred to El Salvador, Haiti, and African nations as “shithole countries.” Unanue – a third-generation migrant himself – applauded a President that has implemented immigrant policies which have been deemed as unconstitutional in their xenophobic and racist enactments. The same administration the CEO showers with praise is one that has detained and criminalized migrant minors and their parents, as the presidency continues to leverage children in its war against immigrants.
Goya is the largest Hispanic owned food company in America, making its products a household name in not just Latinx communities, but as a generational staple in the pantries of many POC families. It is then understandable, why the CEO’s tone-deaf remarks have angered and alienated the once-loyal Goya consumers. As various Democrat politicians and popular personalities have shown support for the boycott, consumer activists have expressed their profound disappointment with many sharing other ethical brands and alternative recipes.
Activist groups have launched online petitions against the company as Unanue’s position had “aligned the Goya brand with Trump’s white supremacist agenda.” In defending his comments, the CEO refused to apologize – even doubling down on his stance – citing that the boycott was suppressing his freedom of speech. Showing their support, the President and his senior advisor/daughter affirmed their “love” for the Goya brand through their posts and photos on Twitter. Both Trumps urged all followers to actively buy Goya products, attempting to squash the boycott movement spurred by the “Radical Left.”
There is a specific kind of irony here – in that – Trump garnered supporters in 2016 based on narratives that his defeat would see that there are “taco trucks on every corner.” These are the same followers who hear his call to action, and now, are “buying like crazy” the products intended for a Hispanic demographic. The Trump administration’s virtual signs of solidarity reek of illegality. It is a promotion which breaches ethic rules and anti-corruption laws, with the former director from the Office of Government Ethics signposting how Ivanka’s photos is an obvious “violation of the government’s misuse of position regulation.”
However, government watchdogs doubt that there will be any kind of discipline enforced. Throughout his presidency, those around Trump often blur the boundaries between politics and governing. It is a contradiction the Associated Press highlights in that, “the White House would be responsible for disciplining Ivanka Trump for any ethics violation but chose not to in a similar case involving White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway in 2017.” In their almost silent, but still deadly response, the White House claims the boycott and questions of legality are feeble attempts of Leftist “cancel culture,” and that the President’s daughter has “every right to express her personal support.”
With Florida in pursuit of gaining the unwanted accolade of being ‘America’s latest COVID-19 epicentre,’ the daily average Coronavirus death toll around the country persists in its rise. While current debates are surrounding America’s preparedness to reopen schools later this year (spoiler alert: they’re not ready), the country continues to be a cite for ongoing civil and social justice movements. Let’s not forget the Say Her Name campaign: there is yet to be an arrest made or charges filed against the Louisville officers who executed Breonna Taylor.
To his credit the Goya CEO was correct about one thing in his Rose Garden speech: President Trump is indeed a ‘builder.’ Whether it is through his promotion of the coronavirus as the Chinese ‘Kung Flu,’ or his disrespectful claims ‘more white people’ die at the hands of police brutality than Black Americans, Trump is a harmful architect that cements divisions which manifests across all aspects of life.
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