City Desk

Fojol Bros. Apologize! Sort of!

Via their Facebook page, the owners of Fojol Bros. have put out a statement apologizing to folks who have been offended by the food truck vendors' costumes:

The fojol bros. apologize to those who have been offended. That was not, is not, and will never be our intent. Fojol is a celebration of food and community, infused with creativity and entertainment. Fojol's owners were born and raised in Washington, DC, but our workforce includes women and men from around the world. Our mission is to embody a traveling culinary carnival. Our clothing and design have two distinct influences: the countries that inspire our food and the carnival’s whimsical nature. Our mustaches are a symbol across all three trucks, paying tribute to circus showmen of the past. Fojol’s aesthetic is in no way meant to be a caricature of any cultural or ethnic group. Fojol’s goal remains the same – to bring healthy, affordable food to the streets, in a colorful atmosphere that lifts people's spirits and encourages community.

Doesn't look like they have plans to change their schtick, but we'll keep you posted. (Also, as apologies go, this is kind of a classic non-apology apology.)

Photo by a loves dc via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License

 

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  • ben

    They drove by me today and the dude wasn't wearing the turban.

  • Sally

    Oh please. This isn't offensive. City Paper is beating this idiotic topic to death and then some. But hey - it's great for page clicks!

  • David

    It's lame that this has become an issue, especially given their intent. If their intent was to mock other cultures and races, then obviously this would be an issue. But the element of whimsy they involve (the mustaches, the music) and they intent they DO have of making good food from these other cultures would seem to make this not as big a deal as a very vocal and very small minority (absolutely no pun intended, seriously) seem to believe.

    We have to ask ourselves where the lines are between intentional racism (calling someone a racial epithet on purpose), unintentional racism (certain now commonly-used turns of phrase that have racist origins, e.g. call a spade a spade, etc), and situations where groups of individuals are claiming something to be racist that actually is not (this situation).

    There are plenty of analogous examples of this type of situation in our society. Sometimes there are complaints, but for the large party, there are not. How much is an entity (design, business, organization, food truck) allowed to take on influences from other cultures and make it into something new? It seems like we can be a bit more reasonable that instantly jumping to a conclusion and becoming offended.

  • Jes sayin’

    What Sally just said. Let it go, Shani. Get over it.

    The Ethiopian-Americans and Indian-Americans I know aren't offended by this, and they all seem to be too busy with their jobs, their studies, and their families to be bothered with the controversy.

  • dud

    this is my favorite type of non-apology apology:

    1) Caricature is dirty when placed in the wrong hands - we are 'the right hands' because our actual goal is to make money which everyone, especially the people who blind themselves from the reality of our pr strategy, can agree is good, especially because we are up front about wanting to simply make our product and our money.

    2) Gross interpretations of another culture are 'influences;' the classiness of this such word elevates the concept above the classification of being a gross interpretation...we just so much more sophisticated than that.

    3) If you find yourself always feeling superior to middle brow mockery, then the joke is never on you, so lighten up, you poor thing. We're mocking ourselves, don't you see?

    (I find this meme to be incredibly hilarious -- we've been talking about western representations of ethnic minorities in the media for years now, and neither argument has really changed much, nor the positions of people capable of articulating why questionable imagery succeeds at upsetting people or fostering ambivalence.)

  • andrew

    They did apologize, they said "we apologize."

  • Shani Hilton

    @Jes: I will never get over it. I will only ever write about this from now on and my dying breath will be a whisper about the Fojol Bros.

  • dud

    yea, let Shani have her fun!

  • RJ

    1) As an Indian-American, I have always found the Fojols costumes a bit strange. The mustaches and turbans are a stereotype. Are they honoring my heritage by doing this? The simple fact is, you would never have the balls to do this for other cultures and ethnicities. Why some, and not others?

    2) Telling other people to "get over it" -- while citing your friends of said ethnicity that agree with you -- strikes me as strange as well. Everyone has a right to an opinion, whether you are a minority or not. But this sort of hardline attitude from limited anecdotal experience only serves to make people feel ashamed of speaking honestly.

    We should all be honest enough to have an open discussion, because the answer to this one doesn't seem nearly as easy as Yes or No.

  • ben

    Right on RJ, that annoys me too (point 2). You don't have to agree when someone brings up a point like this, but you can't just dismiss it by saying "get over it" or "grow up" or "political correctness has gone mad!". It's worthy of discussion. I personally know South Asians who heard about the Fojol Bro.s schtick and said "dude, that is NOT ok". And I'm sure there are other South Asians who think it's not a big deal. It's not a cut and dry issue. But to be fair, Drew Franklin's childish, profanity-laden screed of a letter was not the right way to open discussion on this topic.

  • adam

    Defintion APOLOGY: "An acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense."

    Fojol Bros. clearly expressed regret that others have been offended.

    Now please explain how this was not an apology?

    Ps. Would be good journalism if the City Paper ever mentioned that two of the Fojol Bros. managing partners are Indian-American and African-American, and half are women - not exactly the "white guys" they are portrayed to be - but don't let facts get in the way of a good story. That being fact, are the "non-whites" of Fojol being racist? If not, are you not being explicitly racist for declaring that only "whites" can be racist??

  • ben

    My personal feeling is that it would definitely not be ok for me, as a Caucasian dude, to open a taco truck called "Ben's Tacos of Mexicadia" where I wore a sombrero, poncho, and mustache and served tacos and burritos from the magical land of Mexicadia (not Mexico, mind you). The Fojol brothers schtick seems pretty equivalent to that.

  • http://joeflood.com Joe Flood

    If you're offended, don't buy their food. But trying to outlaw costumes that you disagree with is political correctness run amok.

  • lillienthal

    fojol probably put a lot of time into thinking of a short apologetic statement (it is an apology, Shani, don't use your eye-catching headlines to make people think otherwise). it gets their message across in a concise manner.

    if you went by the fojol bros. truck and talked to the staff, not even to order a meal, you would soon learn that turbans and mustaches are not the quintessential of their costumed look and as they say in their apology, not a stereotype! do it sometime and check them out, before you jump the shark and write a petition like Viscarra did.

    there's lots of links online floating of Vitarello and Korbel wearing turbans...because editors/writers choose to use that picture. But there's plenty of images online too of the fojols in jumpsuits, jester hats, sun hats, feathery fascinators, bandanas, etc....And read the apology! The mustache isn't a stereotype to a culture, it's tribute to circus showman of the past, like the Barnum and Bailey Bros.

    fojol is a small business that's done a lot for our town and will probably keep doing more. i hope that they can spend their future energy now toward working on amazing food and events to only making this city more exciting.

  • dud

    I think that people who are upset about this believe that ultimately, projection is an incomplete means of expressing interest in another culture. However, I also think that there is no such thing as 'complete' means either -- that's asking too much. But it's a crazy conundrum that sets everyone up for some degree of experiencing alienation, and there should be some premium on preventing that type of shame from being induced on either side of the argument.

    I do think that most people would agree that exchanging aspects of each others' culture is something to be valued in any society, it's just that whenever it happens in the US, the expression of admiration usually pretty far over the top when the impetus in question is something that's considered accessible (in this case, the accessible impetus is feeding people, sometimes it's entertaining people, sometimes it's educating people).

    Imitation then (positive or negative), is a very limited means of flattery, maybe never the best substitute for simply sitting down to dinner with people who probably don't agree with you?

  • Tom

    Congratulations to Drew Franklin and his roommate for standing up against Wall Street and the corporate hegemony that is destroying our political system.... Wait. What? I thought they were OccupyDC?

    Oh, they were, but gave up and decided to go after a FOOD TRUCK because they dressed up like carnival workers.

    Give me a break. I propose the term "Franklin" be the new synonym for wasted, pointless goose chases by attention-seeking dorks.

    Someone log onto Urban Dictionary stat.

  • JOe

    Straightup racist. Like if they wore Blackface, it would be so racist and everyboyd would ask them to cease. Not just an apology..stop wearing racist stuff and acting like its no issue...IT IS!

  • Jane

    Why not really milk the "carnival" thing and go for sequined vests or suspenders under capes---something suitably outrageous without being ethnic? They can keep the music and keep telling stories about Merlindia but not actually pretend they're Merlindians.

    I dunno. Obviously they wanted to evoke aspects of the culture to give you an idea of the food you're eating, and they really do seem to be going for an outlandish circus-type vibe. Thi is clearly a case of good intentions gone awry (the fake ethnic names and all are pretty tacky). So what should they do instead?

  • Lill

    Hey, if you don't like it, don't eat their food.

    Fine with me, then there is more of their amazing food for the rest of us!

  • Barrie Daneker

    You got to have a gimmick if you're gonna make it Big! McDonald's has a clown! Please people Shut the front door! To all those offended...grow up and get a life or don't buy there food. I bet you all eat chick-fil-a and don't even realize that they do! So please Grow up on this one...it's not the same thing!

  • Ike

    ben gets it! so should you.

  • just sayin’

    I'm hungrily waiting for them to start a kishke truck attended by "rabbis" in Shtraymels and fake peyes. Please, please?

  • Typical DC BS

    WAAAH. My Occupy DC bullshit didn't fly with the "99%" we were told we were part of, so I found something else to be offended by.

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