DEMING, N.M. (NewsNation Now) — A large sign stating “Blame China” posted in front of a New Mexico restaurant is stirring up controversy but the owners say their intention wasn’t racist because it’s a statement targeted at the Chinese government, not people.
The owners of Forghedaboudit Southwest Italian have had a difficult time, due to the pandemic, hiring adequate staff to operate their restaurants — with two locations in New Mexico.
Owners Robert and Kimberly Yacone had to adjust operating hours at the Las Cruces location and temporarily close their Deming location. Frustrated, the Yacones posted a large sign in front of their Deming establishment that reads “Blame China!” reported NewsNation affiliate KRQE.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Deming location was open for eight years. The restaurants are known for award-winning pizza, wings and Italian food.
On social media, the response to the sign has included posts from people that refuse to patronize their business stating it’s racist and dangerous. Kimberly said she’s received calls from supporters defending their stance. “It’s just ridiculous to say that we’re racist,” she said.
“We are not racist, we are not bigots,” Kimberly told KRQE. “This thing came from China, it’s a known fact.”
Nationally, according to the group ‘Stop AAPI Hate,’ a coalition addressing anti-Asian hate, attacks on Asian Americans has continued to rise throughout the pandemic. In March, there were nearly 3,800 incidents, with the vast majority, 42%, targeting people of Chinese descent.
When asked by KRQE if the sign incites discrimination and violence toward Asian Americans, Kimberly answered, “I don’t think it does at all because that’s not toward the Asian people that’s toward the Chinese government.”
“We’ve seen how signs like this inspire hate and violence against the Asian community. Instead of contributing to these kinds of divisions in our country, we should be pulling together to defeat the virus,” said a statement released by the ACLU of New Mexico.
In a troubling industry-wide trend, a growing number of restaurant owners are reporting worker shortages as their dining rooms reopen throughout the country. The result of more than a few challenges caused by the ongoing pandemic including employee safety concerns, the need to take care of children who are learning remotely, or due to career changes.
But many restaurant operators claim that extended unemployment insurance benefits are discouraging potential workers from returning to restaurant jobs.
“When people are making more on unemployment than they are going back to work, it’s hard to find help,” said Kimberly. “When we say blame China, yeah! That’s where it came from. We’re not blaming the Chinese American people.”
When asked if the sign will be removed due to the controversy, Kimberly said the sign will remain up. “There’s no plan to change the signs. It is what it is.”
NewsNation affiliate KRQE contributed to this report.