Internet Responds to Restaurant's 'Black Olives Matter' T-Shirts

August 16th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Paisano's, an Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ignited outrage on social media after it posted about its line of T-shirts and hats featuring a culinary joke that makes light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Paisano's "Black Olives Matter" shirts and hats made national headlines, according to New Mexico ABC affiliate KOAT.

Critics decried Paisano's shirts and hats, saying they were in bad taste.

Commenters on Paisano's Facebook page said there is nothing funny about the Black Lives Matter movement, which aims to fight police brutality and increase awareness about police killings and racial discrimination.

At least 167 Black people in the U.S. were killed by police in 2016 alone, The Guardian reported. Just last week, the U.S. Justice Department released a damning report chronicling police misconduct and racial discrimination within the Baltimore Police Department, echoing complaints the Black Lives Matter movement and other critics have voiced about the BPD for several years.

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But some commenters defended Paisano's.

They also posted troubling remarks about race, the Black Lives Matter movement, and all the "SJW [social justice warrior] goons" who objected to using a movement about racial violence to joke about Italian food.

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Paisano's owner Rick Camuglia remained unapologetic.

Camuglia admitted to KOAT that the garments were a publicity stunt: "He wasn't trying to stir racial tensions but was only trying to sell food and get people's attention," KOAT reported.

"It's gone so viral. We've gotten calls from Australia, Spain, France, you name it," Camuglia said.

This isn't the first time Camuglia has tried to cash in on what some perceive as a racist joke.

Paisano's displayed a sign last July advertising an ahi tuna special that read, "Black Olives Matter — Try Our Tapenade," Eater reported. The sign triggered widespread social media backlash, but it seemed to benefit Camuglia: "Business is soaring," he told KOAT.

"People have filled the restaurant and told us to leave up the sign," Camuglia told KOAT. "That's great, you know, because a lot of people make a living off working for this restaurant."

One use of the joke could be taken as a mistake. But the controversy over the shirts and hats suggests that Paisano's and Camuglia are deliberately trying to profit off a joke that critics view as racist and inflammatory.

ATTN: reached out to Paisano's for comment and will update this most when we receive a response.

[h/t Mic]