The letter starts “Dear Idiots.” That’s the friendliest part.
The letter concerns the Fojol Brothers food truck, whose proprietors sell decently-reviewed Indian, Thai and Ethiopian food while wearing fake mustaches and brightly-colored turbans, and whose fictional “traveling culinary carnival” origin story has the Fojols coming from the country of “Merlindia” to “share their family traditions with the world.”
These traditions are “over-the-top racist,” Franklin wrote in his letter. The “brothers” themselves are “worthy ambassadors of poor taste” and “well-meaning (if woefully misguided) white boys with a contemptible sense of humor.”
Edward Said’s famous critique of Western depictions of Asian and Middle Eastern culture makes it into the letter, which ends, less academically, by suggesting that the truck owners “Find a new gimmick, or else please set that ugly tin wagon on fire and drive it into the Potomac. Dicks.”
With regards the turbans, and if they might be comparable to “brown-face caricature reminiscent of minstrelsy,” as Franklin put it in a follow-up comment to his letter, Vitarello says no. “They’re beautiful. They’re comfortable. They’re colorful. They’re worn by religious and nonreligious. There’s no accents. Everything is in the make-believe.”
“We’re not going to stop doing that, is what it comes down to,” says Vitarello. “The people and the market will tell whether they like this or not.”
UPDATE, 11:11 a.m.: A petition—“Fojol Bros.: Respect Asian and African cultures—stop the brownface minstrel act!“—has been launched on Change.org. The petition has 246 signatures as of just past 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
UPDATE, 10:55 a.m.: There’s a new open letter about the Fojol Brothers food truck, this one addressed to Drew Franklin, in support of the truck. Read it here.