An Italian restaurant in the southern New Mexico city of Deming has been hit with a wave of angry reviews after the owners of the establishment placed a sign reading "Blame China" in front of the building.
Forghedaboutit Southwest Italian, like many restaurants across the country, was forced to temporarily close in February because it is not able to find enough employees to stay open during the pandemic.
Co-owner Kimberly Yacone told local news she does not think the sign is racist.
Speaking to Albuquerque's KRQE news, Yacone insisted the sign is not offensive or a reflection of her and her husband's beliefs, and criticizing China is appropriate because the virus "originated" in China.
"We are not racist, we are not bigots. This thing came from China, it's a known fact... When we say blame China, yeah! That's where it came from. We're not blaming Chinese American people."
Yacone then switched to a common refrain among business owners, blaming unemployment benefits for the shuttering of businesses.
"When people are making more on unemployment than they are going back to work, it's hard to find help."
But economists say that way of thinking is incorrect. They lay the blame on business owners' unwillingness to raise wages and the lack of affordable childcare options while schools remain closed in many areas.
Yacone also said she doesn't believe her sign will impact the wave of violence toward AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders), because she and her husband are criticizing the Chinese government, not Chinese people. The ACLU of New Mexico disagreed, accusing the Yacone's of trafficking in the Trump administration's scapegoating of the Asian community.
As they told KQRE:
"We've seen how signs like this inspire hate and violence against the Asian community."
In the wake of the controversy, the Yacones received a wave of angry reviews of their business on Facebook.
And the story of the Yacones' sign outraged many people on social media as well.
Yacone also told KQRE she and her husband will not be removing the sign, regardless of the backlash.