God bless South Carolina. No, really - bless it. The state needs a little blessing. Or at least, the non-white, non-heterosexual, non-males who choose to live there need blessing. Actually, they could probably use bodyguards.
Latest case in point: A certain non-Mexican-owned Mexican restaurant (or, at least, it appears to be non-Mexican-owned; the owner's name is Leanne Snelgrove) in Columbia has been hawking racist T-shirts to its customers. Fortunately, a Columbia high school teacher snapped a pic of the T-shirt, which Columbia Free Times reporter Corey Hutchins tweeted from his personal account. The picture - and Hutchins' Free Times story - was picked up by the Huffington Post and has since gone semi-viral.
Local high school teacher Nathan Sloan doesn't usually eat at Taco Cid, but when he dropped in to the West Columbia eatery on New Year's Day for some Mexican food he left shaking his head at the T-shirts worn by staff.
"How to catch an illegal immigrant," read the back of a shirt worn by someone manning the register. It featured an image of a makeshift box trap using tacos as bait. The shirts were also for sale.
Sloan snapped a photo of the T-shirt and passed it along to University of South Carolina women and gender studies professor Debbie Billings, who circulated it to local activists and media. Controversy ensued.
Since then, Taco Cid has defiantly stood by its T-shirts, posting a defense on its website under a tab called "Regarding Our Shirts."
Our t-shirts were created as a witty and comical statement regarding ILLEGAL immigrants. There are NO racial nor hate remarks towards any specific ethnic group ... If you do not agree with our views on ILLEGAL immigrants, please do not patron our establishment.
No problem, Cid. We'd be glad to not patron your establishment, and we urge others to do the same.
By the way: We're not exactly a bastion of tolerance and progressive thought north of the border here in Charlotte. (Someone on my Facebook page commented, "What would us Tarheels do if we didn't have South Carolina to feel superior to?") But South Carolina-style intolerance has a special flavor and resonance all its own. Mercifully, South Carolina also has some great high school teachers and alt-weekly reporters.
Not to mention pastors - like Sandy Jones, who preaches at Spring of Life Lutheran Hispanic Church.
"I think it's very racist, I think it's a very racist comment," Jones told Columbia's WLTX TV. She's asking Taco Cid to apologize and stop selling the shirts.
"When national news is going to hear and think that everyone in South Carolina thinks like this, that hurts me personally," Jones said. "It makes me very sad."