Column: Throwing tortillas isn’t a racist act — until it is

Everyone who attended the June 19 boys’ basketball sport between the Coronado High Islanders and Orange Glen High Patriots knew it was going to be a basic, the sort of matchup prep desires are manufactured from.

It was the CIF San Diego Section closing. Coronado High was the richer, whiter highschool from an prosperous beachside city. Orange Glen was the working-class squad from majority-minority Escondido, a faculty that has at all times punched above its weight in hoops.

The two groups had met only a week earlier, for the town part championship that Coronado gained — their first such trophy in 31 years. Now, the Islanders and Patriots confronted off for the regional title, and the gamers didn’t disappoint: Coronado gritted out a 60-57 victory in extra time with a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

There had been heated phrases throughout the sport by the younger athletes, and after the ultimate buzzer between their grownup coaches. That wasn’t such a shock.

What wasn’t anticipated had been the flying tortillas.

Videos present Coronado gamers heaving corn tortillas towards Orange Glen gamers and coaches. No one was damage, and onlookers initially appeared extra stunned than offended. But you’d assume former San Diego Mayor and California Gov. Pete Wilson himself had fired off a pair dozen with a cannon the way in which individuals responded afterward.

Police have introduced that they had recognized the grownup who had introduced a pack of tortillas and distributed them to college students. The Coronado Unified School District board of trustees instantly launched a press release afterward that “acknowledge[ed] these acts to be egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful” and “fully condemn[ed] the racism, classism, and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators.” Yesterday, they fired Coronado High head coach JD Laaperi over the matter.

San Diego-area Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez tweeted, “Teach your kids not to be racist…Tortillas are for eating, not throwing.” California’s Latino Legislative Caucus issued a information launch that cited the incident as additional motive to mandate ethnic research within the state’s highschool.

On a personal Instagram account dedicated to Coronado’s hoopsters, the writer described the l’affair tortilla toss as “similar to throwing confetti at parties or a cap at the end of a graduation” and denied any racism. Critics scoffed on the wide-eyed declare of innocence. League of United Latin American Citizens President Domingo Garcia was outraged sufficient to proclaim “throwing tortillas was meant to perpetuate the worst kind of racist reaction against innocent athletes, their coaches and their families.”

This is the place I’ll placed on my tortilla-historian sombrero and say one thing you would possibly discover unbelievable: Tortilla-tossing has a protracted, unusual historical past in California that’s nearly by no means racist — till dopes make it so.

Tortilla-tossing contests have occurred for many years at Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day festivities in barrios, and at county gala’s from the Sierras to Southern California, the place the L.A. County Fair held them as lately as 2002. Hurling tortillas at floats and marchers is a mainstay of Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade, the anarchic step-cousin to the dowdy Tournament of Roses. At UC Irvine and Stanford, graduating senior zipped them at each other throughout commencements into the 2000s.

People normally throw tortillas for the straightforward undeniable fact that they’ll — and since tortillas, not like different comestibles used for meals fights, are low-cost and plentiful and fly far. They’re not as heavy as pita bread, don’t go away a multitude like pies, are extra naturally aerodynamic than mashed potatoes and don’t bruise like a tomahawk steak. Corn tortillas are favored for his or her cheaper value, however flour tortillas journey an extended distance as a result of their dexterity permits them to catch a draft, like a flying squirrel.

The phenomenon has particularly taken off at sporting events — , that gathering of people predisposed to seek out an excuse to toss something, something, at opposing gamers irrespective of their ethnicity.

The earliest-known makes an attempt occurred at Angels video games in Anaheim throughout the Eighties, the place followers within the low-cost seats rained them down on the pricier sections throughout the seventh-inning stretch. “The whole thing’s exciting,” 19-year-old Eric Andrade instructed the Associated Press on the time. “It’s not just a fad anymore. It’s becoming a tradition. It’s something you won’t see anywhere else.”

The scene acquired so chaotic that safety booted 20 individuals throughout a 1984 sport, and the Anaheim City Council authorized an ordinance that threatened anybody who threw gadgets at the stadium with a $1,000 effective and a misdemeanor. The legislation stays a part of the town’s municipal code.

The development took off from there, particularly at schools. And particularly at UC Santa Barbara. Fans nonetheless fling them onto the sphere each time the lads’s soccer workforce scores a aim. Before that, they haunted males’s basketball video games, the place the masa showers had been so heavy throughout the Nineties that the Gauchos made the lowlight reels of ESPN. During one sport in 1997, referees even punished the workforce with two technical fouls earlier than the sport started, main then-coach Jerry Pimm to unsuccessfully plead with fans over the loudspeakers to cease throwing tortillas.

All of the above got here and went because the innocent enjoyable that it was. But put Latinos on the receiving finish, and tortilla-tossing all of a sudden takes on a special, darker that means.

An complete era of Latinos who grew up in Southern California throughout the Nineties and 2000s can let you know how offended they had been at seeing the spectacle unfold every time their excessive colleges performed a whiter, wealthier highschool — like, say, when my alma mater Anaheim High would play Brea Olinda High. Or when UCLA frat boys pelted Chicano college students with them when the latter protested the previous for internet hosting stereotype-packed events. It by no means bothered me a lot, however I can let you know Mexicans again then didn’t endure such indignities with the identical grace as Orange Glen.

Before the Coronado-Orange Glen fiasco, essentially the most infamous Southern California tortilla-tossing tempest was at a 1993 football playoff game between Newbury Park and Montebello excessive colleges. Followers of the previous had pitched tortillas onto the sphere each time the Panthers scored a landing that season, which was effective after they performed equally wealthy-and-white colleges within the Simi Valley.

Things modified after they performed super-Latino Montebello.

Newbury Park head Coach George Hurley fielded dozens of offended telephone calls. Fans of their subsequent opponent, Bell Gardens High, showered Newbury Park gamers “with jeers and obscene gestures before the opening kickoff,” in keeping with a dispatch by this paper, and waved the Mexican flag.

“I felt like I was the Ugly American in a foreign country,” Hurley instructed The Times, utilizing the identical I’m-the-victim excuse that Coronado High employed practically three many years later.

These new culprits can’t declare any ignorance of what it meant after they threw tortillas. San Diego County highschool sports activities has suffered a rash of racist incidents in recent years. The Coronado Unified School District has featured squabbling over college students who need their colleges to be anti-racist, and neighborhood members who dismiss such actions as vital race idea hogwash. Did the Islanders squad actually assume Orange Glen — the place the scholar physique is greater than 80% Latino — wouldn’t really feel disrespected?

Sometimes — more often than not, actually — a tossed tortilla is a tossed tortilla. But even when the Coronado gamers didn’t have malice of their hearts, what they did was awfully dumb. (Though not as dumb as the one who introduced the tortillas: 40-year-old Coronado resident Luke Serna. The UC Santa Barbara graduate instructed the Coronado Times there was no racism supposed but railed in opposition to “racial opportunists” who thought so).

Besides, let a bunch of tortillas fall to the bottom? What a waste of potential tacos and quesadillas.

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