The presidential election offers any number of opportunities for writing students to practice critical thinking while examining the ways in which rhetoric, argument, and evidence circulate (sometimes loosely) in the world. One opportunity I’d like to think about this week is the “Taco Trucks on Every Corner” meme. In case you missed it, the meme comes from an interview on MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes in which Marco Gutierrez of Latinos for Trump made the comment while talking about the problems his culture can bring to the country. Twitter, in turn, had a field day and “taco trucks on every corner” quickly become an Internet meme.
As a meme, it represents a complex intersection of teachable moments, with elements of politics, race ethnicity, social media, viral media, and more. In this post I wanted to discuss some of the essays in Emerging that you can use to help student unpack that intersection. Given the nature of memes, “Taco Trucks on Every Corner” may be dead and gone by the time we’re able to post this, but these same readings can be used for similar memes which will no doubt still spring from what promises to be a contentious election year.
For starters, any discussion of memes is most usefully framed by Daniel Gilbert’s “Reporting Live from Tomorrow.” Gilbert discusses memes in the context of super-replicating beliefs; his discussion of surrogates is also useful given the increasing use of campaign surrogates in this election (Gutierrez, for example, is considered a surrogate). Students might find it useful to apply Gilbert’s definition of the term to the rather different deployment of it within the political arena.
But of course this meme from this surrogate is centrally concerned with stereotypes around race ethnicity. Jennifer Pozner’s “Ghetto Bitches, China Dolls, and Cha Cha Divas” is a great essay for getting students to examine the ways in which media use stereotypes; Maureen O’Connor’s “Race, Ethnicity, Surgery” and Steve Olson’s “The End of Race: Hawaii and the Mixing of Peoples” can both be used to deepen discussions around race and ethnicity.