PERRY: Aurora Councilmember Sundberg’s sorry ‘apology’ doesn’t excuse his hateful racist videos   

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Aurora City Councilmember Steve Sundberg is seen imitating a Mexican individual while advertising a meal special at his bar Legends in the photo of the original post on Facebook. The bars social media page was once filled with a bevy of similarly mocking videos.
Screengrab from a now removed Facebook video

Councilperson Steve Sundberg’s attempt at marketing humor, and his sorry-not-sorry apology for the cringe-worthy racist Facebook posts, are no joke.

Sundberg’s reputation so far as an Aurora city lawmaker, elected in 2021, is as the guy who got thumped for making not-funny jokes in front of city staff about his junk not fitting in a COVID mask and then making his buddy put it over his face.

Councilmember TMI brushed it off as just a joke after Aurora employees filed harassment claims. Just as bad, some of his fellow conservatives on the city council agreed with him.

Ha ha. Your tax dollars at work.

Why an elected official — even partially cogent after the ubiquitous MeToo movement — would ever say such a thing as an elected leader only makes sense when you see Sundberg’s “advertising” videos from almost two years ago.

They blew up the local intertubes this week on metro media websites after The Sentinel told everybody about them.

Now gone from the Facebook account for Sundberg’s tavern, Legends of Aurora, the homemade vids are supposed to be “advertisements” for the venue, hawking the pub’s food fare.

In one video, Sundberg is wearing a Mexican falsa blanket as a poncho and looking stupefied. In pidjin Spanish, he offers gibberish about 26 girlfriends, enchiladas and what appears to be a comment about his “big rabbits.” Whether he confused “conejos” with “cojones” in his attempt at vulgar guffaws is unclear. What’s solid is that he comes across as a cruel racist, hating on immigrants, Latinos and Mexicans.

His mocking show trots out every callous trope that perpetuates the dangerous alienation of people in Aurora with Latino and Hispanic heritage.

Not just Mexicans, in other videos, Sunberg gives the ha-ha-ha hate treatment to Arabs, South Asians, Black men, Muslims, gays, women and his minority employees.

Voices like those of state reps Iman Jodeh and Mike Weissman excoriated Sundberg for his “pathetic” stunt. The Anti-Defamation League called him out, as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which skewered the videos.

I was drawn to give Sundberg the benefit of the doubt. That somehow, he missed, rather than disregarded, the last 50 years in the U.S. and Aurora, where “Frito Bandito”  and minstrel tropes were exposed for the insults they were.

But given ample opportunity during the past several days, Sundberg, instead, rolled out an equally offensive defense for making the vids and standing behind them as his brand of charming humor.

“In a dark Covid shut down, when businesses (were) fighting to survive, with people experiencing mental health issues, uncertainty, suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence and fear, we were able to provide through a number of videos, humor and light heartedness, which drove business and cheered people up,” Sundberg wrote in a text message to The Sentinel.

That’s not cool. That’s sick.

He paints a world where people were coughing up COVID lungs in ICUs, dying in their cars from fentanyl overdoses and losing their minds from being unable to leave their homes. And that inspired him to sit on a fake prayer rug, with shoes on, waving a scimitar in a turban that looks like he wrapped a sateen nighty around his head?  And that was going to stave off pandemic armageddon?

Now that’s funny. The videos, not even remotely.

Even less funny was his too-thin apology that makes it clear he considers himself a victim of humorless woke blokes who think funnin’ about chasing Muslims with a slice of bacon is callow and cruel. 

“For anyone I did offend, I apologize, and I will learn from it.”

Of the universe’s greatest mysteries, I will never understand why people just can’t admit they’re wrong, and apologize for, possibly inadvertently, being offensive.

Instead, the trend is often to say, sorry that you were offended.

If Sundberg is really remorseful and now enlightened, he needs to look the city-council TV camera in the lens soon and tell his constituents, “I got it. It’s not cool nor funny to mimic minorities.”

It’s really not harmless. The Anti-Defamation League — the people who have been watching out primarily for the safety of Jews for decades since the Holocaust — help people understand the gravity of “light-hearted” hate speech.

Mocking someone’s culture, race or background, and spicing it up with tropes, accents and stereotypes, is a foundational expression of hate. And laughing at or looking away from these acts, and dismissing what Sundberg did in those videos, “normalizes” a constant and basic level of hate toward the people he ridicules.

Unchecked and fueled by misinformation, the kind pumped out by Fox News nightly, it leads to certain violence against the targeted minorities.

Don’t believe it? Are you among Sundberg’s defenders who say he meant no harm, and that liberals and defenders of minorities just can’t take a joke?

Ask the tens of thousands of children of color, of immigrants and of another language what it’s like growing up in a place where a man gets laughs and tries to grow his restaurant business by putting a blanket over his head and talking in broken western Spanish about the “deliciosa” offerings at Legends and his gonads.

Not far from Legends of Aurora is William Smith High School, an Aurora public school for kids who lead real lives and work hard to make real progress.

Former Aurora Poet Laureate Jovan Mays, works with many of these kids, teaching the art of writing, as well as the skill.

In a catalog of essays about “The American Dream,” composed by members of the Class of 2023, these kids bluntly explain how “jokes’ like Sundberg’s create misery, not laughs, for his victims.

“My family’s American dream is to live free and not to be criticized because of our skin or our race,” student Jesse Gonzalez begins in an essay. “To be able to walk the streets without being criticized, feeling free from how your skin color , race or clothing is being judged. Feeling free means not being scared of your own identity.” Jesse wrote about the pain from watching his family ridiculed for speaking Spanish in Aurora.

“This is America. Go back to your own Spanish-speaking country,” someone once told his mother. The ridicule was the result of “how it makes people upset or ashamed because they are being stereotyped and made fun of because of their language.”

Malachi Franco wrote, “My American dream is for Latinos that live in this country to be considered American.”

Jose A. Hernandez also wrote about the pain of tropes and ridicule.

He sees the American Dream as opportunity. He sees the treatment he and his family receives as impediments to opportunities.

He laments how people stereotype him and his family, making racist comments.

“My dad works in construction — drywall to be exact,” Jose writes. He works long, hard hours and comes home exhausted, determined to help Jose reach for more and better opportunities.

“In my head, I see him as the best person ever, but people think he’s a criminal or a drug dealer. Which makes me think: is the American Dream real?”

Tropes and laughing at, and not calling out, Sunberg’s sadistic videos, rob real people of real opportunities. They make people like Jose’s dad less American, less human, less worthy and less important than those who think real Mexican immigrants are like Sundberg’s parody.

This is an American Dream opportunity for Sundberg. He can seriously denounce what he did and genuinely encourage others to denounce others when they do the same thing.

If he doesn’t, there will be millions of more kids like Jose, who wish they weren’t denigrated by “lighthearted” tropes and stereotypes so they could have a shot at the American Dream, too.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Mastadon, Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]

 

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Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
1 month ago

The city’s retail, dining and entertainment sector remain chronically in the toilet while over 91% of the tax collected for cultural purposes leaves the city to fund Denver’s gluttony and the Sentinel feels THIS is what qualifies as news?

This partisan mudslinging is pointless. Let’s make 2023 about the constituents and actual solutions for a change.

Sharea
Sharea
1 month ago

Honestly the advertisement videos are pretty stupid but Steve is a great guy to work for, I’m a minority female and I very much enjoy my job. This seems like an article to make something out of nothing that needs to be brought back up. I have never been witness to any racism or received any poor treatment. Steve has proven to be compassionate, understanding and hardworking.

skankhunt42
skankhunt42
1 month ago

Morality Police 101: Never miss a chance to ruin someone’s life and livelihood over a joke.

sugar
sugar
1 month ago
Reply to  skankhunt42

A joke ? ? ? If you were one of the minorities that Steve insulted, i doubt if you would feel the same way.

So it’s OK for an elected Council Member to talk about the size of his “junk” ?

There is something really “off” about this guy!

Publius
Publius
1 month ago
Reply to  skankhunt42

To be accurate this was not “a” joke, but was “multiple” parodies. These parodies took time to script and produce. They, by their nature, show there was time to reflect upon their impact. These were not off-the-cuff jokes, and had they been off-the-cuff jokes a reflective person might have reflected on them after the first or second one and may not have continued down that path.

Susan
Susan
1 month ago

If Sundberg was truly sorry, the video would not have been made in the first place. Too little too late. His actions speak volumes not his recent words.  As do the actions/inactions/words of some other clueless council members, including the mayor. Aurora deserves better representation that having racists on our council

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan

Obviously, nothing he can do will satisfy this angry, virtue-signaling mob. If I were him, I’d now ignore them. Let them wallow in their fake tears.

GeneD
1 month ago

:I’m sorry if (fill in the blank) was offended’? That’s such a political apology and it does not pass the BS test

DICK MOORE
1 month ago

Thank you for your service to the City of Aurora, Steve. There are so many of us out here in the City that do not have the bully pulpit that Dave Perry and the Sentinel blog has use of. Dave will just twist your words to his advantage if you continue to reply.

You are appreciated, Steve and Dave Perry has only one agenda, to use this blog not to inform Aurora citizens of local news but to do everything in his power to politically elect socialist and far left Democrats by destroying the political power of all conservatives.

GeneD
1 month ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Grrrr…..mumble mumble….socialist!!!!…mumble…far left!…..mumble…Democrats!!!
What a sad existence.

Beverly Bennett
Beverly Bennett
1 month ago

This was a page 2 story in the Denver Post today. When will Aurora get serious about being taken seriously? We are a joke and some people on here argue about “wokeness” and why the editor of the Sentinel is a Nazi (another story).

Publius
Publius
1 month ago

Like all of us excepting the self-righteous Mr. Sundberg is a work in progress. That he has more work to do than some, and that he has a long way yet to progress, I acknowledge. I hope his journey finds the fast lane. I hope he realizes the fast lane was paved by the work of many races, more than one gender, and many descendants of cultures and religions from around the world.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Publius

From an article written before his election: “He met his wife, an immigrant from Rwanda, in the Congo after building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Uganda.”

Seems he may be a bit more worldly than you assume.

Publius
Publius
1 month ago

Perhaps that is so.

Thanks for sharing that information. It adds to the portrait of the man. Often from articles originating from a political perspective one can get outlines of a person, characatures of a person, but less than a fully drawn portrait.

When an editorial rhetorically asks if we like what we see perhaps they should paint a more comprehensive portrait than was painted here. Perhaps not.