Colorado city councilmember faces backlash over ads mocking minorities

Colorado city councilmember faces backlash over ads mocking minorities
via Sentinel Colorado
Michelle De Pacina
December 22, 2022
Councilmember Steve Sundberg of Aurora, Colorado, has issued an apology following backlash over a series of videos of himself imitating minority groups.
Sundberg, who took office in 2021, created Facebook advertisements for his sports bar business Legends of Aurora Sports Grill in 2020 by doing stereotypical impressions of Arab Muslims, South Asians and Mexicans, among others.
In one of the videos, Sundberg can be seen sitting on a carpet wearing a robe and a turban.
“Haram, haram,” he says while brandishing a scimitar after an employee tries to give him bacon. The term “haram” is an Arabic term that refers to something forbidden under Islamic law, such as eating pork.  
In another video, the councilmember imitates a South Asian accent to promote his business’s curry. He does something similar in a separate video where he promotes Maharaja IPA produced by Avery Brewing Co.
Sundberg also acts like the translator for a kitchen employee to promote enchiladas. At the end of that video, he looks at the employee and asks if he likes his “conejos grandes” (large rabbits). Some viewers of the video have questioned whether the councilmember meant to say “cojones,” which is slang for testicles.
In another video, he promotes Legends’ dark lager and imitates a German accent. He can be heard discussing beer size with a Black man, referencing the stereotype of Black men having big penises.
The videos have prompted criticism and disappointment from community leaders and civil rights groups. 
“The message that these videos send to members of minority communities in Aurora is that they are not respected and cannot expect to be represented by this elected official,” Ismail Allison of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement to The Sentinel
“We urge him to meet with leaders from the impacted communities and commit to serving all constituents equally. We offer our services to coordinate that meeting,” Allison added. “The American Muslim community and CAIR stand in solidarity with all those challenging anti-Black racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and all other forms of bigotry.”
“My initial impression was shock, and then quite frankly disgust,” Colorado State Rep. Iman Jodeh told CBS News. “Having your shoes on while sitting on a prayer rug holding up a sword. You know these very trite and cliche stereotypes are so low-brow. I was really hoping that Aurora especially was past a lot of these stereotypical, bigoted and racist tropes that have plagued our city for such a while.”
“Using brash stereotypes of our communities does not respect the many hard working families that live and contribute to Aurora,” Dilpreet Jammu, executive director of Colorado Sikhs, said. “Aurora is one of the most diverse cities in our state, and we value the contributions of all citizens to make this a wonderful and safe place to live.”
On Wednesday, Sundberg issued an apology statement to CBS News Colorado. 

In a dark Covid shutdown, 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. 

Made over 2 years ago, no one once expressed offense. Not any video was intended to be offensive. However, it has recently came to my attention that some people have found content in the videos offensive. For anyone I did offend, I apologize and I will learn from it.  In light of this, I have taken down some of the videos.

Our now 32-year-old business survived. Our diverse staff has prospered since Covid and we continue to support our community generously. 

In my elected role, I proudly and wholeheartedly, enjoy serving all members of our diverse community when the time arises.

Omar Montgomery, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Aurora branch, said that Sundberg’s involvement in the council is disappointing as he suggested cutting the city’s diversity office. During the 2023 budgeting process, Sundberg agreed with other conservatives on cuts to the internal police monitor.
“If he wants to make jokes about diversity and things of this nature, maybe he ought to fund that office so it can do the work of educating our city and our council members that Aurora is a diverse city,” Montgomery told The Sentinel. 
“We need to do all we can to increase trust, and some of what the council does continues to drive a wedge between communities of color and the city itself,” he added. “Commercials like these are not a good way of developing trust.”

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