A grassroots campaign grew out of anger after one of the characters of the show, “Work It”, said during a pilot episode: “I’m Puerto Rican. I would be great at selling drugs.”
Some Puerto Ricans did not find the line very funny.
“Is that what we are known for? Not that we have a woman in the (U.S.) Supreme Court (Justice Sonia Sotomayor) or all of the beautiful things that we have developed as Puerto Ricans…” said Puerto Rican activist Julio Pabon, Sr. “Instead, this is what is portrayed? We had to react.”
I’m Puerto Rican. I would be great at selling drugs.
The sitcom features two men, Lee (Benjamin Koldyke) and Angel (Amaury Nolasco) who are dealing with what they call a “mancession”. Having no success finding work as a man--Lee dresses as a woman to land a job with a pharmaceutical company. Angel, his envious Latino friend, proceeds to plead with Lee to help him get into the company--and so ensues the punch line that has Latinos fuming.
Pabon and others formed a New York City Grassroots organization known as “Boricuas for a Positive Image” shortly after the show’s premier Tuesday. Their campaign almost immediately took off on Twitter and Facebook. Wednesday night, about 50 people braved subfreezing temperatures to protest in front of ABC’s Manhattan studios. They held signs and chanted: “I am Puerto Rican and not a drug dealer.”
“The sad part is that the majority of people watching this show across the country are non-Latinos. And for them, it’s just a joke,” Pabon said. “But for many of us, it reinforces the stereotype that just because we are Puerto Rican, we are from the ghettos and we know how to sell drugs.”
ABC did not return phone calls from Fox News Latino seeking comment.
The show has been universally panned by critics, who call it an awful version of the 1980s hit “Bosom Buddies” (which starred Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari). Latinos, who say they already suffer from poor representation on television networks, say the poorly chosen line was the final straw.
Though, they are quick to point out they support the actor who said the line, Amaury Nolasco, who happens to be Puerto Rican.
“While we are critical of Amaury’s decision to say the line, we also know he has been very supportive of community issues, Pabon said. “We don’t have many [Puerto Ricans] on network television--and we want to support that.”
The group has demanded an apology and vows to be back outside ABC’s New York City’s studio if they do not receive an adequate response from the network.
“I am not a writer,” Pabon said. “But being Puerto Rican and knowing what we’ve been through in this country – the fact that this aired raises a red flag for me – and if it doesn’t then we have become desensitized.”
Erica Y. Lopez has written for ABCNews.com and is a freelance writer for Fox News Latino. She can be reached at Ericaylopez@gmail.com.