Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Courtesy of Nicole Calderone, The City of Hutto and Getty Images
The City Council meeting in Hutto, Texas, had been in session for just a few minutes on Aug. 31 when local resident Nicole Calderone stepped up to the podium, moments after another speaker angrily rebuked Mayor Mike Snyder.
What happened next would plunge the city of less than 40,000, just a half-hour drive north of Austin, into a ferocious debate about racism. At the center of the controversy—improbably or inevitably, depending on where you stand—is a $20 banana holder that some see as a physical manifestation of the disgusting trope that compares Black people to monkeys.
Calderone’s three-minute speech began with a recounting of a visit to her cancer-stricken mother-in-law’s home, where she admired a banana stand and said she would love to give it to the mayor “as encouragement to continue the work he is trying to accomplish.” She then bent down to reveal to meeting attendees the colorful holder, which featured a figurine of a cartoonish monkey at the base and five ripe bananas hanging from the hook.