WELCOME KIDS, IT’S TIME TO LEARN ABOUT CULTURE! If you’re one of the people in the above image, god please keep reading! There’s still hope for you so let me save your soul.
FACT #1: Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day. Most people know that. If you didn’t now you do! No worries! We all need to be educated sometimes!
FACT #1.5: Cinco de Mayo is actually the celebration of Mexico’s victory over France at the battle of Puebla. People in Puebla REALLY GO ALL OUT but honestly most Mexicans don’t celebrate. Some do though, and especially for Mexican Americans like myself, it can be a fun excuse to eat Mexican food and remember how much my culture means to me.
I’m not trying to say you, as an American of European descent, don’t have a right to eat tacos and drink Coronas, because let’s be honest, we all need an excuse to let our hair down (I’m writing this on the cold floor of a college dorm room so let me tell you, I know that you wackos will party for anything). I do not want to keep Latin American things from you. By engaging with our culture you have an opportunity to learn and respect it, and I personally welcome that.
What this does NOT mean, is that you have a right to talk in a silly accent, put on a sombrero and a fake mustache, and ask me to call you papi.
The thing our country has lost in recent years is an ability to understand the line between appreciating someone else’s culture and appropriating it. America is a melting pot, or a tossed salad, or whatever mediocre metaphor your 6th grade social studies teacher told you, and that means that you get to live in tandem with many other cultures and experience them as you go! To learn about someone else’s culture is to show them respect. To participate in that culture, with consent, is to show respect; interest in someone else’s traditions isn’t inherently disrespectful. It’s when one starts to treat them as a sideshow attraction that it becomes problematic.
Our culture is not a costume, it’s not an accent, and if you use it as a joke in any way, you are appropriating something that is important to the Latinx culture and twisting it into a punchline.
FACT #?: We go to an AGGRESSIVELY liberal school. People here like to be really proud of how open minded we are, and there’s this implication that by being liberal or wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt you are immune to casual racism. However, regardless of professed political affiliation, Kenyon students are surprisingly comfortable mocking Mexicans around me. By virtue of my skin color, most people don’t know I’m Latina (I’m an undercover Mexican, babes). I have heard about people’s plans for this Cinco de Mayo weekend, white and black, male and female, and because I do not look Latina they don’t worry about being derogatory in front of me. They make jokes about Corona and sombreros, speak in ridiculous accents, and make jokes about the wall. My ethnicity is a joke, and because we Mexican Americans have no movement to our name they think we don’t mind mockery. Because I pass as white they think I won’t care. Perhaps they do know, and just think I won’t say anything about it.
I would like to remind them, and you; Racism is racism, whether someone sees it or not. And when we see it, because we will, we will not take it lying down.
Have a good time this weekend. Get a beer/taco (not a “beer taco”, that would be horrifying; respect yourself) with your friends. Do what you want. But remember; appreciation, not appropriation.
TL;DR Don’t be a racist, you walnuts.