News & Politics

California RAs Print Flyers to Avoid 'Cultural Appropriation' on Cinco de Mayo

Resident advisors (RAs) at a California university distributed flyers with instructions on how to avoid cultural appropriation on Cinco de Mayo, Campus Reform’s Elias Atienza reported.

The flyers, handed out door-to-door at Poly Canyon Village, a residential complex at California Polytechnic University, present two photos of what to do and what to avoid on the holiday. One depicts a Cinco de Mayo parade with partiers in sombreros, and the other shows a bunch of college kids with similar headgear.

Over the second photo there is this caption: “Wearing a sombrero is not culturally appropriate.”

Below these pictures, the flyers present a list of “dos” and “don’ts” for the holiday, recommending celebrators avoid wearing “a sombrero, fake mustache, or serape,” and that they call their parties something other than “Cinco de Drinko.” The flyers also advise students to avoid “perpetuating harmful stereotypes” by using Spanish “disrespectfully.”

The flyers also specifically advise that students avoid going to “party stores for costumes and accessories.”

The RAs recommend students educate themselves on the history of Cinco de Mayo and support “AUTHENTIC” Mexican businesses. (Naturally, the flyers do not explain how to identify such authenticity.)

“Hold your friends accountable,” the letter declares. “Be respectful if someone calls you out for being disrespectful.”

Is anything “authentic” about Cinco de Mayo? The holiday was celebrated in America before it was celebrated in Mexico, and even today it’s a bigger holiday in the U.S. than in the country it celebrates.

Indeed, it is arguable that Cinco de Mayo is more an American holiday than a Mexican one. The holiday commemorates the Mexican victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Here’s the thing: shortly after that victory, the Mexicans lost out to the French, who established foreign rule and installed Maximilian I as emperor of Mexico.

Mexicans in California started celebrating Cinco de Mayo as a symbolic victory over the French, while the actual people in Mexico struggled under French rule. After America’s Civil War, the U.S. helped Mexico oust the French, which finally happened in 1867.

Either the entire holiday is “cultural appropriation” or it is a legitimate occasion for Americans (of Mexican heritage or otherwise) to celebrate the independence of the New World from the Old. (In Mexico, Independence Day is September 6, which celebrates the 1810 declaration of revolution against Spain.)

It is, of course, appropriate to avoid disrespecting people. Respect is important for civil society. But bludgeoning people on the head with fears of “cultural appropriation” becomes tiresome and almost encourages people to engage in insults and disrespect, just to spite those constantly preaching against it.

This is how political correctness births the “alt-right,” and both are to be condemned. Civility and respect are key, but constantly preaching about “cultural appropriation” is likely to become a threat to that very civility. There’s a difference between fostering moral norms and enforcing them.