Baylor University suspended a fraternity this week for racist behaviors at a Mexican-themed party. According to the Dallas Morning News, students dressed in sombreros and serapes and some reported that students painted their faces brown and dressed as construction workers and maids. The fraternity was suspended Monday after hundreds of students protested on campus.
Whether you plan to celebrate the Mexican holiday, you will probably face issues of cultural appropriation and you need to know where you stand. Cultural appropriation includes taking a cultural symbol and using it out of context or without respecting the meaning of the symbol. But how do we avoid cultural appropriation when our generation makes fun of everything?
Our campus tries to avoid situations like the Baylor frat “Cinco de Drinko” party. As a member of GATA, I was told not to wear any type of Mexican costume to the annual “Taco ’Bout GATA” rush. Last year, a rushee was asked to leave for wearing a mustache. A sombrero or mustache might seem like a joke, but it could be offensive to some people. With so many cultures represented on campus, it’s hard to know the difference between making a joke and cultural appropriation.
We can debate the little things and get offended over mustaches, but it would be better to start respecting the people these symbols come from. You can celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a respectful way, if you appreciate the meaning of the holiday, which is a celebration of the Mexican victory over the French in the Franco-Mexican War.
You can also remember what it feels like to have your own cultural or religious symbols disrespected.
I have always been disturbed by Kanye West’s use of “Yeezus” on his sixth album. No matter his motives, Kanye’s twisting of the name of Jesus is offensive because Jesus is so sacred to me. I have had to learn not to be offended because Jesus is big enough to handle Himself.
Our generation may have forgotten how to honor sacred things, from Jesus to cultures and races, but we have to stand against that disrespect. We must learn to honor cultural symbols and forgive when others offend us, on May 5 and every other day of the year.