Cultural appropriation is a hot topic on social media. Weeks after Cinco de Mayo my Facebook feed was filled with arguments. Countless students at my college and other colleges have been debating if celebrating Cinco de Mayo with binge drinking and Mexican attire is a form of cultural appropriation. Whenever anything like this comes up on the internet, two rival teams emerge: the team that thinks this generation gets offended way too easily and the team that thinks social justice should not be labeled as a bad thing. Is celebrating Cinco de Mayo cultural appropriation if you are a white college student? Should this generation not be so offended all the time? Both questions have the same answer: it depends.
Cultural appropriation is when one culture uses ideas or products of another culture. Not to be confused with cultural exchange which is where representatives of different cultures exchange or share their ideas or products with each other. Cultural appropriation is often framed negatively because most of the time, the dominant culture is taking from the minority culture. In these cases, the dominant culture is adopting the elements of the non-dominant culture that they would otherwise marginalize the non-dominant culture for. The reason its very offensive is the fact that when the people of the marginalized culture use their own practice, they are discriminated against but when someone from another culture does it as either a fashion statement or for fun, then its okay. Schools and workplaces, generally run by the white majority, have banned black people from wearing cornrows, a traditional African and Caribbean way of hair grooming. Which is why white people wearing dreadlocks and cornrows is both cultural appropriation and not okay.
Members of the Western New England University women’s lacrosse team landed in hot water when they posted Cinco de Mayo Instagram posts saying “Build that Wall” and “Glad you didn’t build that wall JUST YET”. Both comments are rude because:
The first one associates a day celebrating Mexican identity and culture with Donald Trump’s rejection of good Mexican-American relations.
The second one insinuates that the only reason a wall shouldn’t be built is so that college students have this Mexican holiday to party, but other than that, Mexico can be barred off for all they care.
However, it’s not cultural appropriation. It’s not even that racist. It’s just very rude. The celebration of Cinco de Mayo in the United States is not cultural appropriation either. It’s a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage and while dressing up as a stereotypical Mexican with a sombrero is racist, celebrating with food and drink is not. People can get offended but it must be backed up with fact. You should do your research on what you are accusing someone of before you pull the race card or the gay card or the trans card. This generation doesn’t lack toughness and the ability to get over things, it lacks the ability to step back and understand the situation.