Cinco de Mayo is an annual ritual at Conn, but not the kind that you might expect. Instead of using the event to educate the community about Mexican - American culture and history, the event is a staging of cultural domination. Inevitably and every year a bunch of white students will use the event as an opportunity to “play Mexican.” Fliers will be posted around campus and emails sent basically inviting others to “Bring your sombrero! Bring your poncho!” The message is, come be Mexican for a few hours.... let’s drink margaritas, eat tacos, do some salsa, and perform our parochial illiteracy.
This happens every year. Some people host the “costume party” and others from MECHA -and their allies- protest, complain, and file bias reports. The administration responds, annually, in the same way, with an invitation to dialogue. Dialogue means we create a safe space for the offending party, provide psycho-babble to couch the explanation of their offense so that they don’t feel bad....and we labor and endure for their benefit.
No matter how hard we try, the words cultural appropriation do not enter the administrators' vocabulary. We are asked, every year, to educate the admin, the staff, students etc. We even point out the patterns, namely that this happens every year, and even with other identity groups for other holidays and yet administrators and the white students who are their presumed “clients” act surprised. They might even issue an apology, if we push hard enough, but no learning happens....and all this at an institution that is really only here for one purpose: to provide an education.
Strangely, we ask for education and public announcements, all in hopes that next year we won’t be doing the same thing again. Instead, we are made to labor, explain, relive the trauma, and educate the dominant culture. This is diversity in action, folks. Bring in those “others” to campus so that the dominant group can benefit, so they can learn....and we do this every year.
The Associate Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion this year told students that she would organize an open forum in which they were to educate white students. Do we really need a Dean to "organize" a forum in which we do the educating? Competent and trained administrators with the freedom to implement policies and programs that achieve more than just making the College event calendar seem packed are necessary for next year's Cinco de Mayo to be any different.