Cinco de Mayo pisses me off

Yesterday, the ‘holiday’ of Cinco de Mayo was celebrated throughout the United States. (And, just to note here—only the United States.) I had friends drink Mexican-imported tequila, sport sombreros purchased at Party City, advertise their celebration of “Cinco de Drinko”, and post photos to SnapChat with the Cinco de Mayo screen filter visible. White friends used May fifth as an excuse to drink, without any sense of the reason for the meaning awarded to Cinco de Mayo, their ignorant cultural appropriation, or the reality that the United States is capitalizing upon a small Mexican battle won by Porfirio Diaz. I am certainly not excused from having celebrated in the past or participated in cultural appropriation myself, but after courses focusing on Latin American revolution and independence, and our course reading (especially Impossible Subjects) I am a little appalled by the continued celebrations of Cinco de Mayo throughout the US.

To speak directly to the terms of our course, we saw in Impossible Subjects the exact nature of the systemic decision to limit Mexican immigration to the United States. Such limitation was racist and deliberate, and demonstrated a sense of American exceptionalism; despite Mexico being our neighbor to the south, American legislation limited immigration to levels resembling those of countries across the Atlantic or Pacific. We didn’t want Mexican immigrants, and deemed ourselves to be the most superior North American country.

As the photo I posted below indicates, this sentiment of American exceptionalism is alive and well, especially when Mexico is considered. Except on Cinco de Mayo, when suddenly American college students across the nation choose to embrace Mexican “heritage” and tequila, and celebrate a holiday of a nation otherwise ignored. Cinco de Mayo encourages purchasing cheap, inauthentic products mimicking Mexican garb and highly-taxed imported tequila to celebrate the nation that we have so willingly ignored and discriminated against for over a century. We pick and choose when we are okay with racism and discrimination, and when we want to use cultures other than the dominant white culture to have fun. And, really, it just pisses me off.

Some other excellent articles: http://zinnedproject.org/2012/05/rethinking-cinco-de-mayo/; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dan-schatz/how-not-to-celebrate-cinco-de-mayo_b_7201384.html

Found this photo on a friend's facebook page, original rights are unknown
Found this photo on a friend’s facebook page, original rights are unknown

Questions on Baltimore, Social Media ‘Activism’

I’m not too sure how I feel about my opinions just yet, and this post reflects my jumbled brain. I am genuinely looking for responses, and dialogue, if possible!

I can barely (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) go on Facebook without seeing a post about Baltimore, and Freddie Gray. We’ve seen this before; Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner were all internet phenomenon immediately following their deaths. And rightfully so; I am not attempting to suggest that there is anything incorrect about posting to social media about current issues, I certainly do so myself. I see so many Facebook posts, and try to read all of them or the articles attached, and am definitely better informed about both my friends’ opinions and various media outlets’ take on the events. I think that posting on Facebook about politics is generally good, as it can influence important conversation and debate and may leave everyone more informed. But, something about posting on Facebook about social issues or political topics also seems frustrating. There are friends who post really meaningful dialogue, but I can’t help but think that a lot of the posts come in the form of “slacktivism”–people posting to seem relevant and caught up on issues.

In reading The New Jim Crow, I began to understand for the first time just how embedded racism is into the structure of society, and how detrimental police brutality and mass incarceration are. Our nation is absolutely perpetuating standards of protection that are different for whites and non-whites. The killing of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray are all examples of the racial castes that Alexander describes. So when I see friends posting about their opinions on police brutality and racism, I really appreciate their awareness and cognizance of social issues; I am certainly not trying to say that I am more aware than anyone else. It just seems a little, well, lazy. And it bothers me that many friends who are posting are white, and well-off, and maybe (probably?) not engaging in this conversation or activism outside of Facebook. I think that posting at all is better than not posting, but how is posting an article from an opinion piece of a blogger discontinuing the racial caste system? How is sharing Facebook posts really, actually, dismantling racialism? Am I wrong? Is posting on Facebook actually active?

The killing of young black men is heartbreaking, and I think that sharing opinions on how wrongful their deaths are is necessary; so, I’m not entirely sure why people voicing their opinion seems frustrating. I am trying to get a grip on how useful social media activism really is. What would Michelle Alexander say of social media activism? Are we working toward changing societal structure with our Facebook pages? If social media activism is helpful, and “trending” topics reflect actual change, why are we still killing black men?

I think that posting is better than not posting; being engaged in conversation is certainly better than ignoring current events. I just don’t think that posting is actually doing very much. Ought I just be okay with reading Facebook posts from (mostly white, mostly entitled) Facebook friends, since at least they’re posting something?

Property tax and education–Ben and Guinier reflection

Our class conversation about Bell and Guinier has lingered with me—the inherent connection between class and race is something that we have discussed many times in our course thus far, but the correlation between geography and class is not something that I often thought about in such explicit terms. Of course where you live is indicative of your socioeconomic status, and therefore of the opportunities that you have for employment and education. I guess I just need such a connection to be explicitly laid out in order for me to understand how problematic such a connection can be, and actually is. I have long thought that funding of public education via property tax is inherently unequal—obviously the school districts that have higher income per household are going to be able to support more expensive education for their children. But the attachment that is so evident between race and class stems to geographical divides, and ultimately results in the continued segregation of school districts. The labor opportunities in geographical areas dictate the socioeconomic status of the residents of neighborhoods, and a lack of opportunities for socioeconomic mobility diminishes the possibility of movement from geographical areas. There appears, to me, to be an endless cycle that captures non-whites in geographically specific areas, dictating labor opportunities for advancement outside of their geographic area, and then also controls the education quality that their families receive. Without a means for mobility via excellent education, it is predictable that children of these communities will also be trapped in a cycle of lesser wages and poorer working conditions. There are stories of upward mobility and successful division from the status quo, but the fact alone that the status quo of labor and class is racialized indicates an unlikeliness for mobility. In the Omi and Winant reading, there was description of racial hegemony and the existing social processes that encourage racial divides; their work seems increasingly apparent in Bell and Guinier given the exact implementation of such hegemony. Just as race and racism become common and widely received, a geographical divide of races as a result of labor and class opportunities has become common and widely received. I’m still pondering ways that education can be aided by property tax funding, or other ways to fund education. The implicit racism of the education system that is detailed in Bell and Guinier surprised me, and has lingered in my thoughts since.