Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Happy Getting Drunk and Making Racist Caricatures Day!
Cinco De Mayo is a great example of so many things that are off-kilter about America. We tend to be pretty xenophobic, but are happy to temporarily accept any foreign culture if it means we have an excuse to get drunk on a weekday (see also: St. Patrick's Day).
While many Americans actively harbor hatred for Mexican peoples (see also: the state of Arizona), I think it's safe to say even those Americans that have no active hatred know basically nothing about Mexican people, culture, or society. All this, of course, despite the fact it comprises a tidy 50% of nations that border us.
Go ahead and go to any local bar and/or restaurant tonight where people are "celebrating" and ask any random American what Cinco De Mayo is. They'll likely say it's the Mexican independence day (it isn't) or some sort of important national holiday (it isn't). In fact, it's pretty much only celebrated in the United States.
As such, it becomes a great example of what sociologists call "appropriation," which is essentially when one culture (typically a dominant one) steals the fun parts of another culture while simultaneously disrespecting/ignoring the culture from which they steal (see also: white people and rock and roll). Here in the U.S. we celebrate this "Mexican" holiday not by learning anything about Mexico, talking to any Mexican people, or even attempting to understand the history of the nation.
Instead, we use it as an excuse to get drunk and use incredibly racist caricatures (see graphic above). And then we somehow pretend that being racist and getting drunk is really a way of "paying tribute" to our neighbors to the South that we ignore and know nothing about.
And that sums up our relationship to not only Mexico, but pretty much the entire world. Not that it's going to change my plans of getting "Mexican" food that in no way resembles what people eat in Mexico and having a ludicrously over-sized margarita tonight, but then again, that's my God-given right as an American...
Posted by Woz at 10:10 AM