The editorial board of The California Aggie—the University of California-Davis's student newspaper—has a message for people who want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by donning sombreros and doing tequila shots: don't. It's cultural appropriation.
"A sombrero is not a fashion accessory and neither is a culture," wrote the students. "There are other days of the year to get blackout drunk. Cinco de Mayo is not one of them."
Meanwhile, President Obama held a Cinco de Mayo-themed press conference today. He wished everyone a happy "fiesta" and bragged that his current chef knew the best taco and margarita recipes.
Indeed, when it comes to Cinco de Mayo, it's something of a challenge trying to distinguish insensitive appropriation of Latino culture from respectful celebration. Even the ReclaimCinco hashtag, which purports to encourage racially sensitive revelry, betrays some contradictions on the subject. Are sombreros okay, as long as they aren't party-store sombreros? If you are aware that Mexico defeated the French army on May 5, 1862, are you allowed to drink? Are Cinco de Mayo theme parties okay? What if the party has no official theme but people bring tequila? What if it is themed but includes an authentic mariachi band? What if Chipotle caters?
It's certainly true that some people betray racism and insensitivity toward Mexican people. (The likely GOP presidential nominee is a great example, although it's his immigration policies that give offense, not his afternoon taco bowl.) But appropriating items from other cultures should not be viewed as automatically offensive, if it is done respectfully and without malice.
"I think you've all earned a few margaritas," said President Obama at his Thursday afternoon press conference. When the president of the United States is more down to party than the typical college student, campus political correctness as it relates to cultural appropriation has truly gone too far.