Cultural Appropriation

Don't Let the Woke Scolds Ruin Cinco de Mayo

Tacos, tequila, and sombreros are not the path to white supremacy.


Today is Cinco de Mayo, which means it's time for tacos and tequila shots—and also time for social-justice-influenced ideologues to tell us why enjoying things from other cultures is an unconscionable act of cultural appropriation.

Of course, trying to tell people not to consume delicious foods and beverages on holidays is a tough sell. This year, the woke scolds seem to have given up on that battle, and instead are focused on discouraging appropriative Cinco de Mayo costumes: sombreros, serapes, etc. BuzzFeed published one of its trademark listicles on this subject, "13 Things I'm — And I Can't Stress This Enough — Sick Of Seeing On Cinco De Mayo." The author is mostly perturbed about white people in hats.

An article from WBUR argues that cultural appropriation of ethnic garb is a form of white supremacy:

This is how white supremacy works. It always begins with the taking — an entitled grabbing of the cultural symbols of others. A sombrero? A serape? A kimono? Cornrows? They're there for the seizing. And if such snatching is questioned — if we dare confront the audacity by which it plucks what isn't its own — then there is intimidation and terror.

White supremacy grabs and grabs — lands, people, continents, culture — for both power and hollow amusement.

Suffice it to say, this is a rather backward understanding of white supremacy—an ideology that stresses differences and divisions between the races. The alt-right doesn't want white people wearing sombreros: They want Mexican people to take their clothing and food and head south. White nationalism is obsessed with keeping the white race pure—with making sure other peoples, cultures, traditions, and values do not dilute white identity. There's no better way to undermine this pernicious ideology than to engage in rampant cultural blending and borrowing.

As a practical matter, it would be impossible to disentangle distinct ethnic traditions from the blended fabric of American society. Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, but one that's primarily celebrated in the U.S. rather than Mexico. That's what happens when cultures mix: New traditions form.

Much of the outrage over cultural appropriation is confined to leftist social media enclaves and college campuses, where de-problematizing Cinco de Mayo is a frequent goal of racial justice activists. Their efforts call to mind H.L. Mencken's famous description of Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

To learn more about illiberal student activism pertaining to race and culture, pre-order my book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump. And to read more Reason articles in defense—and praise—of cultural appropriation check out these:

Us Silly Right-Wingers and Our Problematic Sombreros!

Lionel Shriver Doesn't Care If You Hate Her Sombrero

Screw Cultural Appropriation and Let Your Daughter (or Son!) Be Moana for Halloween