thoughts on cinco de drinko, and being PC…

Once upon a time, I was an employee at the ASUCD Coffee House (CoHo). I was also a member of a social sorority and a lifeguard/swim instructor for Campus Recreation, which meant there was more social stuff going on than I can even think about being able to handle these days. There were exchanges and gatherings being hosted every weekend and pretty much the only thing that differentiated them all was the theme.

Margaritaville, South of the Border, CEOs and Office Hoes, Mardi Gras, Jersey Shore, White Trash Bash AND White Trash Wedding, FantasyLand, ZombieLand, 60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s, Graffiti, etc etc…. and basically all you did was dress up as something ridiculous and it would matter for the first 2o minutes, and then each party would just turn Drunk-as-Fuck themed. Davis is small and we hung out with the same people every weekend. The themes gave us the idea that we were keeping things interesting.

So yesterday after work I get five or so Facebook notifications telling me all the social events planned by CoHo supes/managers have been canceled. (Yes, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been drinking with the CoHoes and the conversations have zero relevance to me whatsoever, but none of us ever left the Coho Party Group.) I then find out this morning that somebody came across the event page for the ‘Cinco de Drinko SLOSHBALL’ event and went totally apeshit at the description and accompanying picture of some people wearing sombreros and dressed like border patrol.

The outrage started with a letter to the Aggie: Guest Opinion: Cinco de Drinko

As a result, it seems the CoHo is no longer allowed to have parties and the (private) social group has been deleted from Facebook. Tomorrow morning, a boycott is scheduled. The organizer is asking students to ‘wear red in solidarity as a response to hate and bias.’ The event page for the boycott is bound to be taken down soon because of all the inflammatory statements on it, but just in case, you can check it out here.

OK. Think of the people you are surrounded by as a student at Davis. Incredibly intelligent but also very young individuals who, at twenty-something, seldom have the deep-rooted motivation to demonstrate an act of true racism. That is, an act that endangers a group of people or creates a situation of hostility.

Can Cinco de Mayo Sloshball really be the event that disturbs the perpetual peace of spring quarter at UC Davis? Seems to me that the real shit kicker is the organizer(s) of this outrageous boycott, who have ignited a stream of debate across social media and created a hostile situation where there was none.

So people are entitled to their own feelings and I get that the point here is to not write this off as a harmless joke but rather to understand that there are certainly people who will not think it is funny.

But Davis is about the most diverse, accepting, and progressive-thinking little bubble of a city I have lived in. In my personal experience, instances of encountering flagrantly racist individuals happen rarely if ever. I feel that if putting on sombreros for ‘Cinco de Drinko Sloshball’ was enough to enrage a leader of a particular student group on campus and spark a boycott, the real world is going to be sort of a challenging place for her.

I think that an important part of cultural sensitivity is being able to separate the sort of behavior poses a threat from what doesn’t. Flagging harmless activities as ‘racist’ only encourages racism itself and further drives a divide between individuals. Celebrating Cinco de Mayo is much less of a hurtful reminder of tragic incidents in Mexican history and experience rather than… let’s say, an enthusiastic celebration of Mexican culture in a contemporary context. Come on. We wouldn’t sit around drinking Negro Modelos and eating tacos all the time if we weren’t appreciative of what you’ve done for us and what we all now eat on Tuesdays.

I feel such a deep connection with Davis that watching this all unfold on my computer over the span of a few hours was enough to get me back into binge writing mode again. It’s such a small and precious little town that when something tips the scale, I wonder what is wrong with the world. The last time I remember an incident causing such an internet flare-up, students were getting pepper-sprayed. That was awful and all the media attention and subsequent discussion was 100% necessary. But this?

Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA this week for making some pretty atrocious comments regarding black people and it is literally all over the news. Well, it was more so in my face all week since I work in a bar where we show only sports-related TV programs, and that this week we hosted a press conference for the Legends of Candlestick so every sports journalist in the Bay Area was in the bar freaking out about it. The ban (and $2.5 million fine!) was seen as a victory and it was, as downright racist remarks made by someone in his position should definitely not go unpunished.

Reportedly, the Clippers reacted to Sterling’s comments by dropping their logo-ed shirts mid-court and wearing their red warm-ups inside out in solidarity before the game. Several other NBA teams followed suit too, which is awesome. I’m imagining that the CoHo boycott tomorrow might aim for the same thing but GOOD LORD, this is not the same thing. Let’s please not pull the racism card every time something hurts our feelings.

Speaking of the racism card, I’m now going to take this opportunity to defend myself. I had pretty passionate argument recently with someone close to me about how the title of my blog and everything in it is inherently NOT PC and how I am essentially blacklisting myself from potential employers because by casually dropping racial slurs and cursing I label myself as a ticking time bomb. There was a point made that my use of the word ‘chink’ takes the Chinese race back a hundred or so years.

This blog, title and all, are not going anywhere. If you have been offended by my use of the word, I sincerely apologize. If you look past the URL one might notice that I do not intend to demean Chinese race and culture but rather to express a need to break away from the stereotypes that surround us. My adult life has thus far turned out to be a stark contradiction from that of a textbook Asian (a definition which is changing but THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT). I thought it was downright hilarious when, in a job interview for a sales position for a recruiting firm two years ago, I accidentally used the phrase ‘not another chink in the chain’ to stress how I wanted to avoid falling into occupations that seemed right for me based on how I looked.

I will not go off on this from an Asian American Studies standpoint because that would be an entirely different can of worms and I’ve exhausted enough word vomit for one evening (seriously… 1100 words in a little over an hour? My old editor Erin would have adored this sort of efficiency). Essentially, this blog is what it is. A blog. I won’t change what it’s called or how I write in an effort to organize myself in a neat little politically correct box so that I look clean and polished from all angles. That being said, it’s important to note that it still an open forum. Each of these posts has my name on it, but as soon it’s published, its much yours as it is mine. Good writing makes people think, and you’re welcome to share what you’re thinking.

I think that’s enough for serious things. I missed this! I’ll be back shortly with some musings on being back from Copenhagen that I found in a draft folder a few months ago. Until then, somebody please tell me how this boycott works out. My hope is that everyone learns a little about cultural insensitivity vs. racism… but also gets a much-needed dose of humor.






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2 responses to “thoughts on cinco de drinko, and being PC…

  1. Boycotting a drunk party seems a little less practical than boycotting something that might matter, like, for example, companies that destroy our environment, make guns that kill our children, build things in other countries that have brutal labor practice, etc. That said, #cancelcolbert, cause he’s a racist too. Mock outrage is way more fun.

  2. MT

    I agree 100% with you that we shouldn’t be labeling the event planners as racist or hateful. You’re absolutely correct that simplifying and judging people this way actually further divides and makes it so much harder to have a real, productive conversation about race. Thank you for pointing that out (seriously). I’m sure that these were just well-meaning college students who just planned a party without thinking about how the community would react to it.

    However, we learn very early in our lives that sometimes we can hurt or offend others without ever having intended to. No, this event doesn’t come anywhere near Donald Sterling’s comments, or students being pepper-sprayed, or anything else that deserves much more outrage. But the event was still culturally and racially insensitive. It simplifies culture as wearing sombreros and crossing the border. It perpetuates racial stereotypes. Just because it falls on the “less offensive” side of the spectrum doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still offensive.

    You dedicate the last section of your post to the importance of valuing and appreciating people beyond the stereotypes that society has unfairly given them. When “culturally” themed parties perpetuate racial stereotypes, it makes it harder for people of color to do exactly what it is that you take so much pride in having accomplished: live beyond the stereotype (as an Asian American man who was never good at math or science, I can certainly relate and sincerely think that you should be taking pride in this). Surely such parties, while in NO way motivated by racial animus or hate, should still be criticized for being insensitive to the very real way that racial structures affect people in their daily lives? (Being stereotyped a certain way, being pulled over by border patrol for looking a certain way, etc.)

    The proper response to this type of insensitivity should NOT be to protest the alleged and assumed racism of others. But it also should not be to blow it off completely just because it wasn’t motivated by racism or intended to be offensive. The proper response is for the community to have a serious conversation about why these types of events are so hurtful to so many people, even when unintentionally so, so we can avoid situations like this in the future. That’s a goal I think everyone agrees on achieving.

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