They didn’t mean to be offensive.

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

A picture of six white Williams students donning taco costumes with mustaches and sombreros were shared last night to the rest of the campus. These pictures were on Instagram for everyone to see, and a few students have shared those pictures with the rest of the student body.

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

What is offensive about a taco costume? Nothing, a taco costume is not offensive. But, a taco costume with a fake mustache and a sombrero is. But why is it offensive if they are all Mexican things? Taking three different reductive stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican culture and putting into one costume simplifies, reduces, and exotizes Mexicans. You perpetuate the one caricature of Mexicans already deeply ingrained in the imagination of the U.S. You become complicit in anti-Mexicanness that I, my family, my neighbors back home, other students, staff, and faculty at Williams, and thousands of others across the U.S. experience daily.

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

The six women are posing slightly hunched over, raising their fists, with the caption: “First there was the Jackson Five and then there was the Taco Six. #Ole.” The Jackson Five? Olé? Why do these Williams students feel the need to dress up as people of color for Halloween? Why are they only willing to engage with other cultures on a holiday? If they love our cultures so much, why do I not see them at the events we spend months planning to teach and to share different aspects of our identities and heritage? Why are we only the butt of their Halloween joke?

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

The caricature of Mexicans shows how abstract we are to them. We may share the same dining halls, be in the same classes, have mutual friends, but in the end, it does not register to them that their actions may have different implications for those of us who do not and cannot fit into the dominant culture at Williams and in the U.S. Some of us are not granted the option to not be offended due the history of exploitation, the ongoing attacks of Mexicans in the U.S., and our every day lived experiences.

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

I reiterate, their reduction and caricature of Mexicans and Mexican culture aligns with what is already etched in the imagination of the U.S. In the imagination of the U.S., we are sombrero-wearing, taco-eating, dirty mustached, wetback beaners who are here to take up all the jobs and mow your lawns, wash your dishes, be your child’s nanny, pick your fruit and vegetables; we are your employees, we are illegals, we are dirty, we are lazy, we are criminals, we do not belong here. We are Other.

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

We are Othered. I was waiting in my mom’s car a few years ago while she and her partner, Felipe, went inside the store to buy some things. A man comes up to the passenger window where I was sitting and starts saying something. I roll down the window. He says, “Can you move your car a bit forward so I can pull out of the parking lot?” I reply, “I can’t drive, but I’ll call my mom to move it right now.” He goes back to his car. I call my mom, she doesn’t pick up. A few seconds go by, but it feels like hours as I see the man getting irritated. I call again. She picks up. “Ma, ven a mover el carro.” I tell her to come over to move the car. She tells me she ran into an old friend so she will send Felipe to move it. My heart starts sinking. I see through the rearview window that the man has become increasingly impatient. “No, mom, you come to move it please.” She hangs up. I nervously look at the entrance of the store, hoping it is she who comes move the car. Felipe walks out, and he makes his way to the car. I avoid looking at the impatient man. Felipe walks up to the car, gets in, turns on the car and moves the car forward.

The man in his car speeds up next to our car, and yells, “Go back to your country, you fucking wetback!” along with a myriad of other slurs and drives off, just like that.

I just sit there.

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

Felipe is short, dark complexion. My mom has blue eyes, light complexion. I wanted her to come move the car because I knew the man would not say anything to her because she looks white. When I saw the caricature costume, I relived that experience. I relived the anxiety, the stress, the embarrassment, the shame, the helplessness I felt those five minutes. I was reminded that Mexican people exist as something less than human, whether as criminals or costumes, to many people. It is not just the racist asshole from the store, but also my peers here at Williams.

“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”

I have never felt fully comfortable in Paresky, or for that matter, in many places on this campus. Hearing the way people talk about MinCo groups, seeing how people move when they pass a black or brown person, experiencing how unequal public spaces are, the different levels of entitlement to Paresky. When we do things to reclaim spaces, we are limited to 24 hours, to a few days. And when we try to be reparative, in how we see fit, we are met with backlash of stares, of smirks, of anonymous dissent on mobile apps. They tell us we are dividing the campus. They tell us we are alienating others. They tell us we are using radical language. They tell us we are using polarizing language. Excuse me? The majority of my time at Williams has been alienating, and I am not alone in that respect. I think people can handle a few minutes, hours, or days of discomfort. When has racism ever been dealt with comfortably?

They tell us to bring speakers, they tell us to bring a panel, they tell us to hold discussions, they tell us to try to change policy. And, we do, we try. But they don’t attend. But they don’t participate. So we make noise instead. And we make ourselves seen, and we make ourselves heard. And that’s making people uncomfortable.

It is making people uncomfortable that this action is not staying in Morley Circle when they so often chastised us MinCo groups for “segregating” ourselves. We join these groups for safety, for community because we cannot see ourselves in the dominant Williams community.

This institution was all white, male, affluent for hundreds of years. We are still finding ways to create room for ourselves in this place, and you are blaming us for trying to do so. The culture that has been at Williams for decades cannot be erased easily, and it is a messy process making this place welcoming for myself, my fellow Latina/os, my fellow people of color, my fellow working class people, my fellow queer people.

It is a messy process. There is not one person or a select few leading all people of color and our actions. Please stop lumping as “the activists” as you do on anonymous mobile apps and in your private conversations. The different events going on in the past few weeks have been led by different people. There are people creating art in a response. There are people leading die-ins. There are people leading marches. There are people coordinating events. We are all doing different things as a response but you are so vehemently stuck on what is most visible and most loud so you can force upon us the label of angry minorities and make us feel bad for ‘interrupting’ your lunch or finals studying.

In the end, people will not get it. People will say, “it was just a costume.” It is not about the costume itself, it is about these six white Williams students wearing a caricature of a costume at a school and in a country where people cannot feel safe because of their heritage and they are showing no empathy for these people, for my people, they so claim to be celebrating with their tacky costume.

I am sure they are nice girls. I am sure they are fairly liberal. But I am not sure if they have thought about the implications of their costume, and the fact that they did not think about the implications is enough for me to be upset by the lack of thoughtfulness and empathy. We attend a college and live in a country where people can get away with not being thoughtful, and that is not okay. And that is why people are upset, because people will say, “they didn’t mean to be offensive” as an excuse for their actions. But we are tired of the liberty with which people will use aspects of our culture for their own entertainment without giving one shit about us as people. We are tired because we work so hard to feel entitled to public spaces and then we see the ease with which people walk these halls with tasteless costumes that mock us and take pictures and share with their friends online, making a public humiliation of us and our efforts at being part of the Williams community.

To my fellow Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who are posting anonymously that they feel like those who are upset are “forcing them to be a victim,” thank you for using the word “victim” to undermine the hurt and pain felt. Thank you for speaking on behalf of everyone who feels hurt by the actions of these Williams students and vilifying us. Thank you for homogenizing our hurting and how we are responding to that hurt. Look. I do not want you to feel victimized. But I want you to understand why others might feel pain even if you do not. I didn’t mean to offend you!

-Gabriela Contreras-Cisneros
Williams College ’15

This is what my peers are saying and believe:
IMG_6966

Yes, because I rather be writing this post than binge watching Parks & Recreation to procrastinate.

IMG_6969

“Because we live in a society that believes in being reactive instead of proactive.” Homie, you would have said the same thing had people been upset by this after it had happened!! It’s not that no one gave a shit, it’s that no one knew, and those who knew clearly did not feel the need to speak up and teach them/call them out, which is quite sad if you ask me. None of their friends questioned their costume idea??

IMG_6970

Oh, a conspiracy theorist, too. We have agendas! Yeah, we do… like being able to feel comfortable at the school we attend! Radical agenda, I guess.

IMG_6973

Thanks for trying to divide us people of color and lumping people who are taking action together! Like we pick and choose what to condemn as if we are trying to decide between one shot or two shots at Tunnel City.

IMG_6974

Ok, guys, they got us. We have been caught. The Williams Activists(trademark) have been caught. They know about us browsing everyone’s Instagrams to find something we feel offended by or complain about, because we clearly do not have anything better to do. They caught us. Drats!

And that’s what my peers think about me and about others. So why do I feel uncomfortable again?

Advertisements

41 thoughts on “They didn’t mean to be offensive.

  1. Williams '15

    You make a number of very valid points. These girls did inadvertently reinforce negative and reductionist stereotypes that are still used in our society to oppress individuals of Mexican or even South American heritage. There is definitely harm done by using these stereotypes for personal amusement and the girls should recognize that.

    But then you say this: “I was reminded that Mexican people exist as something less than human, whether as criminals or costumes, to many people. It is not just the racist asshole from the store, but also my peers here at Williams.” and you unintentionally undermine all of the valid and important points you’ve made thus far. You draw a false equivalency between a microaggression committed out of ignorance and an act of malicious, hostile bigotry used out of anger directly at an individual from that minority group. They are both wrong, but they are not equally wrong, and lumping together the perpetrators of both is neither fair nor valid. It is like saying that someone who takes something from a textbook but doesn’t realize they have to cite it is the same as someone who takes credit for a book written by someone else. One is a subset of the other, and a culture that allows for one opens the door for the other, but they are not the same.

    Unfortunately, this is also the most visible part of the post. The other very important points that you have made will must likely be overcast by the shadow of this indictment. It’s very possible that this comparison was an oversight, something that you may not have realized you did, but that sadly won’t matter. Exaggeration is the achilles heel of social criticism, as it allows those resistant to the ideas to write them off as “crazy” or “too extreme/radical,” just as those you’ve cited have. These girls do deserve to be criticized for what they did, but that level of criticism must be proportional to the infraction.

    Like

    Reply
    1. gabrielac2013 Post author

      Hey,

      Both were hurtful acts, both stemmed from ignorance. One reminded me of other, which is why they are both included. They are related. Both are symptoms of a racist system, whether overt acts or not.

      If someone wants to overlook everything I wrote because I found those two experiences relatable, then they missed the whole point of my piece. I am not exaggerating when I write that I find both acts appalling, and I am not exaggerating about their impact onto my personhood.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    2. ryan steele

      I agree to a certain degree with the above comment, but I believe that what this post was trying to get at was that by allowing such actions we’re creating spaces for other, more heinous crimes to be committed. Justifying actions with ignorance is NOT a defense. It’s the duty of everyone else to educate the girls as to why their actions were wrong. This blog post didn’t call out anyone by name. It’s main purpose isn’t to indict the girls as the above comment suggests, but rather to explain to a FAR BROADER audience why their actions elicited such a strong and totally warranted response. “Crazy” and “Too extreme/radical” are labels often given by lazy people who won’t put in the effort to understand where others are coming from.

      The line quoted called out “peers at Williams” and NOT the six girls. THAT is who she is talking to.

      Take responsibility for yourself and for educating others. Don’t allow small things (like the Instagram post) to happen, because unfortunately silence is enabling.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    3. UMich grad -- not a retard

      People in Europe throw American parties all the time and make fun of Americans. A lot of people dress up as hillbillys or hicks during halloween. Others dress as stereotypical white people from the 80s. Last year I wore jorts and a moustache.

      Cry me a river. Tacos, moustaches and sombreros are mexican in the way that overalls, trucker hats, and budweiser are american. This is so embarrassing — you guys are brainwashed by your liberal teachers.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Arizona State Grad

        Oh, by all means. People in Europe do something similar, so that makes it ok. I wonder if that same argument was used to justify slavery back in the 1700s. “People in Europe used to have slaves all the time. In fact, I had one once when I was living there!”

        Also, I’m pretty sure her “liberal” teachers have nothing to do with her view point. Instead, it comes from her experience as a Mexican-American. How do I know this? I’m a black Republican from Arizona. So please stop trying to diminish her experiences by blaming it on the political views and influence of her teachers. As a conservative, I can tell you that my political views have nothing to do with why I agree with her blog article. The reasons, instead, relate back to my own experience as a black American, and to watching many of my Mexican friends endure a similar racist experiences to hers. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the word “wetback”, I’d be a very rich person.

        Like

      2. E.G.

        I wouldn’t bring up Europe as a good example of racial equality or a proponent of righteousness. Far from it – European countries still have policies that actively prevent immigrant children, born and raised in their countries past two generations, from even becoming full-fledged citizens.

        Besides, Germany still segregate the Turks from the Germans much like how Americans used to divide between white and black on every form except when one wants to go buy some doner kebabs. It’s disgusting.

        Like

  2. gabrielac2013 Post author

    Edit: I will not tolerate replies that are telling me to “toughen up” because 1) you don’t know me and my level of resiliency 2) you are cowarding behind an anonymous title while I have made my name public 3) you are disrespecting me because you are not willing to engage with me at a deeper level as I have tried to with you.

    Like

    Reply
  3. Williams '18

    There are plenty of insensitive portrayals of whites in the media. They are just not recognized as negative stereotypes, because the center of race discourse is so skewed that whites are expected to suck it up. Consider the “basic bitch” archetype. How is that not racist vitriol? The fact is, that, by and large, whites don’t get indignant at the bigotry directed at them. Everybody needs to not take themselves so seriously.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Sarah Rosenberg

      “The center of race discourse is so skewed that whites are expected to suck it up.” Haha…I was totally with you until the middle of this sentence. Do you remember why race discourse is “skewed”, that is to say, focused on the discrimination and oppression of minorities? That would be because we have a centuries-long history of violently oppressing and discriminating against minorities, which has abated to some extent, but certainly is far from fixed (not sure if you’ve been reading the news in the last few weeks).

      Which also brings us to why something like the “basic bitch” is not racist. It is a stereotype, and it is about white people. However, racism as minorities experience it is power-based, a system where one group subjugates another by proclaiming and/or enforcing its superiority (which it might well do by trivializing the “other’s” culture). You’re implying “basic bitch” is some form of reverse racism. It’s not, because white people in this country are not and have never been oppressed due to the idea of the basic bitch, or otherwise, and the idea of the basic bitch has certainly never been used to make white people feel inferior to other groups. Give me another stereotype of white people, pretty confident that same argument will apply.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Williams '15

        You’ve redefined the word “racism” in a way that’s at once revisionist and ignores generations-old, academic standards of what the word means.

        Your second paragraph logically collapses when one realizes that your denotation is political and exclusive to a subset of ideologically like-minded people.

        Like

    2. Donnie Kost

      Hello, I’m Donnie.

      So you’re analogizing the negative portrayal of a few white people in the media to the negative portrayal of a minority and that is a false syllogism right there. The reason the “basic bitch” ‘archetype’ (word choice? idk why you’re bringing in Jung here)… is not offensive is that there are so many other portayals of whites in the media. There is cinderella, there’s Zooey Deschanel, there’s Katniss Everdeen.

      Okay now think about Asian Americans in the media. There’s Señor Chang aka Chow in the Hangover. There’s…. Oh wait. That’s about it. White people are given an individuality and diversity of representation that exceeds their skin color. There’s the artist, the mathematician, the cool guy, the nerd, etc. etc. Asian Americans aren’t given that variety of representation. Nor is any other race. That’s why most whites aren’t indignant at the “bigotry” directed at them, because they can completely dissociate themselves from it. They can say “I’m not a basic bitch, I’m more like Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls!” What can I say as an Asian American man? “I’m not an emasculated comic jester! I’m a Kung Fu Fighter!”

      Is this starting to make sense? Feel free to contact me.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
    3. Class of 2014

      What an enlightening comment, frosh. To get over the structural barriers and institutional racism reinforced by constant bigotry that I face as a black male – I should not take myself so seriously. Honestly don’t know why I didn’t think of that before, definitely something to keep in mind. And I’ll be sure to keep in mind the white person’s burden when the term “basic bitch” is used. Reverse racism is real.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    4. Dan '14

      There’s a lot wrong here, but I’ll try to be patient because you’re a freshman and may not know better. Nonetheless, what “racist vitriol” is directed at whites so often that you “are expected to suck it up?” Because the “basic bitch archetype” is NOT in reference to white girls mocking themselves on instagram. It is originally a term in AAVE (African American Vernacular English, aka Black English or what racists/classists derogatorily refer to as “ghetto speak”) that was appropriated by Kreayshawn (who is white) in her truly horrible 2012 hit ‘Gucci Gucci’. Just like the term “ratchet”, “basic bitch” is originally a term used by and in reference to African Americans that is NOW used by white people to derogatorily refer to perceived “negative aspects of black culture” in their lives. So please, come up with further examples of all the “bigotry directed at whites” that you don’t get indignant about.
      ….
      ……….
      …………………
      You know why you’re not indignant? Because you’ve never actually experienced bigotry and/or racism. I lived in America for 21 years. I’ve also traveled extensively in Europe over the past two years and live in Spain now, and you know what? EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE I was, and still am, reminded of the fact that I am not white, in ways subtle and overt, malicious and benign. This is a problem that crosses generations, borders, and cultures, and it is one that we need to talk about. I understand that it is exhausting discussing these issues. I understand that you may wonder, “why does this shit matter? why can’t you take a joke?” Believe me, I get it. But try to listen to and understand where your classmates are coming from, too. Racism isn’t just a one-time deal for us. We don’t get to “forget” about these issues, because we have to LIVE THEM. And believe me, it adds up. Again, you might ask, “why is this small thing such a big deal?” It’s because all the large injustices get ignored time, and time, and time again.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Sarah Rosenberg

        Being the clearly oblivious white person that I am, I didn’t know this about the background of the term basic bitch. Thanks for pointing this out.

        Like

    5. Brown '15

      The “Basic Bitch” is prejudiced and includes some misogynistic language, but it’s not racist. Why?

      Where in that stereotype do you see inherent criminality, inherent unintelligence, inherent aggression, inherent disregard to family values? None? Because stereotypes of white people are that we like pumpkin spice lattes and yoga pants, not that we’re inherently less human.

      “Whites don’t get indignant at the bigotry directed at them” BECAUSE BIGOTRY TOWARD US LOOKS LIKE PEOPLE SAYING WE LIKE PUMPKIN AND ARE OBLIVIOUS. Bigotry toward people of color looks like 12-year-old Tamir Rice getting shot within two seconds of the police arriving on site and somehow saying he deserved it. You tell me which one is worse.

      Like

      Reply
    6. Marie

      You are ignoring the advantage of white privilege, though. As white people (including myself) we have the privilege of being the “default” culture. Stereotypes of white people do not hinder us in getting jobs, interviews, making friends or make us feel unsafe. Listen to what the person who posted this said again. She talks of experiences that made her feel *unsafe.* The REAL fact is that as a white woman, I have never been racially stereotyped and have it make me feel unsafe like this writer describes. That is the difference. Stereotypes against minorities like the writer describes are dangerous, and reinforce the idea that minority cultures are lesser than white culture.

      Like

      Reply
  4. Nichole

    I’m really proud of you for speaking up and for putting together such a thoughtful and open piece. Please know that your “agitating” and “resistance” is important, needed, and does help make a difference. Please know that your voice is being heard and that your experiences are important. Mostly, know that you have an entire community willing to stand with you in solidarity.

    Sincerely,
    A proud member of the class of 2009 and fellow “activist”

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. Williams 14

    Curious to hear thoughts on what punishments should be levied/what community actions taken if these girls are found guilty of not being thoughtful and/or actively exhibiting racism? Individuals will try to understand and actively attempt to empathize with the hurt and anger coming out of Williamstown right now, but what concrete actions must be taken to ensure that this event does not become one of many slowly subsumed under the ever-present stream of stresses of daily life in the Bubble? Going above and beyond possible individual punishments- what are some details of a vision can we draw on to make this event productive instead of reductive?

    Like

    Reply
  6. Enraged Feminist

    Williams ’18, do you not understand racism? Racism is a sytsem of oppression that targets people of color, not white people. “Whites don’t get indignant at the bigotry directed at them” because bigotry toward white people (note: bigotry, not racism) does not and literally cannot exotify, reduce, and dehumanize in the same way that racial slurs do. I am sure you expect people to take you seriously, Williams ’18, when you post a comment designed to effectively silence the voices that must be most heard. Your insensitivity demonstrates exactly why more people need to write articles calling white people out for actively taking advantage of their privilege to oppress marginalized groups. Try telling people who are murdered or raped because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the way they perform their gender not to “take themselves so seriously.”

    Like

    Reply
    1. Williams '18

      Enraged feminist, this is exactly what I meant by the skewed nature of race discourse. Do you really believe that racism cannot, by definition, target whites? 6 women wearing taco outfits are not “dehumanizing” a group any more than the many voices who are slamming them as “basic bitches” (which you can plainly see on our anonymous commentary app, Yik Yak).

      No, I don’t think their dumb choice of Halloween costume is in any way related to why “people who are murdered or raped because of the color of their skin.” It probably a stupid choice, but no, I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

      I am not, by any means, suggesting that such inequalities don’t exist, don’t take my comment out of context. I was referring to the particular incident that happened at Williams College.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Jenny Helinek '15

        Hey Williams ’18,

        Here’s a video that I think will help you better understand what so many of our fellow students have been saying in response to your original comment. I know it helped me (a White student) when I first saw it.

        Gabriela, I can’t thank you enough for this post. It’s amazing to me that you wrote such an eloquent article about something so hurtful to you and to many people in the Williams community – and during finals week, no less. If people can leave Williams College without understanding institutionalized oppression in the United States (a lack of understanding embodied by these costumes), then Williams must do more to educate its students about their own society. Your voice is an invaluable part of that process.

        Like

  7. Williams '15

    “Thank you for speaking on behalf of everyone who feels hurt by the actions of these Williams students and vilifying us.”

    How can you sarcastically tut-tut people who hold a different opinion for speaking for “speaking on behalf of everyone” yet repeatedly invoke the phrase “In the imagination of the U.S.” as if you somehow have a grasp on the mental innerworkings of a population of 315 million?

    The first comment to this post is on point. You very well describe the sort of anxiety that apparently is intrinsic to the Latina, colored, working-class, queer experience at Williams (an anxiety that I’ve heard some from those demographic identifiers repudiate, some support, suggesting that your claims are not universal but personal–nothing wrong with this, of course). Thanks for doing so. You provide a clearheaded account that isn’t at first particularly prescriptive (which can turn off people who may be, as Ephs frequently call them, allies; the most zealous of social justice activists fail to recognize (or ignore) that a democratic, grassroots movement actually demands–wait for it–widespread support, which doesn’t often arrive from talking down didactically at those who could enable such a movement), which is a smart move in an honest and pragmatic way. But the false equivalency that that first commenter points out is real and unfortunate.

    “Hearing the way people talk about MinCo groups”
    Why do you think they do? Do you think it’s simply because whites are racist and uncomfortable with the idea of ethnic minorities? Do you think there’s more to it?

    “Seeing how people move when they pass a black or brown person”
    What?

    “Experiencing how unequal public spaces are, the different levels of entitlement to Paresky”
    You mean the self-segregation in Baxter? Why do you think that occurs?

    You’re listing some ugly racialized phenomena at Williams and plopping them among accounts of white on campus acting poorly. I think there’s more to it, and I think most people at Williams recognize that.

    Regardless of criticisms, thanks for sharing your perspective.

    Like

    Reply
  8. Williams '14

    As uncomfortable and Othering that Williams is, it’s these voices of reason that makes me still love the place. Blessings to you, Williams ’18. I don’t know if you actually think what you wrote, or whether you were trying to play up your intellectual devil’s advocate, but I hope you read some of these responses written by your peers and alumni, and reconsider your position. To admit that you are wrong is NOT to say that you are not intelligent. I know this can be difficult for a lot of Williams kids, but please leave the ego out of the equation in this discussion. Cheers to Williams.

    Like

    Reply
  9. An Indignant White

    Seriously?? You’re using the “basic bitch” archetype as an equivalence to racial stereotyping?? White girls, especially privileged white girls of the ‘basic bitch’ archetype are NOT being targeted or marginalized in the same way as the ethnic and racial minorities of this country. And frankly, current “insensitive portrayals of whites in the media” don’t mean much compared to the perpetuation of the ignorant racial stereotypes, outlined in the article above. Here’s why: Racial costumes, for instance dressing up like tacos, with huge sombreros and large mustaches, are probably harmless in themselves, EXCEPT for the huge emotional toll they have upon they people they obviously target. Both the basic bitch archetype and the taco costume (for instance) are reducing the targeted population to a few simple characteristics. However, one costume reduces an entire population/culture to some pretty historically negative ideas.It’s a matter of one of these costumes hearkening to years upon years of discrimination, of prejudice, or profiling, based on the stereotypes they perpetuate. “Basic bitches” belong to a group in power; a privileged population.

    I don’t know, but I’m not sure many “basic bitches” are refused services/housing/jobs/common courtesy based on their appearance/accent alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  10. Class of 2014

    “You’ve redefined the word “racism” in a way that’s at once revisionist and ignores generations-old, academic standards of what the word means.”

    This should be good. Williams ’15, tell me more.

    Like

    Reply
  11. Williams '14

    This is literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Get a life.

    I’m tempted to say you just wrote this in order to show off your writing ability, but the more I think about it, the more I think you actually believe there is something wrong with girls dressing up as tacos.

    No one cares about your feelings, especially after you leave the nanny-state environment that Williams fosters.

    Also, Perry is an Asian-american and I don’t think she would give a f*** if people dressed up as geishas, because people with normal levels of self confidence don’t care or feel the need to play victim here.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. Williams '14

        It probably means that I’m a horrible person because I’m not willing to accept limitless applications of political correctness and actually want to point out how ridiculous your argument is.

        Like

      2. gabrielac2013 Post author

        Once you have actually addressed what I have to say instead of me as a person, then I will take you seriously. Saying you are not willing to accept “limitless applications of political correctness” is a lazy way of getting out of engaging with me critically.

        Like

    1. Williams 2015

      “No one cares about your feelings, especially after you leave the nanny-state environment that Williams fosters.”
      Wow Williams ’14, it’s obvious you still live in a nanny-state environment coddled by people like yourself. I’m surprised you can survive in the real world holding those beliefs without getting punched in the face by someone who won’t stand your ignorant statements and won’t give a shit about you or your Williams education. Yap your mouth in a place like NYC, let me know how that goes. Oh, the gentrified parts don’t count by the way, sorry.

      “I’m not willing to accept limitless applications of political correctness”
      Really? Maybe not on the internet where you’re masked by anonymity.

      Like

      Reply
  12. mph993

    “sombrero-wearing, taco-eating, dirty mustached, wetback beaners who are here to take up all the jobs and mow your lawns, wash your dishes, be your child’s nanny, pick your fruit and vegetables; we are your employees, we are illegals, we are dirty, we are lazy, we are criminals, we do not belong here. We are Other.”

    Okay, so I follow you on the first two parts of the sequence that are clearly in reference to people donning costumes that were literally tacos, while wearing sombreros. The “Taco-eating” to ‘dirty mustached” progression makes sense, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that virtually anyone who eats food with facial hair is risking a sordid ‘stache. But how you get to “wetback beaners” is eluding me. Help! It seems like you are being aggressively procrustean to fit a pretty innocuous costume choice into a narrative of oppression and racism, which I am in no way denying exists. Otherwise, mentioning that the revelers in question were white is kind of irrelevant to your argument.

    If we are to split hairs here and say that what these girls were doing is just as bad as if they were, say, sporting native american headdresses, I would have to disagree. Sombreros as far as I am mistaken, are not necessarily part of any religious ceremony or of cultural import: rather they solely a hat style popular in Mexico. While the sombrero associated with the taco might transform the costume into something that is expressly themed ‘mexican,’ what is wrong with that? The items being combined and appropriated are common cultural items that are accessible and can be used by anyone without a broader cultural understanding, experience, or belonging (such as native american religious ceremonies). If we apply these properties to American cultural items, we get things like the fedora, a classic American fashion item of the 60s and 70s, or the hamburger, a profitable entree that used subpar meats to create a steak sandwich alternative.

    Yes, they probably “didn’t mean to be offensive;” but that was probably because they weren’t being offensive. Racism is very very real in the united states. And bemoaning innocuous costumes that package ethnic FOOD isn’t going to win the hearts and minds of people whose minds need to be changed. If taco costumes are really that bad, you should start a letter campaign to burrito and texmex franchises that are ILEGALLY using the term ‘mexican food.’

    Like

    Reply
    1. gabrielac2013 Post author

      Hi,

      Thanks for trying to engage with me. The problem is years of distasteful and hateful representations of Mexicans in American TV shows and films coupled with xenophobic attitudes towards Mexicans in the political realm. When I talk about the American imagination, I talk about the dominant discourse and popular image of Mexicans in the U.S. There is a spectrum, yes, from tasteless costumes to overt slurs to racial profiling to other forms of institutional discrimination, but they are all symptomatic of the same racist system that breeds the stereotype of Mexicans as sombrero-eating, taco-eating, mustached people (representation) lazy, dirty, criminals, illegals (representation and political discourse).

      I think that zooming into the sombrero as a fashion choice detracts from the larger image. Were they to wear a sombrero on their own, sure, that’s fine, but a sombrero, a mustache, and a taco? I’ll say this: I would not be offended if they dressed up as Frida Kahlo because they are dressing up as a person, but when they are trying to represent a culture that is already persecuted (yes, persecuted, especially in the borderland) by popular images that have been perpetuated by racist media, that is not okay.

      Like

      Reply
    2. subpar meat

      Good points in this comment, particularly: “or the hamburger, a profitable entree that used subpar meats to create a steak sandwich alternative.” Thank you for the excellent definition

      Like

      Reply
  13. joss

    GCC, you’re hella badass & super inspiring. This article is so on point and did not require all that bs in those comments. You’ve given voice to a lot of people! Making mad alums proud right now 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  14. Arizona State Grad

    Really great blog article. I found this through a family member and could not agree more with what you are saying. I was really disheartened to read some of the responses on here, especially the ones that are filled with disrespectful language, ignorance and personal attacks. In my opinion, those comments just further justify everything you have written and that we still have a long way to go in this country.

    Best wishes to you and good luck with your finals.

    Like

    Reply
  15. Williams

    Where can the conversation go from here? Doubtlessly the costumed girls have received mixed feedback; I expect they will reflect on their behavior. I have no reason to believe any of the girls involved “mean(t) to be offensive.” They dressed up for Halloween for their own reasons. By the description, I think they were trying to have fun. Their actions did offend, however, that is to say, some felt hurt and unkindly stereotyped by their portrayal. Some posts appear to be indignant on behalf of Mexicans, or on their own as opponents of racism.
    Identity is a complex topic. Although we may identify in many ways and with many others, we are each ultimately only authorized to speak for ourselves; so it stands that what you read is just my opinion.
    Stereotypes represent identities by calling attention to popular associations as defining features. In this case, it is as if implying sombreros and tacos are what represent or make one Mexican. Simplification or reduction of identities (cultural, racial, sexual, etc) can feel dehumanizing and crude, even if benign or equitable in intent. To a certain extent, however, such simplifications are unavoidable. Identities are rather difficult to encapsulate wholly or with unanimous agreement. After all, “Mexican” means different things to people. What does it mean to be American? Or an Eph? Group identities are not static, and cannot be defined by anyone alone–they belong and are produced in concert within and between cultures. Remember that Halloween is inherently superficial and wild; it’s an irrational holiday about costuming (which means disguising your own appearance). Naturally there’s an “othering” action involved in taking on the appearance of another person or thing–and this is a kind of objectification, worthy of critique. On the other hand, rather than dehumanize Mexicans, the girls could be considered to have humanized tacos. Racism will not be cured faster through expression of righteous indignation than it will be by open dialogue and cultural exchange, but the former precludes the latter.
    Who means to be offensive? I think we all want to feel safe on campus. We want spaces to express our feelings–positive and negative–and to be recognized and heard. This post and the replies are a positive example of our conscious commitment to be considerate and informative to others. I think the young women implicated for their Halloween costumes should be extended the courtesy of understanding. By all means, let us promote political correctness by means of polite correcting. It doesn’t always work for me, and it’s not easy, but when I am offended, I prefer to approach the offender(s) with empathy and explanation.

    Like

    Reply
  16. Williams '08

    As a fellow alumna, can I just say… Brava! I really admire your courage, and hope you won’t let all the negativity stop you from speaking out.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s