An official at the University of Denver sent out an email to students on May 5 to warn them not to wear sombreros and fake mustaches on Cinco de Mayo because it was "offensive" and "dehumanzing."
"As we celebrate, some of us may—unintentionally I would hope—choose activities that ‘appropriate’ specific cultures,” Liliana Rodriguez, Vice Chancellor of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence, wrote in the email, reports Campus Reform.
To be clear, cultural appropriation is when people adopt or use aspects of a culture when they are not members of that culture. This is a controversial thing. No, it is not illegal, nor is it a violation of some specific university policy. But it is disrespectful. It is an extension of racism. It is dehumanizing and insulting to many. It is not kind. ...
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To see sombreros, fake mustaches, or other exploitive symbols against my heritage culture is offensive. As an ally, I also am offended by all the variety of ways that other cultures are appropriated throughout the year—for Halloween and other themed parties. Must someone’s heritage be disrespected for others’ entertainment?
Author and writer Cathy Young noted in The Washington Post in 2015 that the "cultural appropriation" movement got started among academics in the 1970s and 1980s who were targeting colonialism.
Young added that some of this criticism was historically correct: Colonial nations stole artifacts, white entertainers performed in blackface, and whites made money off African American music at a time when black entertainers faced discrimination and segregation.
Young noted that lately the "cultural appropriation" movement has gone off course: "In some social-justice quarters, the demonization of 'appropriative' interests converges with ultra-reactionary ideas about racial and cultural purity."
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Young recalled that history is full of cultural appropriation:
Peoples have borrowed, adopted, taken, infiltrated and reinvented from time immemorial. The medieval Japanese absorbed major elements of Chinese and Korean civilizations, while the cultural practices of modern-day Japan include such Western borrowings as a secularized and reinvented Christmas. Russian culture with its Slavic roots is also the product of Greek, Nordic, Tatar and Mongol influences — and the rapid Westernization of the elites in the 18th century. America is the ultimate blended culture.