Culturally Sensitive Events Serve to Educate Students

As umbrella organizations (American Indian Student Association, Afrikan Student Union, Asian Pacific Student Association, and Alyansa ng mga Kababayan) we would like to clear up the misconceptions presented to UC Irvine students in the article written by Bill Peterson in the May 23, 2005 issue of the New University.
To start off, we want to point out that the actions of MEChistas and our organizations’ representatives were not reactionary, irrational or impulsive.
E-mails and conversations regarding the conflict in scheduling took place over two months prior to the event, and there was an attempt on behalf of MEChA to reach a compromise. Unfortunately, requests were ignored by Vice President of Student Services Adam Boothby and his commissioners.
It is erroneous to state that MEChA alone took action to protest the Associated Students of UCI, not relinquishing the flagpoles.
Following the last-minute promotion of the ASUCI Cinco de Mayo event, many other organization representatives attended the Legislative Council meeting because of the offensive content of the program. Members of organizations including Ballet Folklorico, La Voz Mestiza, LBSA, Pan American Latin Society, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Alyansa ng mga Kababayan, APSA and ASU were present and vehemently opposed to the perpetuation of ethnic and racial stereotypes laced throughout ASUCI’s planned Cinco de Mayo event. Stereotypes encourage ignorance and prejudice on our campus.
They desensitize us to and legitimize discrimination, glass ceilings, hate crimes, institutionalized racism and sexism.
As students we are committed to the pursuit of knowledge, both by obtaining and sharing it.
We realize that very few have the opportunity and privilege to attend such a prestigious university. Why should we conform to partying and having fun as our sole priority?
Our organizations should not be discredited or attacked because we want to provide a space for critical learning.
Shouldn’t ASUCI be supportive of programming that enables students to further their knowledge outside the classroom and engage in social activities?
Shouldn’t ASUCI invest in more meaningful programming, rather than spending student funds on expensive retreats, banquets, beer fests and, worst of all, culturally insensitive jalapeno eating contests?
We and the hundreds of students within our organizations are equally outraged.

Afrikan Student Union:
In solidarity with many other communities of color, we would like to inform UCI students that Bill Peterson’s article concerning MEChA and the Cinco de Mayo celebration is written from a dominant, mainstream, privileged, white perspective that does not respect MEChA’s true goals and mission. By claiming that MEChA always falsely cries racism, Peterson discredits and disempowers the very real struggle with institutionalized racism.
As African-Americans, we can relate to MEChA’s struggle of combating ignorance within our societal structure, which only supports and perpetuates the white mainstream way of thinking.

American-Indian Student Association:
We are an educational institution, and should therefore hold ourselves accountable for educating one another rather than perpetuating mainstream ignorance.
It is our responsibility as student organizations to hold educational events where they are appropriate rather than petty party events using a ‘let’s drink since we have an excuse to’ rationale. We should be at the forefront of society by doing our part to help eliminate these stereotypes of these ‘famous’ holidays.

Alyansa ng mga Kababayan:
The purpose of our organizations is not simply for community service or social gathering; It is for political advocacy and awareness. All too often, cultural celebrations are reduced to only song and dance. In this case, it was margaritas, pepper eating contests and salsa dancing. Our heritage and history are a part of who we are and a part of who we strive to become. Why would we not be offended and outraged to see it reduced to a token event? All of our organizations invite and encourage everyone to celebrate things like Cinco de Mayo or Pilipino American History Month.
But celebrate knowing what you are celebrating, and why you are celebrating it. Put on a celebration that seeks to be something more. Otherwise, it is superficial and empty and most importantly it perpetuates ignorance.

Asian Pacific Student Association:
Bill Peterson spends a considerable amount of time on a factually incorrect account of the Legislative Council meeting that took place regarding Cinco de Mayo programming while neglecting to mention that the issue was widely supported by representatives from all over campus including administrators, faculty and leaders from other student organizations.
Not only does Petersen misrepresent the actual events but he is also fundamentally confused about the role of political advocacy 0student organizations.
It is our responsibility to challenge normative (though incorrect) expectations of ethnic communities. We refuse to remain silent and accept Adam Boothby’s seemingly harmless programming and Petersen’s blatant denigration of our people. Do not misinterpret our defiance as ‘volatile’ and ‘sensational’ radicalism.