Although a week late, approximately 50 culturally appropriative “sombrero-clad” Princeton students chanted “piñata!” and “Cinco de Mayo!” at a Mexican-themed party yesterday evening.
The Daily Princetonian reports that the revelers at Henry Hall “wore sombreros, ponchos, and other colorful clothing,” with one student claiming the party was “in commemoration of the death of a lizard,” and another stating “We’re not racist! We’re celebrating!”
This certainly is not atypical campus behavior, but neither anymore is the reaction: The D.P. notes that campus “Latinx” (pronounced “lah-TEE-nex” — an increasingly common replacement for “Latino/Latina”) groups were aghast and contacted Public Safety to shut down the festivities.
“There’s this appropriation of culture that’s kind of reducing it down to a caricature, which I find really offensive considering the history of racialized violence based on those caricatures,” said [student Danny] Navarrete. “I find it offensive that they use the theme when it’s convenient for them.”
“It shows that it’s kind of a cultural insensitivity [that this] still exists even though a lot of people think that they’ve moved on past it, even after many talks about how this can be offensive,” said Navarrete. “It’s surprising to see that people — I guess it’s not that surprising for some of us — but people decide to have these parties knowing that it’s problematic.”
“I’m pissed, I’m so pissed, because it happens every Frosh week, every Cinco de Mayo, every Halloween,” Arlene Gamio ’18 said. “And it’s almost always a sports team,” they added.
Gamio explained that this is the third time they have been tipped off about some kind of Mexican-themed party and come to see what was going on.
“It’s just random groups of white people throwing all these parties and saying it’s not racist and not owning up to it,” Gamio said.
Gamio, who is the president of Princeton University Latinx Perspectives Organization, said that mobilizing against parties like this one is something the organization has been working toward.
“[These students] want to be Latinx for one night, but they don’t want to accept the consequences such as being racially profiled by police and discriminated against by their professors,” said Gamio.
Gamio wants Princeton officials to take disciplinary action against these wannabe Latinxes: “These parties keep happening because they walk away with a slap on the wrist and they have no understanding of what they did was wrong,” he said.
Princeton could institute penalties against the party-goers without First Amendment repercussions as it is a private institution. But should it?
The College Fix contacted Princeton Public Safety requesting clarification on why the party was ended. Office of Communications Assistant Vice President Daniel Day responded with the following:
Officers were dispatched and asked the party-goers to turn the music down.
The officers could not find the residents of the room, and the party was not registered, so the officers closed it.
No alcohol was found.
Public Safety received only the one call about the party, and the complaint was about the noise, not the theme of the party.
Day also provided a statement by Michele Minter, the vice provost for institutional equity and diversity:
A number of students have reported that some of the conduct at the party was offensive to many members of our community and contrary to our community values of inclusivity and respect for others. The reported lack of regard for the sensitivities of others is disturbing and distressing, and my office, along with the Office of Campus Life and others, will be seeking further information to determine whether additional actions need to be taken either in response to this event or to communicate our values and expectations more clearly and more effectively.