This letter was sent on Friday, May 3 to Living Social, MyDrinkOn and the aforementioned participating bars.
Dear Living Social, MyDrinkOn and Participating Bars*,
A number of concerned Chicagoans and allies have come together as an event you all are coordinating has been disturbingly brought to our attention. We are writing to you in response to your “Derby de Mayo Pub Crawl” taking place in Lincoln Park on Saturday, May 4, 2013. We would like to express our extreme frustration, disgust and public condemnation of this offensive and appalling event.
This event undoubtedly represents racism and cultural appropriation. One example of overt racism is the event page’s use and encouragement of wearing sombreros and mustaches to characterize what Mexican culture is. According to the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, the ancestries present in Lincoln Park are: German, Irish, English, Polish, Italian. Please note that this does not include any culture that commonly celebrates Cinco De Mayo, so it raises the question of why your businesses, your bars, and this particular community feels the need to celebrate Cinco De Mayo in this fashion to begin with. We believe these acts are deeply rooted in racism and we are more than ready to begin a public campaign against participating businesses and entities involved.
Your actions as businesses and as a community have direct implications on Chicago at large. Not only are people of color in Chicago being displaced through gentrification that invites an affluent white majority into the city (of which Lincoln Park has a $77,000 median family income) at the expense of historically Latino/Black/Asian neighborhoods, but we often see our his and herstories being appropriated through this new form of racism that believes we are post-racial. This new racism uses events like Cinco De Mayo and Martin Luther King day to perpetuate stereotypes that are condemned in collegiate institutions that have now permeated within entire neighborhoods and cities. This is the same cultural practice being performed by the gentrifiers of Lincoln Park and we see it all throughout urban areas. We are also sure that many of the participants do not even understand what Cindo De Mayo actually is, which in and of itself is problematic.
While you all may think this constitutes as embracing diversity and celebrating cultures, you are doing the exact opposite. You are contributing to the dilution and destruction of our cultures by bastardizing and claiming celebrations such as this, as your own. Our communities do not benefit from institutional support and infrastructure and yet privileged communities that do benefit from these systems portray our lived experiences disrespectfully and inappropriately. In fact, the entire metra system is designed to divide and isolate us, meanwhile the center of the city is ever-growing with a population returning from white-flight (who knew their tickets were round trip, huh?). This privileged community is isolated, too. The metra, the highways, the countless borders intentionally structured in Chicago protects this community from the reality of hardship and violence in Chicago. They are sheltered from the heartbreak of school closings, gang violence, deportation, of all forms of violence that plague every block in this BUT theirs. There are so many things wrong with this event and how it further communicates the extent of racism and discrimination in Chicago.
In 1959, Chicago was declared the most segregated city in the nation by the U.S. Civil Rights Committee and that continues ring true as long as we ignore the (white) elephant in the room and how local government benefits from ousting and segregating communities of color to invite a whiter, affluent population into our city at the expense of existing communities, while additionally imposing overt acts of racism, intolerance and microaggressions on underserved communities and minority groups. We will not overcome the continual cultural genocide that STARTS from pretending racism does not exist and is not perpetuated by our actions. Being able to reduce someone’s culture to a drinking festivity that has no cultural relation to those participating is the exact privilege and power dynamic that makes this even unjust and oppressive.
We demand that you cancel this event and that all participating parties release a public apology for the of racism you have accepted and openly promoted through this event. We hope that you and your patrons begin encourage more diversity, inclusivity and understanding in your future actions.
Concerned Chicago Residents and Allies
*Participating bars include:
Twisted Shamrock II