Concerned Chicagoans happily debuts through a light, even comical, but nonetheless frustrating and discriminatory encounter with racist local businesses in Chicago. We hope to begin our work of promoting justice and accountability throughout Chicago moving forward. If you would like to be a contributing writer/reporter/motivator/source please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following letter was written in response to Living Social and myDrinkOn’s collaborative event called “Derby De Mayo” (http://bit.ly/18ju8dJ) at the following Lincoln Park Bars: Sedgwick’s, Gamekeepers, Four Fartherings, Twisted Shamrock II, Maxbar, O’Malley’s West, Lion’s Head, Wisefools, Hi-Tips, Dillinger’s and Bar Forza. This event promotes cultural appropriations of Cinco De Mayo through wearing mustaches, sombreros and getting really drunk off of Coronas and tequila and is taking place on Saturday, May 4, 2013 (today). The photo above was taken from the Living Social website promoting this event. Unfortunately, at the time this blog post was released, the event was already taken down by Living Social. Please see the letter we sent through this link: http://wp.me/p3umF7-f
Below our letter is a response received from a representative at Four Farthings justifying the racism perpetuated by this “Derby De Mayo Crawl” followed by a general message from My Drink On. What we ask is that folks think critically about the Chicago community. We are not post-racial. If we look at the make-up and hardships (or lack of hardship – based on where you live), you can easily tell and feel the racial division and injustice in this city. Events like “Derby De Mayo” are manifestations of countless institutional forms of racism that have kept Chicago decades behind the majority of cities in this country particularly in regards to racism and segregation. Please think of the following questions: Do these participating companies deserve our business when they are supporting events such as these that contribute to the dehumanization and hurt of an entire people and culture? What are ways we can prevent these acts of ignorance and intolerance to push our community forward? That is for you to decide. This is something Chicagoans have wondered about and hurt over for generations.
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
The following are the responses received from John Corry of Four Farthings Tavern and Grill as well as some automated messaging system of My Drink On.
- You are a nativist racist.
- Puerto Rico does not have an Independence Day (please do some research on PR’s relationship with the Imperial United States of America)
- Cinco De Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day (as mentioned in the letter, hardly anyone participating in these drinking festivities would know that because you all refuse to learn anything more about a population/culture you are explicitly appropriating and subjugating to your racist deeds). Hint: It has roots in civil rights, but I bet you didn’t know that and if you surveyed people participating tomorrow, I doubt you would receive a cohesive, let alone remotely accurate response.
- Dialogue and Understanding is the exact OPPOSITE of what you did in your letter. If anything, you just demonstrated how intellectually and culturally insensitive and incapable you are and further push our agenda of educating you and everyone else who is participating in these offensive events if only to prevent this kind of unjust knowledge disparity to continue.
- Nothing good has ever come of making caricatures or making light of a culture. The “Chinaman” image has not done anything good for Asian people as a diverse population, the “chief” and other forms of white American retelling of what Native Americans look/act/feel like have not helped the indigenous population of this country gain rights to their land or to be recognized as a significant, underserved community that has been continually assaulted by the United States, and the public humiliation of women and LGBTQAI people through infinite forms of shaming, sexualization, objectification, limiting or non-existent legislation have not led our communities to be treated any more human or pushed our fight for human rights any further. If you think what you are doing is okay, you are just an extension of this oppressive system. If you think brushing everyone’s identities under one American flag and cultural identity is positive or even healthy, then we are happy not to be living under your dictatorship.
- Just to be clear, we are not policing language or interested in political correctness per se. We believe in language and action that does not exclude any member of our society and community. For example, using blind as a metaphor for lack of awareness communicates that people that are visually impaired are not aware. Stigmatizing disabilities in our language leads to emotional challenges that temporarily able-bodied people would never understand. We use language with care and caution as it has historically been used as a weapon against our communities and we are finally learning to reclaim and have agency over our language to be a weapon of healing and inclusion. We wish you could and hope you will understand that someday.
- Please read a book or at least reference wikipedia once in a while.
An automated response from My Drink On: