Response to letter regarding ‘We Can Do Better’ email

It’s just rude when a group of people is upset regarding the perpetuation of harmful and insensitive cultural stereotypes that makes them look bad, and someone’s first thought is the standard, “I don’t get how it’s offensive (presumably because it doesn’t offend me personally), so you’re all just overreacting.”

This statement almost invariably devolves into how various minority groups are just too sensitive these days and that political correctness has gone too far.

So if the poncho and sombrero are just components to a costume, and it’s all just fun and games, why aren’t Ku Klux Klan costumes commonplace during Halloween? Why don’t we have slavery-themed parties?

Why are these things completely off-limits, but wearing a poncho and sombrero, which also perpetuate historically negative, harmful stereotypes all right? Though these stereotypes are accepted and even defended — despite the repeated concerns voiced by the community that the costume is based on — they should be questioned. Think of the “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign as an example. Why is it OK to make a group of people, who some already perceive as inferior, the butt of yet another contrite, racist joke?

There are two parts of Monday’s letter to the editor that concern me. The first is the writer’s complete lack of empathy or any concern at all that what you’re saying is hurtful. It reduces the experiences of 54 million people around the United States to nothing more than a costume and an ugly joke. But it’s completely irrelevant because it doesn’t seem to hurt the writer personally.

But the more concerning issue I take with the letter is the realization that many people around the University of Minnesota share your sentiment. These are the people that will never know the pain some feel, because they are safe at this school, as they are lucky enough to pass as American, whatever that means.

They will never be told that they are “illegal immigrants,” and they will never hear, “Go back to your own country; we don’t want you people here.”

Knowing that the writer will probably never see this deeply saddens me. Even if they do, they will probably dismiss me as another overly sensitive person of color.

But in the event that perhaps I’ve given the writer something to think about, I would consider an apology for the offense they have given in your previous letter to the editor, or at the very least, an honest reflection of their hasty, ill-informed actions in their next “self-criticism session.”