Updated 3:10 a.m., with statement from Chicano Caucus.
After the Chicano Caucus released a statement criticizing Kappa Alpha Theta sisters for dressing up as other nationalities at an Olympics-themed mixer this weekend, Bwog published photos on Monday that showed students posing with stereotypically Mexican-themed cutouts at a Chicano Caucus station at Glass House Rocks.
The photos, which were posted on the Chicano Caucus’ public Facebook page, show students holding up posters with face cutouts painted with images of a man wearing a sombrero and a woman with a flower in her hair. The students posing with the male cutout also wore mustaches.
The Bwog post read, “While the actions aren’t equivalent and the group has the right to do whatever it wants with its culture, we can’t help but think that Chicano Caucus may have been perpetuating ‘the stereotype of the sombrero-wearing Mexican-American migrant worker’ with this one.”
Many comments on the Bwog post expressed similar sentiments as the article, calling Chicano Caucus hypocritical.
The Chicano Caucus executive board released a statement early Tuesday morning apologizing for any offense the cutouts may have caused but reiterating its earlier call for further discussion on cultural appropriation.
“It is regrettable that only one of the many aspects we sought to share was singled out, neglecting the overarching theme. However, our event at Glass House Rocks was far from a trivial representation of our Mexican heritage; it was a means through which we paid tribute to one of the many cultures within Mexico, combating the very issue of cultural unawareness. We attempted to address the stereotypes imposed upon us by showcasing their underlying truths: the places and peoples they actually pertain to. It is very easy to release certain images without context, and we feel that this is only taking away from the real issue at hand,” the statement said.
The statement added that Chicano Caucus will be hosting an open meeting to discuss the topic on Feb. 27 at 9 p.m.
Monday afternoon, before Chicano Caucus released its statement, a Bwog comment attributed to Martin Perez Colon, SEAS '17 and co-education chair of the Chicano Caucus, responded to the other comments directed at the group.
“There is a huge difference between when a group tries to reclaim its stereotypes and use them in a positive manner and when someone else just reaches for them because they’re easily accessible,” read the comment.
Colon later confirmed to The Lion that he did post it.
“So instead of looking at this as a hypocrisy, look at the context of both instances. There’s a reason people feel insulted, and our campus’s reaction shouldn’t be rushing to take sides, but instead trying to understand why it is that a group feels hurt,” Colon wrote. “I’m in the Chicano Caucus, and I’m not yelling back at anyone. I’m not even calling for the sorority to get in trouble. I’m just asking that people don’t be so thoughtless when reaching for potentially offensive stereotypes to represent a group. Because it hurts.”
In a statement released to Spectator yesterday, the Chicano Caucus criticized the costumes worn by Kappa Alpha Theta members.
“While we understand that the actions taken by these members may not have intended to be harmful, they were in fact offensive,” the statement said. “Stereotypes are used to oppress marginalized communities. These pictures caricaturize Mexican culture and should not be overlooked. The attire trivializes an entire nation’s history, its peoples, and its cultures, reducing them to a mere mustache and sombrero.”
“The term ‘cultural appropriation’ is not one that is discussed often at Columbia, and it is not one that is easy to define. We hope that these photos promote campus-wide discussions as to what ‘cultural appropriation’ entails and why it is a controversial topic to groups who are often the subjects of such actions,” the statement said.
Columbia's Inter-Greek council released a statement early Tuesday morning that said the group was "working on campus-wide initiatives that will improve upon the current dialogue surrounding social awareness issues at our University.”
“We are committed to addressing the issues at hand and will be sure to further communicate with the greater community regarding our efforts," the statement said.
The photos of the Kappa Alpha Theta sisters showed them dressed up as different nationalities, including a Mexican team that wore sombreros, mustaches, and T-shirts with a Mexican flag with the coat of arms replaced with the Greek letter theta, a Japanese team that wore pigtails, chopsticks, and high socks, and an individual dressed up as Ireland, holding a sign that said ‘Kiss me, I’m a famined potato.”
In a statement to Spectator on Monday, Columbia Japan Society President Moeko Nakada, BC ’15, said, “I’m sure that the sisters of Kappa Alpha Theta had no ill intentions to hurt the members of the Japanese community but it is still truly regretful and hurtful that they chose to perceive and interpret our country through such behavior.”
“I hope that this incident can provide an opportunity for the sisters of Kappa Alpha Theta to deeply reflect upon their actions,” Nakada said.
In a statement on Monday, Interim Dean of Student Affairs Terry Martinez said she was “saddened and disappointed to learn of students in our community participating in costume caricatures of several different nationalities.”
“While the intention may have been harmless, the actions taken have had an impact that may have not been intended,” Martinez added.
Chicano Caucus’ open meeting is on Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. According to Tuesday morning's statement, details on the location of the meeting can be obtained by contacting the Chicano Caucus presidential co-chairs, Rubén Chaidez (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Trinidad Reyes (email@example.com).
Check back for updates.