Not the sort of guidance you expect from me, is it? There is however a very simple way to become labelled a racist. Wear a sombrero. Or, more accurately, wear a sombrero at a university freshers’ week.
Down in deepest darkest Norwich, it’s been freshers’ week, and as usual lots of local businesses set up shop to try and drum up trade. Among these was a TexMex restaurant called Pedro’s. As a marketing wheeze, they were giving away sombreros. This raised some hackles on the SU members, who issued a cease and desist instruction.
Now we have the reasoning, spouted by Chris Jarvis, the union campaign and democracy officer, who said it was important that all members felt ‘safe and accepted.’ He then blathered on at length. ‘At all events we try to ensure that there is no behaviour, language, or imagery which could be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or ablest (sic).’ Wearing a hat is ‘cultural appropriation?’ Well what about wearing a kilt when you’re not Scots? A beret if you’re not French or Frank Spencer?
At this point people began to sit up and take notice. One student is quoted in the union newspaper as saying, ‘It’s a hat, not some sort of sacred religious dress. Who’s going to be offended? Speedy Gonzales?’
Better still, another student wrote to the i and he was hopping mad, since he’s half Mexican himself. He pointed out it’s all well and good to eat the food and drink the tequila (I’d take issue with the latter), but it’s not OK to wear the national hat. By banning it, a ‘handful of student hacks’ are insulting Mexicans, not protecting them. He then raises a valid point. ‘We go to university to learn and have our minds opened, not to have bullying political loonies close them.’ He continues by wondering if the same nutters will want to stop people wearing green and drinking Guinness on St Patrick’s Day.
I think he’s got a point, unlike Chris Jarvis. How would somebody wearing a sombrero make another somebody any feel less ‘safe and accepted?’
Lastly, I have to report some shameful news. These events took place at the University of East Anglia, my old alma mater. How it came to be so bloody humourless is beyond me. Back in the 70s it was a hotbed of political activism, and I did my bit when I felt it was right. But we also knew how to differentiate between what matters and what doesn’t.