Opinion: Respect for culture is not racist

This column is the sole opinion of the author. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of the RedEye staff, duPont Manual High School, its students, faculty or administration.


As I walked in from the senior parking lot of duPont Manual High School, the sounds of maracas filled the air and a flurry of festive sombreros and ponchos adorned the seniors.  Or “señors” rather, considering that was the seniors’ theme for this year’s football homecoming.

The class of 2012 has made a reputation for themselves by taking a shift from the traditional pep rally themes. As sophomores they reinvented themselves as “SÅSmores.” As juniors they took their Internet meme identity a step further and asked the school “Y U MAD?”

They weren’t going to have this year be any different. The class officers decided that instead of going along with the rest of the school’s “royal wedding” theme, the class of 2012 would be “señors and señoritas.”

“My first two ideas were ‘things that are blue’ and ‘the Protestant Reformation’, I just threw out ‘señors’ because it was a pun,” Bennett Heine (12) said. “It was just a pun, that’s all it was meant to be.”

But still, several Manual students believed that the theme was reinforcing stereotypes and should be considered “racist” against Latino culture. But many more understanding and rational students, along with administrators, thought otherwise.

“I talked to Spanish-speaking teachers and students and the people that I spoke to did not feel like it was racist,” said Mr. Greg Kuhn (Assistant Principal). “The theme is a culture, not a race. It’s like if the theme was England or France.  Mustaches, piñatas, and maracas are authentic representation of the culture although a little dated.”

Which is a fact. Piñatas, maracas, and sombreros are positive and festive representations of Latino culture. Students were warned via Facebook by class officers and the administration to keep sensitivity in mind and not dress up as something offensive. Something that could be considered “offensive to the Spanish culture”  was grounds for punishment.  

Mr. Kuhn went on to say, “The theme was created not to make fun of Mexican people. It would be like if we had an American theme and dressed up as Pilgrims. It is not how we usually dress because it is dated, but no one would be offended. In the end, I don’t think it’s racist but we need to be careful.”

Students and administrators were careful as they approached pep rally time. No senior came to school dressed as anything that could be considered a “negative stereotype” or “racist.”

Several Latino students, seniors and underclassmen alike, were also confused why people deemed the theme to be racist.

“I don’t understand what’s offensive about the theme because it’s not targeting anything negative about Latinos or Hispanics,” Yazmin Martinez (11) said. “If I lived anywhere in Latin America or Spain (which I used to live in Mexico) and I knew that a high school was doing a ‘señors and señoritas’ theme, I would feel a sense of pride because people find that a good theme. They wouldn’t chose something negative for a theme. It’s obvious they respect it.”

This viewpoint was also shared by several seniors both Latino and non-Latino.

“I’m Mexican and I’m not offended. The theme is not a specific race,” Taylor Cianfoni (12) said.

“I liked it and don’t understand why everyone is freaking out about it. It’s not racist unless you make it racist,” Benjamin Taylor (12) said.

The señors and señoritas theme is not racist — if anything, it is showing respect and admiration for Latino culture. Wearing a culturally and historically accurate and a non-offensive article of clothing should not be offensive to a specific group of people that were never targeted in the first place.    


Jared Rondinelli (12) is a guest columnist for RedEye. He also serves as the photo editor for the Crimson yearbook. Kate Eastman (12) contributed to this opinion piece. 

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    ahunt2Sep 16, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    One correction- there was NOT a theme for the pep rally and every class steering committee was told not to have a theme. The wedding theme mentioned is applicable to the DANCE.