While class was hopping on last week, a few of us noticed a plethora of sombreros floating around campus on the heads and backs of several vanilla people. We didn’t know what the hell was happening until we stumbled upon an ad for the upcoming UCSB men’s basketball game in the Daily Nexus, which listed “Free Chevy’s sombreros to first 4,000 fans” as its top “reason to attend.” This ad, along with the mad sombrero-wearing, reiterates to us the cluelessness with which people around UCSB engage in activities involving exoticism, racism and cultural exploitation. More importantly, the ad identifies UCSB’s explicit role in perpetuating cultural stereotypes.
According to data from the 2001-02 school year, Chicanos and Latinos comprise 16 percent of the UCSB undergraduate student population. While these percentages have increased slightly over the past seven years, Chicanos and Latinos are still considerably underrepresented at this campus in comparison to the percentage of Chicanos and Latinos in the state population (32.4 percent, according to Census 2000 data). Chicanos and Latinos are marginally represented in the graduate student population and among permanent faculty, 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, according to data provided by the UCSB Kiosk website. Can we conclude that these numbers and this outrageous gimmick imply that UCSB places a greater value on adopting the symbols of Latino culture than actually having Latinos represented at this school?
Now some of you reading this might be immediately tempted to dismiss our commentary as some “PC” reaction to what you might perceive as a rather harmless appropriation of Mexican culture. For those of you who just don’t get it, consider a modest proposal.
According to statistics available for the 2001-02 school year, whites represented 62 percent of the undergraduate population. The percentage of white undergraduates at UCSB has consistently hovered between 62 and 64 percent over the past seven years. We have never understood the rationale for having an Argentine cowboy as the school mascot. We think it is time for a mascot that is more reflective of the predominant student population. We propose the changing of the mascot name from UCSB Gauchos to UCSB Gavachos, a slang term used by Mexicans and Chicanos to refer to white people.
Now consider the possibilities. We could have a white man known as “DP Dude,” complete with shorts, a T-shirt with a puke stain from the previous night’s drunken festivities, five-dollar flip-flops, mussed-up hair, skateboard and a five-o’clock shadow. “DP Dude” could celebrate a Gavacho victory by setting a couch on fire in the middle of the gymnasium. The mascot could challenge unfavorable calls or losses by leading the crowd in a chant of “reverse discrimination,” especially if the opposing team has more minority students. Finally, instead of throwing tortillas during the game, white fans would be encouraged to throw Wonder Bread on court during the game.
White students reading this can’t deny that some of these references are representative of their culture. This is merely a harmless appropriation of symbols that represent your lives. If some of you believe this proposal is stereotypical, consider how some of us feel when you exoticize, stereotype and demean aspects of Mexican culture as part of an activity that is representative of UCSB. We urge UCSB to promote its sporting events in ways that do not commodify Mexican culture and perpetuate the humiliation of Chicano/Latino students. Unless an apology is granted by Chevy’s and UCSB to the Chicano/Latino student body, we request that those who support our views boycott Chevy’s and UCSB men’s basketball games until the cultural exploitation and racism stops!
Christopher Bickel, Maria del Socorro Castaneda, Lashaune Johnson, Josef Manuel Liles, Denia Zahira Navarrette and Xuan Santos are graduate students in the Sociology Dept.
Lorena Banuelos is a student in the Graduate School of Education.