Recently, a picture has circulated around social media where several University of Dallas students are dressed in a costume that clearly mocks and degrades the Hispanic community, of which I am part.
The costume consisted of four UD students, three of whom dressed as a wall and one who held a sign that read “José.” It would be one thing to have the students dressed up as a wall, but adding a person in a fake mustache holding up a sign with “José” written on it, and then captioning the picture “José,” made the picture more than just a political statement.
The students in the picture have clearly made the “costume” into a statement that affronts the Hispanic community by adding a sign with a common Hispanic name, which is why I believe the actions shown are racist and which is why I have taken a great offense to their actions.
These actions displayed in the picture are clearly done so in a racist and discriminatory way that cannot be allowed at UD.
According to UD’s Office of Civil Rights, all men and women are “created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls,” having “the same nature and the same origin.” The equality of men and women “rests essentially on their dignity, as persons and the rights that flow from it.”
So, why do I feel unsafe in an environment where I am supposed to feel accepted by people who claim to be God-fearing?
Why do I feel as if my culture, my community, is nothing but a joke to those that feel that such “costumes” are acceptable?
To be certain, a large amount of the UD community has seen this costume for exactly what it is: a racist affront to the Hispanic community. However, the quantity of UDers defending the costume and those who thought it appropriate to create, wear and have photographed is cause for concern.
I have seen comments online where other students justify the actions of these students, claiming that just because the event was not on campus, that we cannot take a personal offense and do not have a right to bring it up to the university.
This is distressing for many reasons. Our community claims to be a Catholic one, a community that is governed by charity and humility. Such a costume alienates a large section of our community who are just as deserving of empathy, charity and kindness as all other members of this community.
When we defend the racist “free speech” of our peers without making clear how harmful, uncharitable and offensive their actions are, we rip open chasms in our community that become hard to bridge.
Officially, our university does have anti-discrimination policies and punitive measures that can be taken against those who exhibit racism on our campus. These policies are well-constructed and serve as an essential guideline to our university. However, this incident proves that many in our community are failing to live up to these basic standards of decency, much less to our community’s aspirations to the virtue of charity.
The students involved in this incident can say that they meant no harm, but their alienating actions prove otherwise. Actions of this manner always divide our community and tell people, like the Hispanic community here at UD, that they are not welcome or that they will never be a full part of this university’s community.
I understand why many of my UD peers were reluctant to call out the people who engaged in this racist activity; it is always uncomfortable to call out people who have done wrong. It is even more uncomfortable if those being called out are those we go to class with, those we eat in the caf with and those we consider to be friends.
Despite the difficulty, we must face these situations head on and speak out against the belittling of members of our own community if there is ever to be any positive change.
I am not speaking for everyone in the Hispanic community when I say that this costume is offensive. I am simply speaking up for myself and those that I know who took offense when the audacity of my fellow UD students led them to mock our Hispanic community. Immigration, and those who immigrate, should not be mocked on this basis, but respected.
Our community needs to remember, especially in this difficult year, that we must try harder than ever to reach out to each other in compassion, fraternity and charity rather than continue to build walls that divide us.