February 28, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
Next time you are tempted to show your (American Pride) colors make sure you don’t do it when your fellow American citizens are celebrating a holiday from another country. Apparently, just seeing the US Flag will enflame these folks to the point of violence.
But then again, maybe that was the point of wearing the t-shirts in the first place.
Let me try and explain.
Recently, a Federal Judge of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said “Si” (yes) upholding an order by school administrators to Live Oak High School (San Jose, California area) students to turn their American Flag T-shirts inside out. They could also choose to take the offensive t-shirts off altogether.
The high school was marking the Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May), a Mexican heritage holiday by celebrating it on school grounds. This day you may recall, is more than just half-off margaritas and nacho supremes at your local Cantina. This day marks the Battle of Puebla (El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla) on May 5th, 1862 when Mexican troops defeated the powerful French Army led by Napoleon III. This day however, is not to be confused with the actual Mexican Independence Day or the Grito de Dolores of September 16, 1810 which marked the start of the fight for independence.
But here in Gringo-land, we tend to look at Cinco de Mayo as at the very least, a celebration of Mexican heritage and independence despite sort of blending historical events a bit. Hey, it’s not the first time we’ve blended such historical events.
But why ban kids from wearing American T-shirts on this day?
Seems that at the Live Oak HS there have been previous violent exchanges between predominantly white or Caucasian students and predominantly Latino or students of Mexican heritage on Cinco de Mayo.
And such a ban is not without precedence or US Supreme Court contemplation and review.
In 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War, school administrators banned students from wearing black armbands in a silent protest of the war. The school argued it was to prevent possible violence and disruption to the educational mission. Lawyers for the students argued that it was an impermissible violation of their free speech.
The majority in this case sided with the kids. Judge Abe Fortas reminded everyone that “”It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
The dissent argued that disruptive symbolic speech was not constitutionally protected and that this (Tinker v Des Moines 1969) decision basically would allow kids to disobey attempts by schools to “keep their minds on their schoolwork.”
Which about 45 years later brings us back to a similar though not exact situation. This time with different judicial reasoning.
In Tinker, the court didn’t see the threat of violence as “real,” and was reluctant to permit the school to pre-empt speech on a “mere concern.”
So, why did the federal court of appeals uphold the school’s action to force kids to turn their American Flag T-shirts inside out on Cinco de Mayo day?
Well, Judge M. Margaret McKeown ruled that the “threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real” based on past violence between Latino and White students on this day at this school.
Still, let’s not lose sight of what this case and issue is about at its core. You have apparently American students of various backgrounds at an American school in an American city celebrating a holiday paying tribute to the heritage of a foreign nation (Mexico). And to ensure that the public displays of pride and tribute by students to that nation (Mexico) are not interrupted or censored in any way we are forbidding other American students from showing their national pride by wearing American colors on that very day.
So, just what is the message we are sending to all our kids?
Is it that we value the right of Americans to pay tribute to foreign national pride greater than the right of other Americans to show their own pride in their own nation?
Is this a case of minority rights over majority rule?
Or is this just a simple case of not yet adult students unable to peacefully co-exist on Cinco de Mayo because of their choice of wardrobe? I suppose that would not be much different than school bans on gang colors because of what such colors symbolize or mean to the students involved.
Look, I don’t want violence in our schools. I fully appreciate the priority of safety in our schools. If kids aren’t safe then you sure can’t focus on education when you are just trying to prevent violence.
But I am having some difficulty wrapping my arms around the notion that any American who actually wants to be here on American soil and not a foreign nation would be so enflamed by seeing the American flag they would be moved to violence against the one wearing those “colors.”
In any setting. On any day.
Even the 5th of May.
But, like they say our nation is a continuing experiment. Maybe the real message we should be sending is we need to learn how to celebrate the full range of viewpoints and pride and diversity in our nation. It is after all one of our nation’s true strengths. I’ll appreciate your day to celebrate from whence you came, you appreciate the fact that the flag represents such diversity. And we’ll choose to get along.
I’d like to think I’d feel the exact same way if a kid chose to wear a Viva Mexico T-shirt on the 4th of July. I guess I’ll know for sure only if that were to happen.
But I understand it was probably a whole lot easier and expeditious to ban the US Flag and everyone lives to learn another day.
But my understanding doesn’t mean I have to like it.
At least we can all agree that Nachos and Margaritas are great on any day. Do they represent the full panoply of Mexican heritage? Of course not. But great achievements sometimes have to start with small victories.
Viva Respect for Everyone. On every day.