Last week, Americans of all nationalities celebrated Cinco de Mayo; some, like me, acknowledged the day by partaking of margaritas and carne asada.
Others, like the Mexican students at Live Oak high school in Northern California, observe the day by wearing the Mexican colors of red, white, and green. In a gesture meant to display American pride, five Live Oak students--Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matt Dariano, Dominic Maciel, and Clayton Howard--decided to wear American flag t-shirts and bandannas. After receiving complaints from some Mexican students, Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez asked the boys to turn their shirts inside out. The boys refused, were threatened with suspension, and were asked to leave the campus.
I am old enough to recall a time when wearing the American flag on a piece of clothing was seen as disrespectful to Americans. Even images of the flag worn as fashion were viewed as a vulgar desecration of a cherished symbol. But times have changed.
Over the years, attitudes have not only relaxed, but they have completed a 180 degree turn. The flag has become an oft-used element in fashion design, and wearing the flag is now considered a display of patriotism. An image burned into my memory is one of the actress Halle Berry wearing a form-fitting gown comprised of small American flags. Disrespectful or not, if that image doesn’t make you stand up and salute, nothing will.
Yes, times have certainly changed. I doubt that anyone ever imagined a time in this country when American children would be criticized for wearing the American flag not because it offended traditional American sensitivities, but because it was seen as disrespectful to Mexicans.
Principal Rodriguez said that the request was made in an effort to prevent fights from breaking out. What remains unclear is why wearing an American flag on one’s shirt would provoke violence--even amongst testosterone-filled teen boys. Daniel Galli and his buddies were minding their own business. If it is the opinion of the principal that just the sight of an American flag on Cinco de Mayo will produce conniption fits among Mexican children, it seems clear to me that he does not have a very high opinion of the Latino students that attend the school.
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