Today is Cinco de Mayo, the day that marks the 1862 Battle of Puebla. It is not Mexican Independence Day. It's become a holiday celebrated heavily in America, not in Mexico, and used as an excuse to party. It's on par with St. Patrick's Day in terms of cultural authenticity. People of all ethnic backgrounds tend to make poor choices on Cinco de Mayo...like drinking and driving. As a result, police all over the country set up additional DUI checkpoints to keep drunk people from hurting or killing others. They also send out notices to the community as a warning.
Cue the outrage.
The Oakland Police Department has issued a retraction and apology after announcing additional DUI checkpoints would be set up around the city because it's Cinco de Mayo. They used Spanish in the release, which apparently was a mistake. Some took this as "insensitive" and "racist" toward Mexicans.
First, part of the original press release:
“Community: Cinco de Mayo: Fiesta Time or Jail Time? Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving - ¡Manejar Entonado Es Manejar Borracho!
“In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become synonymous with festive fiestas and salty margaritas. Historically, the fifth of May commemorates Mexico’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, but present-day celebrations often lead to drunk driving—and there’s no victory in that.
“If you are planning to party this Cinco de Mayo, keep this number in mind: nationwide, 343 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes over the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend in 2014. And drunk driving was the cause of 116 (34%) of these fatalities. Furthermore, many of the drivers in those crashes weren’t just a little drunk. Sadly, almost one out of five (17%) of all the drivers in fatal crashes that weekend had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.15% or higher—almost two times the legal limit in every state.
“The Oakland Police Department is continuing its ongoing efforts to stop and arrest impaired drivers, deploying extra officers on DUI saturation patrols May 5 to lower deaths and injuries. The DUI operation will be operational from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. this coming Thursday.
“In the rush of party preparations and getting dressed up for a night out, it’s easy to forget the most important Cinco de Mayo plan of all: designating a sober driver. Some fiesta-goers think they can play it by ear and wait until after the party has started to decide whether they’re ‘okay to drive.’ By this point, it’s too late. Going out for a night of drinking without a plan to get home safely is a recipe for disaster.
And the apology after outrage:
The Oakland Police Department apologized Tuesday and retracted a community message they acknowledged used “insensitive” language regarding DUI saturation patrols for the upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday.
“The Oakland Police Department would like to apologize for the recent press release addressing traffic safety enforcement during the Cinco de Mayo holiday,” the department said in a statement. “We acknowledge that the language in the message sent was completely insensitive to the cultural holiday.”
It was unclear how many people had contacted the department about the message, but on social media some groups were clearly not happy.
“Oakland Police has posted on their Twitter account they’re going to put out Extra Patrols for you drunk Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo,” someone wrote on the Facebook page Oakland Latinos United. “How does it feel. As a Mexican Chicano I wonder if OPD will be posting DUI PSAs for every ethnic & culturally based holiday?”
For the record, police set up extra DUI checkpoints during every major celebration throughout the year including: July 4, Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, college graduation, after concerts, after football games, etc. Keeping drunk drivers off the road isn't about race, it's about safety. And by the way, the cops are doing the community a favor by warning partiers ahead of time that they will be arrested and jailed if they make bad decisions.
This gringa is headed for a margarita after work and will be taking a cab home. Hopefully I won't get accused of cultural appropriation at the bar.
H/T Jon Justice