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American Atheists Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Sombrero and a Trip to Puerto Rico

There are certain benefits I enjoy by being a white American, and chief among them is the ability to find things like this hilarious without being personally hurt by them:

For me, this is exactly as cringe-inducing and hilarious as a good episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I can even imagine this happening, if the character Larry David plays was a little stupider. Okay, let’s say it’s like a George Costanza storyline in Seinfeld. George shows up to a Cinco De Mayo party wearing a sombrero. The Mexicans in attendance point out that he’s a racist. He tries to point out how much he has in common with them by talking about his vacation to Puerto Rico. Then he eats a churro out of the garbage can and is chased out of the building.

As many schoolchildren know, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s victory against a French occupation. The victory marked a coming together of a young nation, and is why today the holiday is celebrated as a sort of Mexican Pride day. Puerto Rico had absolutely nothing to do with it, and in fact Puerto Rico is about as far from Mexico as Canada is. Including an invite to a conference in Winnipeg would have made as much sense as Puerto Rico.

And then of course there’s the use of a sombrero to represent an entire culture. Good one!

So anyway, there we have it – yet another case of a major atheist organization trying and failing to connect with people outside the white American middle class. Hilarious to those who don’t face constant marginalization and discrimination for being Mexican, Puerto Rican, or any other “other”, but maybe not so funny to those who do.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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43 Comments

  1. May 3, 2014 at 2:54 pm —

    I saw your tweet, I was hoping you were joking.
    Head->Desk.

  2. May 3, 2014 at 3:39 pm —

    It…it got worse when they were trying to defend it on Twitter.

  3. May 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm —

    I’m pretty sure AA were only hoping to connect with frat dudebros looking to go to Puerto Rico, get drunk, and sexually assault people at the hotel. That’s Dave Silverman’s base, those are his PEOPLE!!

    • May 3, 2014 at 4:46 pm —

      Clearly, Puerto Rico is also Mexico. Spain is also Mexico, but you knew that. Even Brazil is Mexico, because clearly some people can’t tell Portuguese from Spanish.

      *headdesk* Melanie, I think we’ve got next week’s bad chart.

      • May 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm —

        Yeah, even though the ethnicity and physical location are both entirely different… wait, WE’RE the racists right? For noticing that different people are from different places, and making a stink about how everyone who might speak Spanish isn’t a shitty stereotype?

    • May 5, 2014 at 10:10 am —

      You are “pretty sure”? Really? Because that term generally means “I have reasons to make this assertion that make sense to me”. And I can think of no reasons whatsoever to think that American Atheists or Dave have anything to do with “frat dudebros looking to get drunk and sexually assault people”. What are some of the reasons that make you think that is the case?
      American Atheists has a strict code of conduct against sexual harassment and assault (that I personally saw enforced at their last con), and I have never heard that AA cons are places where lots of people (“Silverman’s base”) commit sexual assault. In fact, quite the opposite is what I have heard – the AA cons are generally considered safe and welcoming places for all attendees. But I might have missed something, having only gone to them for the last three years. Perhaps they were dens of debauchery before my time?

      • May 8, 2014 at 7:58 pm —

        DataJack, you missed the part where most ad-supported or crowd funded media including FOX, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, Comedy Central, and most of the blogosphere prefer to cherrypick the worst examples of the other side politically, strawman them for good measure, and use hyperbole to enrage the already-converted. Because if it bleeds it leads. Maximum outrage gets maximum eyeballs gets maximum revenue. The person you’re responding to has been indoctrinated in hate for the political other by this outrage-industrial-complex, so he’s loaded up with false negative stereotypes about the political other to the same extent that a circa 1950 Alabama white man is loaded with false negative stereotypes about black people. You’ll learn a lot more from PBS, NPR, BBC, or The Week magazine than any of the above cesspits. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b86dzTFJbkc for an amazing explanation of psychological phenomena underlying political tribalism and hate between political tribes.

  4. May 3, 2014 at 3:58 pm —

    Why did I even look at the Twitter feed?
    WTF is a “Hispanic holiday” anyway? Dude, I’m pretty close to my fucking degree in Spanish and I can tell you: there’s no such thing. Next he’ll claim that Bastille Day is a European holiday because France is in Europe, QED.

  5. May 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm —

    I love the logic from the Twitter feed. Cinco De Mayo is celebrated more in the US than Mexico, so since Puerto Rico is in the US, it’s actually appropriate to refer to Cinco de Mayo as Puerto Rican. AA does try to be more inclusive (what with their unisex bathrooms), which makes it more sad than anything when they do stuff like this.

    • May 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm —

      Yep. In Mexico Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated in any way other not having to go to work. There might be a military parade, or maybe in Puebla (where the battle took place) they do some sort of official speech or something, but nothing that involves more drinking of tequila than any other Monday.

      • May 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm —

        And, as you knows, “not having to go to work” is not because it is an official federal holiday (it’s not), but because most unions negotiate the day off as part of collective bargaining (in large part because it fits in so nicely with May Day; you often get either a five day weekend, or two three day weekends in a row).

  6. May 3, 2014 at 5:16 pm —

    The cause of organized atheism seems to have become committing own goals.

  7. May 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm —

    Yikes!

  8. May 3, 2014 at 7:09 pm —

    I am celebrating Cinco de Mayo in true Boston skeptic fashion by getting the Beers of Mexico !Fiesta Pack!

  9. May 3, 2014 at 7:11 pm —

    Well this will definitely get Mr. Silverman a table at next year’s CPAC. /sarcasm

    • May 4, 2014 at 12:02 am —

      Seriously, don’t you think Dave Shitterman is drooling for a table with the big money boys? /notsarcasm

      • May 4, 2014 at 1:09 am —

        Sure, but do you really think that pandering to Hispanics is the way to do that. I’m serious, as ham-fisted and botched as this was the thugs at CPAC would see this as cozying up to illegals. Considering the raging hard-on Silverman seems to have to mine the conservatives’ pocketbooks, this won’t be seen as a smart move.

        Or maybe I’m just too cynical.

        • May 5, 2014 at 10:34 am —

          Why would you think Silverman wants to “mine the conservatives’ pocketbooks”? I definitely don’t agree with Dave attending conservative events, principally because I think the “fiscal conservative” ideals are almost as morally bankrupt as the “social conservative” ideals, and I don’t want to associate with atheists that embrace those ideals.
          But I actually know why AA is attending these events, and it has nothing to do with recruiting conservatives into AA or getting their money.

          • May 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

            Well, perhaps you could explain that to me. Why exactly was Mr. Silverman so willing to wallow in the snake-pit that is CPAC if it wasn’t to recruit or look for backing? Keep in mind that while I don’t always agree with their choices I have no beef with AA itself, and I am not ready to write off Dave Silverman either despite his cozying up to people who believe he and others like him are immoral and soft-pedaling questions about abortion for their benefit. I want Mr. Silverman to do a better job but I wouldn’t say he’s a “bad atheist” for it.

            Also keep in mind that I thought the tweets were ham-fisted and botched but not necessarily malicious, I think they should have stopped with a straight up apology and let it go.

        • May 5, 2014 at 11:30 am —

          I don’t understand the new commenting system – why can’t I reply to a reply to my reply, and instead must reply to the original reply that I replied to…

          In any event, I too was puzzled (and saddened) when I heard they were going to be at CPAC. I wanted to know why they were there, because I thought it was a bad idea. Fruitless, at least. Maybe worse. So the list of things I didn’t do to explain why they were there:
          1) Make up some nefarious reasons (note: this is not aimed at you – but I saw dozens of people jump to conclusions after that event, and all of them ascribed bad intentions)
          And the list of things I did do to explain why they were there:
          1) Ask Dave Silverman why he was there.

          Now I can certainly assume that he lied to me, but why should I, given that there is no evidence that he lied? At the end of that discussion, we agreed to disagree. And he told me they were going to continue to attend conservative gatherings as part of their strategy (he also announced that publicly). He thinks they can decouple the religious right from the “fiscal conservatives” and I don’t. Particularly because I don’t think there really ARE fiscal conservatives in today’s American Right (but that is for a different conversation).

          At the end of the day, AA does not represent liberal atheists, or nice atheists, or friendly atheists (Hi, Hemant!), or skeptical atheists – it represents American Atheists. A good lot of which are assholes. For now, the atheists that show up at the AA con are mostly liberal, nice, and friendly (and somewhat skeptical). So I attend. If that were to change, I might stop.

          • May 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm

            In that case I agree with you, I think it’s a fool’s errand to try to decouple the religious right and the conservative cause. That connection was cemented way back with Nixon’s southern strategy and was fortified by most of the conservatives (and many of the liberals) since. 60 years of bolstering are going to require more than “a few nice atheists” to change it, and CPAC is the dirtiest of the dirty, he may as well attend the NRA convention to pry God and guns apart.

            I also realize that AA doesn’t represent all atheists, and as a angry-leaning atheist I wouldn’t pretend to tell Mr. Silverman what to do, I just wish that this particular strategy didn’t start at the least receptive venue and that his poorly-worded answers weren’t followed by the kind of post hoc rationalization that has become all too common among atheist and skeptical leaders as of late.

          • May 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm

            Good points. The whole “fiscal v. social conservative” thing is something I am very passionate about. There is nothing “fiscally conservative” about the evil clowns on the right of US politics. As usual, that is a deceitful guise they adopt in order to sway under-informed voters. I am not fiscally conservative either – I just want to spend money helping people instead of enriching the wealthy.
            But this is not the place for that rant, I think :)
            Thanks for the reply.

      • May 5, 2014 at 10:22 am —

        Oh, now I get it. This is the part where we make insulting versions of the names of long time allies, and fabricate their motivations for the things they do that we disagree with. I doesn’t matter that they have stood united with us in the past against our mutual enemies – it only matters that they have said or done a couple things recently that we don’t like. Accordingly, that means they have never done anything good for our community, and have instead always been exactly as awful and wrong as the MRAs and our other adversaries.
        Because a few poorly thought-out (but arguably malice-free) tweets is exactly the same as multi-year hate and harassment campaigns?

  10. May 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm —

    I can’t wait to see what they have planned for Chinese New Year!
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cYoev4LaAAE/UOXA66k6JfI/AAAAAAAALo0/eONiGBhcG3g/s1600/headdesk.gif.gif

    • May 3, 2014 at 8:48 pm —

      The way Dave Muscato keeps digging that hole deeper, they may eventually get to China for that.

      • May 3, 2014 at 9:26 pm —

        It’s amazing just trying to keep up with his post hoc rationalizing

    • May 4, 2014 at 12:59 am —

      Spoiler alert: it’ll be an anime marathon.

    • May 4, 2014 at 10:53 am —

      I first saw that image as a brown Cthulhu.

  11. May 4, 2014 at 10:16 am —

    Hats and deciding whether Puerto Rico has anything to do with Mexico is good Twitter bait, but there are some issues any good liberal should know about, chief among them is the right to vote in federal elections and Congress. There have been several legal challenges, and while many judges have expressed sympathy to outrage over the lack of a right to vote, it exists. We express outrage over Republican efforts to limit voting – no one residing in Puerto Rico can vote for president at all. This is disenfranchisement, and Puerto Ricans are legally second-class citizens. Since their “Congressman” has no right to vote in Congress, they are effectively lack the most significant tools to have a voice in American politics.

    • May 4, 2014 at 11:00 am —

      I can’t say I’m entirely sure what any of this had to do with the topic under discussion.

      • May 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm —

        Just something to think about

        • May 4, 2014 at 4:16 pm —

          yeah, still not sure why you chose this as the place to bring this up. Just interested.

          • May 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm

            Well, it’s a topic I’m somewhat interested in, and seems to be in the social justice rubric, and this is a site that prides itself on social justice issues, and Puerto Rico was mentioned in the post. I’m not incredibly interested in David Silverman wearing a sombrero, but I am interested in voting rights, and I imagine many people here would be too. You can go a long time without anyone mentioning Puerto Rico at all, so I take what I can get.

          • May 4, 2014 at 9:56 pm

            Weren’t you banned? What’s up with the subtle condensation? If nothing else, the Quickies would be a more appropriate place for this, but I’m pretty sure you’re not actually looking for a discussion. Did you think your insults would go unnoticed? Also, yeah, pretty sure you were banned at one point.

  12. May 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm —

    Not sure if I was banned but pretty sure I didn’t insult anyone. Not looking for discussion, as I would guess most everyone reading this would support voting rights for U.S. citizens, though discussion on the best way to spread the word would be welcome. We talk about privilege – it is a privilege to be able to vote, and other American citizens do not have this privilege. The only way to change this is to exert political pressure.

  13. May 8, 2014 at 7:11 pm —

    That would never ever happen on Seinfeld because Seinfeld was not that stupidly politically correct. Nothing wrong with gringos wearing sombreros. https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/mexican-americans-dont-care-about-your-racist-sombrero/

    • May 8, 2014 at 7:46 pm —

      So some libertarian ass-clown points out that Mexicans wear sombreros (no shit) and other people have worn sombreros (so what) and you think it prove what exactly? Ha-ha, Seinfeld is hi-larious so how could anything he ever did be bigoted?

      I’m getting tired of the awful arguments that people think prove their point while only showing that they (usually not the target of the bigotry) have no problem with it.

      • May 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm —

        That’s not a counterargument. That’s an ad hominem on his political affiliation and a hyper-reductionist strawman. You show no sign of understanding what he actually wrote, which is the first step to formulating a counterargument.

        • May 8, 2014 at 8:12 pm —

          Blah blah blah political correctness blah blah blah.

        • May 8, 2014 at 9:39 pm —

          Clearly, it was not meant to be a counterargument. What I saw was a response that could be summed up as follows: “The argument is so horrible, it’s worthy of nothing less than ridicule.” Do you seriously think every argument, no matter how bad, deserved to be met with a counterargument??? I’m not convinced that could even work.

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