Oh dear, it’s the silly season again. Well, to be totally honest, students’ union officers at a British university have proved just how daft supposedly intelligent people can be. A prime example of such silliness was in clamping down on a bit of fun in the name of fighting ‘racism’ and following their own ill-thought out rules.
It all came about at the Freshers’ Fair held at the University of East Anglia. This is where new students go to find out more about various clubs and societies they may want to join and also some local businesses take the opportunity to introduce themselves.
And it was one of these commercial operations that ran into trouble. Why? You might well ask.
Pedro’s, a local Tex-Mex restaurant chose to give away sombreros, you know the type – the outsize Mexican hat, to promote their business.
That’s where the Ministry of Silly Walks Rules got involved in the form of the union officials. They moved quickly to stop Pedro’s staff giving out any more hats and even went around taking the hats from students who had accepted them.
Then, with all the pomposity and seriousness they could muster they said that they took that action because non-Mexicans wearing the traditional item of headwear could be seen as offensive.
A union spokesman stated that the handing out of sombreros breached a key advertising policy which was sent to all stall holders before the event, prohibiting any use of stereotypical imagery in advertising.
It says: “Discriminatory or stereotypical language or imagery aimed towards any group or individual based on characteristics will not be permitted as part of our advertising.” Apparently, the sombreros were seen as potentially offensive and even racist under the policy that lists 15 types of discrimination, some of which include colour, ethnic origin and nationality.
Now, anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time will know that my wife is American. So, I asked her two questions: First, I asked if an American restaurant in the UK chose to give away promotional Stetsons, the traditional cowboy hat, and she saw them worn by non-Americans of any ethnic origin at all, would she be offended. She answered NO.
Ok so far, so onto the second question: I knew Lisa had been to Mexico and I needed her first-hand experience. Do they sell sombreros to tourists as souvenirs? YES, she said. And are they offended when a non-Mexican wears one? NO, of course not, she answered.
That rather destroys the silly rules to which the students’ union officials were claiming to be adhering. If Mexicans in Mexico sell these hats to tourists, how can anyone believe that they can cause offence? It is just nonsense.
One fresher is reported by a student newspaper as saying: “”It’s ridiculous – it’s a comedy hat, not some sort of sacred religious dress. Who is going to get offended? Speedy Gonzales?”
I could not agree more.
And, while I commend the union for attempting to be inclusive and non-discriminatory, it does desperately need two things as a matter of urgency, a sense of humour and a good portion of common sense.