By Mike Cronin
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that it is Constitutional for a California high school to ban students from wearing patriotic American-themed clothing, such as t-shirts displaying the stars and stripes, during the the Mexican commemoration day Cinco de Mayo. Their reasoning is that the school has issues with ethnic tensions between its majority Hispanic and minority white student populations, and that the school was acting prudently to ban the patriotic garb so as to reduce friction between the two groups.
The court’s decision has inflamed adults in the name of reducing the tensions of students. On the one hand, it very well may be provocative to “throw the flag” in the face of Cinco de Mayo celebrants, especially if that were the obvious intent of those so clothed. On the other, the purpose of the First Amendment is to protect unpopular, offensive, and disagreeable speech. It is a wonder to patriots that such a ban, seemingly in direct conflict with the freedom of expression, can be upheld, and it’s insulting and supremely ironic that the proscription elevates the cultural expression of a hosted culture at the expense of the host. (Note that the court did not ban Cinco de Mayo or Mexican-themed apparel.)
To be clear: The Ninth Circuit upheld the ban on the basis that the school was acting for the safety of the students. If that is truly their reasoning, then why not ban patriotic apparel for both cultures? If wearing American-themed apparel at a high school in the United States of America, which receives funding from the American government at the expense of American taxpayers, is offensive to some Mexican students, could it not also be just as likely that celebrating a Mexican commemoration at that same high school might be offensive to the non-Mexican students?
The court made at least two serious errors: In banning patriotic wear, i.e. self –expression, it has taught the teens that their individual rights are to be violated at whim by authority rather than protected by it. In making the ban applicable to only one set of cultural expressions (American-themed), it has taught the students that it’s the majority that rules (at that school, the majority is Hispanic), not the law.
I wonder what country the Ninth Circuit judges come from?
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