Too often, instead of embracing those of different cultures, we belittle and denigrate them.
Today is Cinco de Mayo, a day to celebrate Latino heritage and culture. The usual celebratory fare includes nachos, salsa, chips, guacamole and enchiladas, washed down by either a Corona or a Dos Equis. Many believe Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s independence day, but actually it commemorates the surprise victory of the Mexican army over the French in 1862 in the state of Puebla. While Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico, it is a great opportunity to honor those of Mexican and Latino heritage.
In the United States, Cinco de Mayo will be observed by Latinos and non-Latinos alike. One of the blessings and challenges of our country is its great diversity. That diversity is spread across faith traditions, ethnicities, sexual orientation, income, abilities and class. As Christians we believe that all are precious in God’s sight. Children still sing in Sunday school:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
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Red and yellow, black or white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Wisdom and maturity are hallmarks of those who embrace and appreciate that which is different from themselves. Being confident of our spiritual worth allows us to honor difference in others without being afraid of it. In other words, honoring you will not diminish me. I strongly believe when I honor others and their gifts, I am empowered to use my God-given gifts to benefit all God’s people and creation.
The 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King beatings was recently remembered. The riots took place after four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of wrongdoing in the beating of King, a black man. In an effort to calm the riots, Rodney King famously asked: “Can we all get along?”
Sadly, 20 years later, this question is still relevant. Too often, instead of embracing those of different cultures, we belittle and denigrate them. Bullying is a problem on playgrounds, in schools and in the workplace. Mean-spirited joking around the water cooler is just as bad as shoving a little kid on the playground. Mocking another because of language, sexual orientation or faith can be spiritually and emotionally devastating, and too often has led to suicide.
In our effort to all get along, let us hope tolerance is the first baby step that will lead to acceptance. Yet, tolerance of that which is different is a far cry from celebrating our diversity.
Perhaps through cultural celebrations like Cinco de Mayo, we can see ethnic difference is not threatening. And if we want to look historically at the battle at Puebla, we will again be reminded that might is not always right. In 1862, the French army was twice the size of the Mexican army, yet the French were defeated.
In our lives, that which seems overwhelming and impossible is possible with God. Broken relationships can be healed; racial divides can be bridged; and illnesses can be cured with God. Whenever God does the impossible, it is time to celebrate.
If Cinco de Mayo does not suit your party spirit, then perhaps you can celebrate Juneteenth on June 19 or Independence Day on July 4. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, celebrates the end of slavery in Texas. Slaves were informed of their freedom in Texas two years after the Emancipation Proclamation actually became law. Barbecue, watermelon, red soda pop and family reunions are traditional fare. Hot dogs, picnics, baseball and fireworks are fan favorites of July Fourth celebrations.
Today begins a season of celebrations. Start with Cinco de Mayo and keep that party spirit going through Labor Day. Celebrate friends, family and freedom. Be grateful for our similarities and our differences while always remembering we are wonderfully created in God’s image.
The Rev. Patricia L. Hunter is an associate in ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church and senior benefits consultant for American Baptist Churches in the USA. Readers may send feedback to email@example.com