The desegregation movement and Mexicans
My dad says when he was a kid growing up in Downey, California, they used to open the local plunge (pool) to mexicanos and negritos on Thursdays only because the pool was cleaned once a week on Friday mornings. Is this an accurate account of racism in the 1940s or an exaggeration? Do you know of other blatant racial policies back then, and which ones still exist against Mexicans today?
—Pocho Pendejo Who Can Barely Hablo Español
Absolutely true story. Gabachos think that the desegregation movement was a primarily African-American affair, but that’s nowhere near the verdad. Fact is, Mexican-Americans not only suffered a lot of the same discrimination (work, school, housing, even pools) as African-Americans, they were also at the forefront of the legal battle to overturn such pendejo laws—especially in Southern California. For instance, a Mexican-American from Fullerton named Alex Bernal was sued by his gabacho neighbors in Orange County Superior Court when he moved into an all-white neighborhood. The case, Doss v. Bernal set legal precedent against housing covenants, as Bernal won his case against those idiots. Lopez v. Seccombe in 1944 took on the issue of segregated swimming pools in San Bernardino: A federal judge found such discriminatory policies illegal. And Mendez et al., v. Westminster et al., found five OC Mexican familias take on school districts that made their children attend all-Mexican schools. That case went all the way up to a federal court of appeals, with an amicus curae brief from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (which, of course, would go on to argue the far more famous Brown v. Board of Education). Add in all the legal desmadre waged in Texas during the 1950s (especially the efforts of the brilliant Tejano legal team behind Hernandez v. Texas (a 1954 Supreme Court case that found Mexis were humans under the 14th Amendment), and the current effort by folks today to fight for folks who have immigrated to the states without legal permission, and Mexicans not only have suffered from discrimination—we fight back for everyone’s rights, as our legal precedents benefit todos.
I’m a U.S.-born Latina whose family has lived in Colorado for generations. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that more Latinos from the Caribbean and Central and South America are moving to our beautiful state. I’ve also noticed how pendante many of these newcomers are. One Puerto Rican executive is giving presentations to public-relations firms in Denver, telling Anglos that not all Latinos are “poor or brown or Mexican.” Why is it OK for every new group that moves to this state to use Mexicans as scapegoats?
—Colfax Chica (But Not the Streetwalking Kind)
Because that’s the American way, chula. Gentle readers: If you take anything away from this column, refry that the newest batch of immigrants will always get cagado on by the old batch. It gets particularly heated with Latinos, though, because many of them want to assert their own ethnic identity in a country that, outside of Washington, D.C., Florida, and parts of the East Coast, is almost exclusively Mexican when it comes to Latinos. Then again, while I don’t blame the boricua for wanting to let people know he’s not Mexican but rather Puerto Rican, I must also wonder why he wants people to know he’s Puerto Rican in the first place.