Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"Vote against integration. Don't look to a black future"

Mexican American civic groups fought to eliminate segregated Mexican Schools on the basis that Mexican-origin pupils were white. They made little mention of the segregation of African Americans in black schools. When the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board decision, Mexican American civic groups barely took notice...
And when the state legislature began passing laws to prolong segregation, the most prominent Mexican American organizations sided with the state government and not African Americans.
For example, some in LULAC debated the idea of joining forces with the NAACP to defeat the flood of racist bills coming from the legislature in 1957. League president Tijerina dismissed this idea. Similarly, LULAC's legal advisor, Phil Montalbo, explained to Tijerina, "[A] stand taken by you on such bills would tend to admit to our Anglo-American (sic) friends that we considered ourselves separate and apart from the majority of American citizens." Montalbo reminds us once again that, as whites, Anglos were the Mexican Americans' allies.

Numerous LULACers, and Mexican Americans more generally, agreed with this stance. For instance, A.G Ramirez stated succinctly, "[M]y district does not want our people and our beloved LULAC to be affiliated with the Negroes. We are white..."

Similarly, Dallas newsman Pedro Ochoa berated anyone wishing black-brown unity, explaining that many Mexican Americans "do not accept the integrationist precept at public schools, and perhaps churches and housing projects." Ochoa also warned Mexican Americans to "preserve your white race, vote against integration, don't look to a black future".

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Perez, The Eugenicist

When the movement for birth control began at the turn of the twentieth century, organizers such as Margaret Sanger believed that women's control of their own fertility would lead to upward social mobility for all women, regardless of race...

Under the Influence of eugenics, Sanger changed her approach, moving away from a race-neutral analysis...Sanger believed it was important to "prevent the American people from being replaced by alien or negro stock, whether it be by immigration or by overly high birth rates among others in this country."

Politicians in the southern states were particularly interested in spreading birth control among African-Americans to limit black population growth that threatened their political and economic hegemony. For example, the late Leander Perez of Louisiana, who supported birth control for African-Americans, once said, "The best way to hate a nigger is to hate him before he is born."
 Kramarae, Cheris, and Dale Spender. “Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge.”

Thursday, September 19, 2019

"What have the negroes done to help us?"

Business owners like Felix Tijerina resisted the sit-in movement and did not follow the mandates of the negotiated desegregation, which in most Texas cities remained entirely voluntary. Indeed, Tijerina did not desegregate his restaurants until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, although he did so willingly once the federal government banned segregation. 
Tijerina had ridiculed the sitins in 1960, and many other Mexican American leaders publicly opposed black protest activism. In July 1963, for instance, LULACers debated passing a resolution praising Martin Luther King Jr. The measure failed when one member wondered “what the negroes had done to help us?”
Behnken, Brian D. Fighting Their Own Battles Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas. The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Passing for Mexican

Some black Americans used ethnic Mexicans' legal claims to whiteness to their benefit. Langston Hughes, who emerged as a top figure in the Harlem Renaissance literati in the 1920s, knew that Mexican's white legal status and his own light skin, could allow him to shirk segregation in Texas in the early twentieth century. 
Hughes was raised in Kansas, but his father left the family and moved to Mexico to escape racism. As a child, young Langston took the train from the Midwest to Mexico City to visit his father, and the route took him through Texas. During one of his first trips with his mother and grandmother, in around 1906, the black family could not purchase hot food from the dining car when they were hungry because of racial restrictions. 
When returning home from a summer in Mexico City as a teenager, however, Hughes found a way to access white accommodations. Hughes recalled "The only way I could purchase sleeping car space after I crossed the border into Texas was by pretending to be Mexican." The young man ignored the Jim Crow signs and asked for a berth by speaking Spanish. He also ate in the diner all the way across Texas by pretending not to speak English."
Tyina L. Steptoe Houston Bound “We Were Too White to be Black and Too Black to Be White.” 

"We belong to the Caucasian race"

In Houston, John Herrera and Alfonso Vázquez, a photographer and political cartoonist, created the Civic Action Committee (CAC) in 1958 to assist the gubernatorial candidacy of Henry B. Gonzalez. The CAC registered thousands of voters to support Gonzalez. After he lost, the CAC continued to mobilize Mexican Americans by funding poll tax and voter registration drives... 
Like other civic groups, the CAC drew on the whiteness strategy. For example, when the Houston Police Department (HPD) redesigned traffic tickets, it listed three racial designations: “W” for white, “M” for Mexican, and “N” for Negro. 
The CAC, LULAC, and G.I. Forum demanded the city change the tickets. “There are only three races,” the CAC stated, “the Mongoloid the Negroid and the Caucasian.” Listing “M” for Mexican was discriminatory, it asserted, because “when race is designated we belong to the Caucasian Race.” The civic groups continued to vie for whiteness to win rights and to show a remarkable amount of touchiness when they perceived their whiteness threatened.

Behnken, Brian D. Fighting Their Own Battles Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas. The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

"We are above that. Leave that to the Negroes."

Many Mexican Americans opposed black protests at both the state and the national level. They did not participate in demonstrations with African Americans, and they generally detested the fact that blacks throughout America engaged in these protests. As labor leader Pancho Medrano remembered, LULAC, the G.I. Forum, PASO, and other groups always rejected protesting. 
“Even at their state conventions,” Medrano stated, “when you tried to say, ‘Start demanding or picketing or marching,’ they say, ‘No. We are above that.’ Especially the LULACs; they say, ‘We have more pride or education than that. You leave this to the Negroes.’”... 
Some leaders rejected demonstrations, others denigrated protests, and some went so far as to criticize the most momentous protest of the 1960s: the March on Washington. LULAC, for example, drew up a resolution denouncing the march... 
Once again the league’s leaders firmly communicated to African Americans that they could not look to LULAC for aid or support. Like Felix Tijerina before them, Paul Andow and William Bonilla made sure that association with groups like the NAACP would not besmirch LULAC’s image.

Behnken, Brian D. Fighting Their Own Battles Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas. The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.