Latino-American Discrimination

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Every society forms different cultures and social norms of how people behave and constructs stereotypes and expectations of people based on their physical appearance and cultural backgrounds. Once set, social norms are unlikely to be changed over time. This social construction decides which group will have benefits or privileges and which ones won't. Most of the time, white people are seen as the race that receives these benefits and privileges, these social norms are based around them and their culture. In our society, we deal with many forms of oppression on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, different groups of people are more oppressed than others. Throughout the years Latinos have undergone tremendous amounts of oppression. They are seen as an inferior race and portrayed as different when it comes to the whites. Since the 1840s, anti-Latino prejudice has led to illegal deportations, school segregation and even lynching often-forgotten events that echo the civil-rights violations of African-Americans in the Jim Crow-era South. Looking through history, it is accurate enough to say that the oppression that latinos have undergone is the result of hatred.

The basis of Latino-American discrimination began around 1848, when the United States won the Mexican-American War against Mexico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which marked the war's end, added an additional 525,000 square miles to United States territory, including the land that makes up all or parts of present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. With that land came new citizens. The Mexicans who decided to stay in what was now U.S. territory were granted citizenship. The country gained a considerable amount of Mexican-American people.

As the 19th century advanced, political events in Mexico made emigration to the United States a popular choice. This was great news to American employers like the Southern Pacific Railroad, which desperately needed cheap labor to help build new tracks. The railroad and other companies flouted existing immigration laws that banned importing contracted labor and sent recruiters into Mexico to convince Mexican citizens to emigrate to America. Working for these companies and employers were deemed as jobs that not many Americans wanted to do. This means that many Mexicans took these jobs since they were the only jobs with an influx of positions. These employers discovered that these migrants were in desperate need of money after coming to America and found out that they could be hired for cheap labor. These new U.S citizens from Mexico were beginning to gain a lot of hatred since it seemed like they were stealing all the jobs from white Americans. With this, Anti-Latino sentiment grew along with immigration. Latinos were not allowed in Anglo establishments and segregated into urban barrios in very poor areas where drug and crime rates were high. Though Latinos were critical to the U.S. economy and often were American citizens, everything from their language to the color of their skin to their countries of origin could be used as a pretext for discrimination and prejudice. They were treated as an inferior race and stereotypes were created stating that those who spoke Spanish were lazy, stupid and undeserving. In some cases, this prejudice judgement turned fatal.

The violence of Latinos, although it has been around for awhile, one could pinpoint its starting point around the time of California's Gold Rush. On January 24th, 1848, on the day when gold was discovered in California, the majority of the population was still Mexican. But, within just a few years by 1850, the Mexican population fell to 15%. It fell to 4% by 1870. The stereotype of many Mexican women at this time was horrible to say the least. It was said that Mexican women were basically viewed as sexually promiscuous. One case for example, in 1851 a mob of vigilantes accused Josefa Segovia of murdering a white man who had attacked her and tried to rape her due to these false assumptions of Latino women. After a fake trial, the friends of the white miner who was murdered, marched her through the streets of Downieville and lynched her. Over 2,000 men gathered to watch, shouting racial slurs. Other Mexicans were attacked on suspicion of sleeping with white women or insulting white people. Mob violence against Spanish-speaking people was very common throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

It is estimated that the number of Latinos killed by mobs reached into the thousands, though there is only documentation for 547 cases. They didn't care who the target was, as long as the weren't white they were the subject of a hate crime. Even children became victims of the violence. In 1911, a mob of over 100 people hanged a 14-year-old boy, Antonio Gomez, after he was arrested for the murder of Charles Zieschang who was harassing the 14 year old child. Rather than let the boy serve time in jail, the townspeople, who were a majority white, decided to take things into their own hands and lynched him, dragging his body through the streets of Thorndale, Texas. These and other horrific acts of cruelty lasted until the 1920s, when the Mexican government began pressuring the United States and their citizens to end the violence. Though mob brutality eventually came to a stop, the hatred of Spanish-speaking Americans however, did not.

In the late 1920s, anti-Mexican sentiment grew as the Great Depression began. As the stock market crashed and the unemployment rate grew, white Americans accused Mexicans and other foreigners of stealing jobs from the Americans and attempted to put the blame on them. Mexican-Americans were discouraged and forbidden from accepting aid. As fears about the economy and the jobs spread, the United States forcibly removed at least 2 million people of Mexican descent from the country up to 60 percent of whom were American citizens. Latinos. Referred to as repatriations, the removals were anything but voluntary. Sometimes, private employers, personally drove their employees to the border and kicked them out to fend for themselves. In other cases, local governments cut off relief, raided gathering places or offered free train fare to Mexico. Colorado even ordered all of its Mexicans, which in reality was anyone who spoke Spanish or looked to be of Latin descent, to leave the state in 1936 and blocked off its southern border to keep people from leaving. The so-called repatriation effort was, in large part, a misnomer, given the fact that as many as sixty percent of those sent to home Mexico were U.S. citizens: American-born children of Mexican-descent who had never before traveled south of the border. These people were forced to leave their homes, their families, everything behind just because they were viewed as the problem in a failing society. Though no formal decree was ever declared to issue immigration authorities, INS officials deported about 82,000 people during this period.

Another ill remembered facet of anti-Latino discrimination in the United States segregation in school. Unlike the South, which had explicit laws against African-American children from white schools, segregation was not enshrined in the laws of the southwestern United States. However, Latino people were excluded from restaurants, movie theaters and schools like the African-Americans were. Latino students were expected to attend separate Mexican schools throughout the southwest in the 1870s. Mexican-American students had languished in inferior Mexican schools to which they were assigned based on name and skin complexion. Today, there is an estimated 54 million Latinos that live in the U.S. and there are around 43 million people who speak Spanish. Though Latinos make up the country's largest minority, anti-Latino prejudice is still common in the United States. Over half the population of Latinos surveyed said that they had experienced some sort of discrimination in their lifetime. Although lynchings, repatriation programs, and school segregation may seem like things of the past, anti-Latino discrimination in the U.S. is still far from over.

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ANTONIO GOMEZ LYNCHING. The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA),

Wagner, Alex. America's Forgotten History of Illegal Deportations. The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 6 Mar. 2017,

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Latino-American Discrimination. (2019, Apr 01). Retrieved April 16, 2024 , from

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