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The Ox Bow Incident
Rodolfo F. Acuña
Reading the posts in the Huffingtonpost.com I was surprised at the poor grasp of history of many of the wannabe bloggers. One wrote, “In the last five minutes I've seen about half a dozen references to Nazi Germany, which tells me that those who keep using these references have no frame of reference about what happened in Nazi Germany, and have nothing constructive to add to the argument, whether their argument be pro or con.” It continued, “Is this bad law? To be sure. Does it warrant comparisons with Nazi Germany? Absolutely not.” The point was that genocide had not been committed—(yet).
As a historian, I recall the famous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller in 1946 about the inactivity of German intellectuals in the rise to power of the Nazis and their targeting chosen groups.
THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
At what point in history should people have collectively spoken out?
Let's not be hypocritical. Arizonians are targeting Mexican-looking people. To the credit of a large number of people, there has been a moral outrage. SB 1070, signed into law this week, among other things, requires all law enforcement officers in Arizona to act on “reasonable” suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally—a law that the Sheriff of Pima County has sternly criticized.
Two days later, the legislature passed,
HB 2281 (bill attacking ethnic/raza studies) states that any course,
class, instruction, or material may not be primarily designed for
pupils of a particular ethnic group as determined by the State
Superintendent of Instruction. State aid will be withheld from any
school district or charter school that does not comply.
It was signed by the Arizona governor. This act sets the stage to attack the Tucson Public Schools highly successful La Raza Studies program and to outlaw books which the censors deem critical of the United States. This follows on the heels of the Texas Board of Education whitewashing of history.
Everyone should see The Ox Bow incident (1943), especially the following scene:
. When does a society become a lynch mob? Does this warrant the analogy to Nazi-like actions? I would say that Nazism took time to whip itself up and did not begin with the mass genocide of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals etc.
Between 1848-1928, god fearing Americans lynched at least 597 Mexicans. This does not count Mexicans killed by Texas Rangers and other so-called citizens.
I write about these injustices to prevent making the same—I hate to use the word—mistakes as the past. The Arizona law is beyond mean spirited. It is reflective of a dark mood that many American people are going through—these so called Minute Men want blood--they are no ready—nor do they want—to listen to reason.
THEN THEY CAME for me, and people DID speak up.
The White Rose
Rodolfo F. Acuña
Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times (April 26, 2010), wrote “
I’m glad I’ve already seen the Grand Canyon. Because I’m not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into.” Greenhouse was referring to a state law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person about whom they have “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?”
It does not take a rocket scientist to deduce that the law profiles Latinos—the hue of their skin makes them suspect. Those who know history remember the repatriation drives of the Great Depression and numerous historical events where Mexican Americans were discriminated against. The gigantic pro-immigrant marches testify to this awareness.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona) has called on the nation’s business community to protest the law by withholding its convention business. While I believe in boycotts and I respect them, I believe we should take our actions to the next level.
Arizona is an easy target – it is a small state and small states are always singled out while states like California are ignored. Example, Latinos did not coalesce after the passage of Proposition 187 and other draconian laws targeting Latinos and minorities. Indeed, even Latino elected officials discouraged massive demonstrations fearing that they would hurt the Democratic Party.
Similarly, Texas passed a law in 1975 depriving undocumented immigrant children of a free public education. Fortunately, it was struck down in 1982 by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote. I have no illusions about the present Supreme Court’s fairness. The court is composed by a core of ideologues that use the pretext of judicial restraint to deconstruct human rights.
Without a doubt a moral case can be made for a boycott of Arizona. However, time is not our ally. The summer season is already casting its sunlight over the state – a time that much of the state goes into hibernation. I remember getting a hotel room in Phoenix half of the going rate.
So what then should people do? We cannot dismiss this blatant attack on the entire race. At the same time, our narrative must be honed. House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates, from Arizona are running scared. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Senator John McCain have joined the racist. Getting elected is more important than decency. They are not unintelligent goons such as Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They are scared and have decided to join the lynch mob.
Cardinal Roger Mahoney has compared the law to Nazism. This is not hyperbole. Fear of losing something especially to dark people is irrational, i.e., the anti-immigrant cabal makes millions of dollars annually by stoking this fear. What hope is there that the Democrats will do the right thing? Most elected officials care about one thing, getting elected, i.e., healthcare.
Then what are we supposed to do? Roll over? No. We have to fight. We have to get in the fascists’ faces. The demonstrations have to continue but we cannot isolate Arizona. Bigotry is infectious and we should descend on Arizona with cameras, tape recorders and “White Roses” in hand, and then follow the Mexican American leadership in the state – encouraging daily marches on racist business establishments.
The White Rose was the symbol of opposition to Adolph Hitler. Those standing up to bigotry believed that it was the duty of a citizen to stand up against an evil regime. As I said, people are afraid, and a lynch mob is not subdued by placating it or isolating it.
CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY
Hernandez v. Texas
Dr. Hector García, founder of the American GI Forum, Dr George I. Sánchez, intellectual, Gus García, a leading Chicano Civil Rights Lawyer
The CIA-World Factbook: Mexico,
, states that Mexico has a population of 109,955,400 (July 2008 est.) persons; 60 percent are mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish), 30 percent Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian, 9 percent white, and 1 percent other. The Mexican American population by all estimates is mostly mestizo and Indian. However, the standard for citizenship and full and equal participation in this country has been whiteness. Seemingly this conflicts with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) that gives Mexicans full rights of citizenship. The question of whiteness has been the subject of civil rights litigation. In re Ricardo Rodríguez, 1897, wrestled with this question. Without being white a Mexican could not be equal or immigrate to the United States. In 1897, Mexican born Richard Rodríguez applied for citizenship; he was denied the right because Rodríguez was “not a white person, not an African, nor of African descent.” U.S. District Judge Thomas Maxey held Rodríguez knew “nothing of the Aztecs or Toltecs,” hence he had the right to become a naturalized citizen.
Citation: Acuña, Rodolfo F, Guadalupe Compeán, eds. Voices of the U.S. Latino Experience [Three Volumes]. pp 338-343. Westport: Greenwood, 2008; District Court, W. D. Texas 81 F. 337; 1897 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50, May 3, 1897.
we serve no mexicans
Two works have recently come out on the question of race and Mexican American Civil Rights struggle.
Lisa Y. Ramos, “A class apart: Mexican Americans, race, and civil rights in Texas, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2008, 325 pages.
A history professor at Texas A&M University, she explores the “Mexican American conceptions of race and their impact on Mexican American civil rights test cases…” showing shifts in the Mexican American legal civil rights strategies. Mexican American leaders argued that they were another white ethnic group. This strategy shifted in the 1950s when Mexican Americans argued they were a "class apart" from whites and African Americans, defined by a history of exclusion and separation. They were a people with a unique history and culture before the law. This is a rigorous study that contributes to the growing literature on whiteness.
Ignacio M. García, White But Not Equal: Mexican Americans, Jury Discrimination, and the Supreme Court. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008.
Historian García, a seasoned scholar, explores the 1952 case of 21-year old Pete Hernández, who got into a fight with several men, and was robbed and beaten. Hernández returned and shot one of the assailants. Forty eyewitnesses saw the shooting; Hernández confessed. Led by the legendary Gustavo (Gus) García and attorneys paid by the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American G.I. Forum challenged the systematic exclusion of persons of Mexican origin from all types of jury duty. García argued that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed protection not only on the basis of race but class. The exclusion of Mexicans from the juries violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The case separated the reality of being white and not considered white. García places the issue of whiteness within the larger context of the fight for Mexican American civil rights.
A Class Apart, Public Broadcasting System
An excellent documentary that complements the Ignacio García book. Centers around the Hernandez Case It can be viewed on the above web site or the disk can be purchased.
See Kevin Johnson Article
Perez v. Sharp (Oct. 1, 1948) 32 Cal.2d 711, 198 P.2d 17
I recently received an email from my friend Alex Reza, one of the good teachers of this universe who along with a handful of Chicana/o high school teachers has kept Chicana/o studies alive in the secondary schools. His message read:
I recently discovered the case of Perez v. Sharp (Ca Supreme Court, 1948). Andrea Perez in LA filed for a marriage license to marry Sylvester Davis, an African American. CA had an anti miscegenation law prohibiting a marriage between whites and blacks, Perez in those days was considered white. Perez filed suit and won. The CA Supreme Court declared that marriage was a fundamental right that could not be denied on the basis of race. Perez worked at Morningside Elementary School and lived San Fernando until the late 1990s. She died in 2000. As you know, the Ca Supreme Court ruled recently that Prop. 22 which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. In that case, Perez V. Sharp was cited in support of declaring Prop. 22 unconstitutional. The Perez case was also cited in the landmark U. S. Supreme Çourt case of Loving v. Virginia (1967) in which the U.S. Supreme declared that laws barring interracial marriages were unconstitutional.
I found it interesting that the Perez case involved a Latina from San Fernando. Its amazing to me that as late as 1948 California prohibited interracial marriages.
Alex Reza Teacher
The case is a classic example of how race was constructed and the hypocrisy of the system in classifying Mexican Americans
white when it was convenient for them.
Andrea and Sylvester
Andrea Perez 1982
Perez v. Sharp
April 09, 2009
Some youthful offenders get stuck in the system
For about 40 youth a year sentenced to the Texas Youth Commission, state law become a vicious cycle that keeps them in the juvenile corrections system when they belong in the mental health system.
State law requires the youths to be transferred to the Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments. But the law also requires that those who are given a mandatory sentence must complete it before the transfer can occur.
Some with mental illness or mental retardation find it impossible to complete the TYC curriculum. So instead of being put into the mental health system, they are just released back onto the streets when their time is served.
State Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin, has a bill to eliminate this Catch 22
so the youths can receive the mental health treatment they need.
"This is a heart bill. A heart bill is one that truly, truly, truly can make a difference in someone's life," McReynolds said.
The following is a video put together for TYC Ombudsman Will Harrell. WARNING, the video contains some graphic images.
Here are the correct links to the video I directed for TYC's Office of the Independent Ombudsman.
I believe that the corresponding legislation passed out of the House Corrections Committee yesterday.
Houston Chronicle Link
San Antonio Express News Link
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