by Charles Nabarrete
During the 2020 meeting of the ACB resolutions committee, I was disappointed that Hispanics were lumped in the “people of color” phrase, and some committee members resisted listing Hispanics separately in the two resolutions regarding diversity. Such failure ignores the long history of discriminatory treatment Latinos suffered and my own experience.
In the 1840s, President James K. Polk annexed Texas as part of manifest destiny and the United States began a war against Mexico to take territory which later became New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California. After a short conflict, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848 which ceded this land to the United States. Not surprisingly, the land grants and property rights of Mexicans who lived there were taken by the new settlers. Discriminatory treatment of the Mexicans was widespread, with numerous lynchings and imprisonment without due process.
My mother attended a segregated school in Chino, Calif. in the 1930s, and traveled to Mexico in the early 1940s through Texas, where she saw numerous signs at restaurants or other businesses saying no dogs or Mexicans were permitted. In California, Ignacio Lopez, a civil rights activist, sued the city of San Bernardino and its mayor in the late 1940s because the public swimming pool was segregated, with Latinos only allowed to use the facilities once a week on the day before the pool was cleaned and the water changed. In the landmark case of Mendez et al v. Westminster et al, a suit was brought on behalf of sisters who were denied admission to a higher quality school where only white students attended. Thurgood Marshall submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Mendez sisters, arguing that school segregation was unconstitutional before the Brown v. Board of Education decision was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. In both the Lopez and Mendez cases, the lower courts issued decisions which held that the segregation actions were prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. These decisions were not appealed, but discrimination continued.
I was normally sighted until I was 19 years old. In Pomona, Calif., where I attended elementary school, I was always placed in classes with only Mexican kids, with white kids all being in a separate class. When I went to junior high, I was the only Mexican student in my seventh-grade English class. The teacher arranged student seating alphabetically, except for me; she sat me in the first seat of a row so she could keep an eye on me. Another time, I was with a group of Mexican teenagers at the local public swimming pool when a white policeman drove up and ordered us to leave without any justification. I experienced other incidents of discrimination at school and by the police because of my ethnic origin.
Such discriminatory treatment of Hispanics has continued, resulting in Latinos having the lowest socioeconomic level of minorities in the United States, and innumerable incidents of police brutality and hate crimes, such as the mass shootings of Latinos at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. We have been referred to by many names, which is not objectionable, but I agree with Congressman Gallegos, who said that he would object to being called Latinx. Also, recognizing Hispanics or Latinos by name would encourage inclusion by ACB.