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The history of Mexican Americans is comparable to that of African Americans: filled with stories of conquest, racism, and discriminatory acts posed by society. The past has triggered Chicanos to fight back against injustices, in hopes of reforming immoral treatment, and emerging as an equal part of America’s society. The Chicano movement yielded some successes in this aspect. However, mass media and stereotypes confirm the notion that Mexican Americans are still viewed as a “lesser” people. This stems from the long-established concept of racial stratification.
In this case, it indicates that Anglo-Americans have hierarchy over Mexican Americans. Consequently, discrimination towards Chicanos is still prevalent, despite ongoing efforts by activists for change. This nation was socially molded based on the idea that there is a hierarchy of races, and as long as that idea exists, Mexican Americans will continue to suffer inequality. In “Sexual Violence in the Politics of Conquest’, Castaneda explores the sexual crimes against Amerindian women during the Spanish conquest of Alta California.
The soldiers accompanying the missionaries on the settlement raped and violated the native women openly. There were many incidents before rules were set to govern the matter, but even after the rapes continued to occur. One court case recorded in 1773 indicates that there was no intention to grant justice to the victims. The natives took matters into their own hands and formed forces to seek their own justice (similar to Chicano activist groups that seek reform for discrimination), but to no avail.
Castaneda goes on to explain that the actions of the soldiers were not farfetched from practices of Western civilization (27-28). Because these dark crimes were normal for the dominant culture, they were automatically imposed on the natives, who were supposed to accept this without resistance. This is similar to Mexican Americans during the Chicano movement, who were not given equal opportunities for education and employment because they were not in the central group. In both situations, the majority emasculates the men and oppresses the women of the minority.
The idea of hierarchy is apparent in this passage; Catholic missionaries try to strip the natives of their culture and convert them to value Western practices because they consider themselves the ‘prominent’ people. The history of the Chicano Movement can date back to the Manifest Destiny. In the 1840s, the United States planned to expand its territory and take Mexico, which had become independent from Spain. In reporting these events, Leo Cervantes notes the attitude of superiority that the Americans displayed in their imperialist plan.
He notes one adherent’s thoughts, who asked “why resign this beautiful country to the custody of the ignorant cowards who have ruled for the last 25 years? ” (13). Cervantes also quotes Thomas Jefferson, who has similar views of the matter, and promoted “policies of non-miscegenation” during the expansion (14). Even before Anglo-Americans were acquainted with Mexicans, they held predisposed opinions of contempt for them. As I suggested, Arturo Rosales agrees, “An underlying cause for the hostility Anglo-Americans felt for Mexicans was a preexisting ideology of racism” (5).
These preconceived notions of Mexican Americans were the beginning of negative stereotypes attached to them. Today Chicanos are often represented in the media as uneducated thugs, loose women, or undocumented workers. Even whites who claim they are not racist may practice aversive racism by absorbing the images portrayed in media. It is this ideology of racism has contributed to discrimination over the years and inversely, the building of the Chicano Movement. The movement flourished in the 1950s and 1960s, feeding off other civil rights movements, particularly the African American movement.
Both African American civil rights activists and Chicano activist protested the unlawful repression of minorities in America. They protested the terrible education system, police brutality, and denial of economic opportunities. Arturo Rosales compares Chicano activist, Cesar Chavez to Martin Luther King. It is expected that on this path to address the plight and repression of their people, Chicanos were met with resistance from White Americans. Rosales notes that police officers and other uniformed officials “were employed to suppress manifestations of discontent and did so using violence” (xv).
It can be suggested that Anglo-Americans considered Chicanos a threat to the racial hierarchy, so they took action. Cervantes supports this theory, quoting Brooks Adams who said, “When a highly centralized society disintegrates, under the pressure of economics condition, it is because the energy of the race has been exhausted (18). This point illustrates the pressure Anglo-Americans felt to keep superiority over Mexicans. The American achievement ideology suggests four points: Anyone can make it. American society is fair and open.
Success is based on merit. Moreover, inequality is the result of differences in ability and ambition. This ideology contradicts the apparent effects of a racial hierarchy. Stratification of races has formed structural discrimination among minorities, specifically, Mexican and African Americans. The poor education, poor neighborhoods, and badly equipped jobs that these minorities are subjected to prevent them from achieving upward mobility. However, white America still neglects to acknowledge these factors.
Historian, Oscar Lewis, believed that people living in poverty are to blame for their own situation, yet minorities’ history in America consists of repression and treatment as inferior beings. There is no questioning it; racial classes have been socially constructed and this has directly affected minorities. The Chicano Movement has led to some advances for Mexican American such as the growing numbers of Latinos attending school, and raise concerns about unequal treatment to Chicanos. However, because underlying values of America are products of a deep-rooted, corrupt social structure, issue of prejudice will continue to exist.