The following is an excerpt from Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 by David Montejano. The book will be published in August 1987 by the University of Texas. Press. Copyright 1987 by the University of Texas Press. Reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. GREAT STRIDES in dismantling the segregationist order have occurred since the 1940s, but we the generations that have lived through these decades may not have a clear comprehension of the events we have witnessed. The more activist and “younger” of us may emphasize the critical place of the civil rights movement, believing that struggle and organization alone brought the old racial patterns down. Those with a more detached and “older” view may point to basic changes in economic and political structures as a primary cause. Both views contain persuasive elements but remain inadequate as separate explanations. The demise of segregation was not a simple reflex reaction to an opposition movement; it was also the result of fundamental shifts in economic and political conditions. “Jim Crow” may appear to be an odd description of the situation of Mexicans in Texas. There was no constitutionally sanctioned “separate but equal” provision for Mexicans as there was for blacks. According to the prevailing jurisprudence, Mexicans were “Caucasian.” But in political and sociological terms, blacks and Mexicans were basically seen as different aspects of the same race problem. In the farm areas of South and West Texas, the Caucasian schools were nearly always divided into “Anglo schools” and “Mexican schools,” the towns into “white towns” and “little Mexicos,” and even the churches and cemeteries followed this seemingly natural division of people. This was not a natural phenomenon, however, but the cumulative effect of local administrative poli David Montejano, a native of Del Rio and a graduate of the University of Texas and Yale University, is now a professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque. cies. In the farm districts, the result was a separation as complete and as “de jure” as any in the Jim Crow South. To emphasize these commonalities, I use “Jim Crow” to refer to a situation of nearly complete separation and control of blacks or Mexicans. War andIndustrialization BEFORE WORLD WAR II, the urban situation for the majority of Mexicans was not vastly different from that found in the rural areas, in spite of some concessions. The urban Mexicans of Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and the bigger towns of South Texas, for example, attended school in relatively high proportions compared to rural Mexicans. Nonetheless, the public schools in these cities were segregated, businesses refused to serve Mexicans in places patronized by Anglos, and the Catholic churches conducted special services to prevent contact between Mexicans and Anglos. “Urbanization” merely signified the geographic expansion of segregation. Thus, as the “Mexican town” of San Antonio grew in the 1930s, new subdivisions on the Anglo side \(such as the Jefferson and tive covenants prohibiting the sale or rental of properties to persons other than of the Caucasian race “implicitly excluding the Mexicans.” Racial segmentation characterized the urban and industrial labor market across the state. In the oil industry, both Mexican and black workers received a than did Anglo Americans in the same classification. The “Latin American” and black workers were not permitted to use the drinking fountains or the toilets and bathing facilities provided for Anglos. Nor were they permitted to punch the same time clock or receive their pay through the same window used by Anglos. A similar situation was to be found in the railroad industry. In many cases job discrimination was not the result of management policy but of union policy. During the 1930s the great majority of labor unions admit Mexicans and blacks to membership, thus making their employment by management virtually impossible. The only unions readily open to Mexicans in the early 1930s were “Mexican unions” like the Hod Carriers and Common Laborers Union. In short, neither urbanization nor industrialization brought about the relaxing of race restrictions in the 1940s. Such relaxation as occurred had to do with the war emergency with the need for soldiers and workers. Labor shortages opened job opportunities, military service presented many with training and experience, the need for stable relations with Mexico stimulated a drive to minimize discrimination, and the war emergency sanctioned such experimental measures as the Fair Employment Practices Committee. These war-related necessities, however, did not require any real consensus, much less commitment, about a policy of nondiscrimination. The war years, in fact, saw a worsening of relations between Anglos and Mexicans in the Southwest. Increased discrimination, growing friction \(including pogroms and government irritation all reached new heights by 1945. In rural Texas, Jim Crow conditions remained virtually unaffected by the war against Hitler and race supremacy, a situation that prompted Mexico to exclude the state from its international agreement regarding guest workers The ban was not a “blacklist,” as Mexican Consul General Miguel Calderdn politely put it, but “merely exceptional measures for protecting Mexican Nationals in view of exceptional circumstances prevailing [in] this State.” In 1943, in response to Mexico’s blacklisting, Gov. Coke Stevenson established the Good Neighlegislature approve a “Caucasian Race Resolution,” which forbade discrimination against “Caucasians.” Pauline Kibbe, the first executive director of the GNC, called on Texans to remember that the state constituted “a living laboratory experiment in American unity” on which the eyes of the Americas were focused; that Texas was “a test case to prove or disprove the validity of the Good Neighbor policy.” In the cities, it also seemed that the war crisis would accommodate itself to previous employment patterns. According to one estimate, less than five percent of the Mexican American community in Texas was employed in war industry in the early 1940s. Those industries that did provide employment to Mexicans restricted them to common or unskilled labor jobs regardless of their ability or training. At San The Demise of Jim Crow Texas Mexicans and the Fight Against Segregation By David Montejano 8 JULY 17, 1987
You May Also Like
Texas Professor Leonard N. Moore’s “Teaching Black History to White People” is a memoir, history lesson, and instructional manual.