Latinos and Whiteness Thesis

Pages: 6 (2036 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

Latinos and Whiteness

Whiteness is a concept that is thought to consist of a body of knowledge, ideologies, norms, and particular practices that have been developed throughout the history of the American colonies and the U.S.(Helfand, 2009). Even before Latinos managed to achieve any legal protection for discrimination, many courts considered them white. As a result of this, during the first several decades of the twentieth century, they could not sue for racial discrimination under the civil rights laws or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Constructing Whiteness, 2009).

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The first and only Mexican-American civil rights case to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States during the post World War II period was that of Hernandez v. State of Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954). In this case the defendant, a person of Mexican descent, sought reversal of his murder conviction on the ground that he had been denied equal protection of the laws in that persons of similar ancestry had been systematically excluded from service as jury commissioners, grand jurors, and petit jurors, in the county in which he was convicted, although there were such persons in the county fully qualified to serve. The state court affirmed the conviction, ruling that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment contemplated only two classes, Negro and white (the Handbook of Texas Online, n.d.).

Thesis on Latinos and Whiteness Assignment

During this time Texas employed a system that relied on jury commissioners to select prospective grand jurors from the community at large. The qualifications for grand jurors required that they be a citizen of Texas and a qualified voter. Prior to defendant's trial for murder, he brought timely motions to quash the indictment and the jury panel on the basis that persons of Mexican descent who were otherwise qualified were systematically excluded from service as jury commissioners, grand jurors, and petit jurors, in violation of defendant's rights as a member of the class. The trial court denied the motions, and the court of appeals upheld this decision. On certiorari, the Court reversed the conviction. The Court held that it taxed credibility to say that mere chance resulted in there being no members of defendant's class among the over 6,000 jurors called in the prior 25 years. The result was discrimination, whether or not it was a conscious decision on the part of any individual jury commissioner (the Handbook of Texas Online, n.d.).

Chief Justice Warren, delivered the opinion of the court which reversed the conviction. The court held that the state court had erred in limiting the protective scope of the equal protection clause to the white and Negro classes. And also that the defendant had established that persons of Mexican descent were a distinct class in the county in which he was convicted. The court went on to say that there was evidence that persons of such descent had never been selected for jury service, notwithstanding the presence of a substantial number of those persons in the county, many of whom were qualified, and that was sufficient to show a violation of the equal protection clause (the Handbook of Texas Online, n.d.).

The Court's decision represented a critical twist on the view that been commonly-held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment only protected African-Americans. Until 1954, this narrow understanding had worked to the harm of Mexican-Americans seeking to vindicate their constitutional rights. The legal challenge to the Black/white model of civil rights ultimately achieved success. This occurred when the Equal Protection guarantee was ruled to protect everyone including whites and not just some, races from discrimination. The Court in Hernandez v. Texas began the gradual expansion of the Equal Protection Clause. In this case the Supreme Court concluded that the systematic exclusion of Mexican-Americans from petit and grand juries violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This logically extended back to previous case law that dated back to the nineteenth century that prohibited the exclusion of African-Americans from juries (Johnson, 2004).

Many jury systems that were in place throughout the United States during this time, include a variety of color-blind and entirely legal mechanisms that in operation limited the number of Latino jurors which ensured that juries in localities across the country failed to represent a cross section of the community. It was thought that the requirement of Citizenship and being able to speak the English language, as well as the disqualification of felons, barred a disproportionate numbers of Latinos from serving on juries (Johnson, 2004).

The legislation like that in Hernandez v. State of Texas affected all Latino groups. When it comes to legislation and public policy these groups all tend to be lumped together and treated as one ethnic group. Ethnic identity is a central concept in the study of politics in multi-cultural societies. Identities define criteria for group membership, differences from others, as well as legitimacy within the political process. Because ethnic identities also influence political behavior, they influence the distribution of power and resources. Recognized identities that mark ethnic and racial minorities as inferior create social fault lines that generate tension and unrest. As scholars analyze the history of race relations, a substantial literature on Latino politics has emerged on the role that ethnic identity has played in community mobilization and individual behavior. Whether it is struggles against racial discrimination or cultural survival, identity has played an important role in mobilizing the Latino community. Although ethnic identity plays a key role in Latino politics, the impact of variables like income, education, phenotype, nativity, parentage, and ideology complicate our understanding of Latino identities. Many questions about identity and the way it interacts with these variables remain unanswered (Marquez, n.d.)

The recent change in popular attitude toward different Latino groups, and the law's response, reveals a lot about racial formation in this country. Immigration law and its enforcement affect the differential racialization of various Latino national origin groups. Efforts to keep some groups out of the country while welcoming others reinforces the popular conceptions about these groups. There was a time when positive stereotypes about Cubans as a model minority justified their generous treatment under the law. When they were viewed as white, educated, middle and upper class, and refugees of communism, Cubans were treated well. When the popular construction of the migrants changed and Blacker, poorer, and undesirable Cubans began to make their way here, the legal treatment of these groups became stricter. Likewise, the racialization of Mexican immigrants as dark, poor, and uneducated, long has explained their harsh treatment under the immigration laws. Over time we have seen the evolving racialization of Cubans in a way that makes them more resemble Mexican migrants. This change in the racialization of Cubans has created the potential for future political coalitions challenging immigration law and the enforcement of it (Johnson, 2009).

The media that often focuses on the Latino communities in the United States has contributed to a persistent misperception that exists about who Mexicans, Puerto Rican, Cubans, Salvadorians and other groups of Latin American descent are in the larger context of United States society. While the Anglo media has always perpetuated stereotypes about Latinos the Latino media has expanded its markets beyond the ethnic niches of the various Latin-American origin groups. This has contributed to the idea that all Latin-American origin groups are alike. While there are many similarities among these groups there are also significant differences between them. There are revealed in the discussion about the selection of a second generation Puerto Rican to be the first Latina on the Supreme Court (Rodriguez Dominguez, 2009).

It is interesting that this process of racialization which has created a Latino pseudo-racial group is occurring at a time when a color-blind ideology can be seen in political, legal and educational arenas across the United States. Although race is still an essential pivot around which American society is constructed and its hierarchies developed, the courts, politicians and the educational system are beginning to negate the role of race and racism in the variations that persist in our society. This ideology is so common that it has become widespread and unexamined and is dominating many of our most important institutions. The courts have narrowed the use of race in redressing racial inequalities and politicians do not dare utter the word racism in the public sphere (Rodriguez Dominguez, 2009).

Federal immigration law establishes whether a person is an alien or not and governs all activities surrounding immigration. It determines the rights, duties, and obligations that are associated with being an alien in the United States. It also lays down the framework for how aliens gain residence or citizenship within the United States. It provides the means by which certain aliens can become legally naturalized citizens with full rights of citizenship. Immigration law serves as a gatekeeper for the nation's border, determining who may enter, how long they may stay, and when they must leave (Immigration, n.d).

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, set… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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