Gender, Race, Labor and the Progressive Era
The racial discrimination of Mexican-Americans and immigrants from Mexico have been discussed by several authors in detail, however, they did not receive as much publicity as problems faced by African Americans. Racial discrimination needs to be examined in every group of the society in order to tackle issues and create a fairer labor system for all. Examining the three articles from three different authors, the current essay is designed to highlight the challenges and the proposed solutions for Mexican Americans’ equality in the United States.
Ledesma (1999) covers the era of the Chicana Labor Struggle between 1918 and 1938, in particular the social status of Mexican-American working women. While union membership was high among these women, leaders of workers’ organizations often took on racist views, claiming that these women were taking away Americans’ jobs. The change of attitude only came after the Mexican Women’s Laundry Strike in 1919, triggered by the unfair dismissal of two female workers because they joined the Union. Even the Union’s statement admitted that Mexican Americans were regarded Mexicans and not Americans by the society and employers. In the press coverage, it was common that American employers were fighting back: stating that Mexican women were slow workers and they were engaging in the sexual trade. During the 1930-s recession, Mexican American women’s working and living conditions got worse again, and regular wage reduction made the situation worse.
The article by Ledesma (1999) highlights the main sources of struggle within the Mexican American female workers’ group; the attitude of Anglo-American organizations and the Press to hold back change. It uses contemporary sources and press articles to prove that Mexican American women were regarded “second class” and their equality was not supported by the society. The author proves the statement that the first half of the 20th Century was full of prejudice and discrimination against “aliens” as the leaders called them. The audience the article targets is today’s sociologists who need to understand the different motivations within groups to preserve discrimination. It is a clear and factual report that can be used for case studies and historical analysis alike.
Ruiz and Americanization of Mexican American Women
The article by Ruiz (1999) discusses the forces that influenced the socialization of Mexican American women in American between 1920 and 1930. The author discusses social forces in detail: such as education, media and employment. While Ledesma (1995) gave the readers an account on employment as a social force and discrimination only, this study offers a wider perspective for readers. From schooling reforms to abolish the use of Spanish language on the playground to the teaching to American history and the idea of the American Dream. Still, the author notes that many young girls left school and never went to high school, finding employment in one of the lowest paid industries. Social factors, such as the traditional Mexican family’s disapproval of single women leaving the family home are also discussed. It was an “American Way” thought by the American society. The liberation of women was a struggle, as while in schools and offices they had to speak English, home language was strictly Spanish. Appearance of young women was one of the sources of conflict in Mexican American families. Still, Ruiz states that the greatest effect of Americanization was present on the level of one’s personal aspiration. Like Ledesma, (1995) Ruiz also confirms the negative effects of the press: judgments were published in almost every newspaper of the time. She also mentions the threat of deportation as a result of a social ideology as a source of racial discrimination.
The article is written as a documentation of the social forces within the United States during the ten years covered. It is aimed at sociology and history students who are researching the history of minority groups and racial discrimination. The supporting texts and quotes prove the thesis that the world of adolescent Mexican American women was controversial and full of judgments. The authors believe that the era’s political and schooling system did not support this group in their assimilation process.
Montejano and the Description of the “Mexican Problem”
Montejano (1999) states that the “Mexican Problem” was ignored by US and Texas politics in Texas for a long time. Like the authors mentioned before, the writer concludes that society’s pattern of blaming immigrants for corruption, crime and economical troubles have caused a lot of trouble for Mexican Americans. This study is more like a literature review of official assessments regarding the “Mexican Problem”. The discussion was not about supporting integration of Mexican Americans or supporting them in their assimilation process: more importantly giving them an “inferior” place within the society. It looks like the whole society was against immigration. While the cheap agricultural workforce in Texas was beneficial for growers, the society did not consider them “Americans” This impacted their socialization pattern, opportunities and attitudes towards their new country. Montejano’s article is created for students who are looking at the history of American racist views in the 20th Century, and proves the initial thesis by quoting contemporary correspondence and political speeches. While it focuses on Texas farm workers’ condition, as well as he refusal of the society, it fails to provide an argument against the race-based claims of the time by revealing the true nature and values of Mexican American immigrants in Texas. The authors state that racial discrimination was unjust and held back the group’s integration in the society.
Major Statements of the Articles Discussed – Conclusion
Below the authors of the essay would like to quote some of the most important statements of the three articles.
Ledesma (p. 403) states that “Labor editors operated with many of the same prejudices as the rest of the community.” Further, she says that “…papers pictured Chicanas as lazy, irresponsible, and stupid..” (p. 402.)
Montejano describes the situation in Texas as follows: “There was no contradiction in having Mexican American citizens and in safeguarding the Anglo-Saxon character of Texas and the United States”. (p. 178.) The problem is further explained: “If Mexicans were a racial menace, an unassimilable alien presence, why increase their ranks by encouraging immigration?” (p. 174.)
Ruiz, however, covers different aspects of assimilation: “Although enjoying the creature comforts afforded by life in the United States, Mexican immigrants retained their cultural traditions.” She adds to the proof of discrimination the aspect of self-awareness of being different.
Ledesma, I. (1999) Race, Gender, Class, and Image in the Chicana Labor Struggle, 1918-1938) In: Paterson, T., Witz, C. eds. Major Problems in Texas History: Documents and Essays.. p. 394-403. Cengage Learning
Ruiz, V. (1999) The Acculturation of Young Mexican American Women. In: Vargas, Z. (ed.) Major Problems in Mexican American History. Documents and Essays. p. 265- 271. Houghton Mifflin Company.
Montejano, D. (1999) The Mexican Problem. In: Paterson, T., Witz, C. eds. Major Problems in Mexican American History. Documents and Essays. p. 172-181.. Houghton Mifflin Company.