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Occupied America, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 939

Essay

Introduction

Education inequalities have been present in the United States for long years.

Ruiz (21), reviewing the level off segregation of Mexican Americans in America states that in 1931 “more than 80 percent of the school districts in southern California enrolled Mexicans and Mexican Americans in segregated schools”  (21). Segregation in schools and discrimination was indeed a result of invalid negative assumptions about the ethnic minority group, and took long decades to push back. The below essay will reveal the main movements and events that led to increased (even if not perfect) equality.

Main Issues with Gender Inequalities

In a 2002 research article, Hunter came to the following conclusion: “In the areas of education, personal income, and spousal status, skin color modifies outcomes and produces advantages for the light skinned” (190). Gender inequalities, as Ruiz and Acuna confirm in their work are a result of negative characteristics assigned to some minority groups. Shame and the threat of deportation, the existence of Mexican gangs in America have added fuel to the fire. While Ruiz describes the official methods used to segregate Latinos and Latinas in education, workplace, housing, and other aspects of life in the history of the United States, she does not mention how the media, politicians, and government officials influenced the society’s views on minority groups. Indeed, Hunter mentions an important issue related to the way people in America think: the “cultural standard of racism” (Hunter, 188). Simply put, a Latino child with blonde hair and green eyes might be treated differently in school than those who look more racially diverse.

Reviewing the current situation, Valencia (390) mentions the same case that is in the focus of Ruiz’ historical review: Mendez vs. Westminster. The author (Valencia, 391) also states that the two main minority groups (Latinos and African Americans) make up more than one third of the K-12 population (2005 data). This means that these students do not only need to interact with the mainstream population in order to assimilate, but desegregation would also result in the change of the future generations’ perception about African Americans and Latinos.

Historical Factors Supporting School Segregation

Acuna mentions that politics of race and gender were responsible for decisions that made educational segregation and attainment stratification possible in the United States. Perceiving whiteness as normal and non-white groups as deviant was a result of segregating minority groups for long centuries. It was present in housing, even church politics, when Latinos had to attend separate churches (Acuna, 454). While it was legal to carry on discriminating based on race, the governments (local and federal) continued to make new laws to “protect whites” and separate them from other ethnic groups in schools, the workplace, and communities. As the author (Acuna, 509) confirms: “segregated schools were an important vehicle for whites to maintain control of the system”. Challenging the system required community-building efforts, and Latina women took charge in order to ensure that their children were given the same opportunities for their future as whites. As Ruiz (26) confirms: the Mendez vs. Westminster case  “was the first time that a federal court had concluded that the segregation of Mexican Americans in public schools was a violation of state law”. Further, it is important to note that the mainstream society held unfair negative assumptions regarding Latinos and Latinas: As Acuna states, children of Mexico were considered to be unclean, retarded, and immoral. Hispanic children, therefore, suffered from institutional racism: they had to go to schools that were less equipped, and most teachers were white. This meant that some of them were also holding negative beliefs about the children and their parents. Starting with the assumption that Hispanic children are originally less intelligent than Whites, the learning outcomes of children in “Mexican” schools were somewhat pre-determined.

The Role of Women

The role of Mexican American women in challenging institutional racism in America has been highlighted by Ruiz (509), who states that “segregated schools were an important vehicle for whites to maintain control of the system. The pretexts for excluding

Mexicans from white schools were that Mexicans were ill-clad, unclean, and immoral; interracial contact”, therefore, parents (especially women) boycotted schools and formed communities to fight against discrimination in education. Women were powerful, as they had a higher participation rate in communities. The main breakthrough in education was the California v. Bakke case (1978) that prohibited imposing a quota on minority university admissions. This increased the equality of minority children, however, those who attended mainly minority schools were still disadvantaged when it came to academic attainment.

The Situation Today – Conclusion

It is important to note that educational inequalities still exist in America. Hunter (187) confirms that “the case of Mexican Americans, race has been constructed to mean that they are ignorant, lazy, and provincial”. The above statement along with the findings of the National Education Association (Orfield), that “half of Latino children in large metropolitan areas and nearly half of Blacks already live outside central cities, serious segregation and inequality follow migrations of the non-White middle class”, it is evident that the work of eliminating segregation is not finished.

Works Cited

Acuna, R. Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. 2015. Print.

Hunter, M. “If You’re Light You’re Alright”: Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color. Gender and Society, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 175-193 2002. Print.

Ruiz, Vicki. From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America 1998. Print.

Orfield, G. Race and Schools: The Need for Action. National Education Association. 2010. Web. <http://www.nea.org/home/13054.htm>

Valencia, R. The Mexican American Struggle for Equal Educational Opportunity in Mendez v. Westminster: Helping to Pave the Way for Brown v. Board of Education. Teachers College Record Volume 107, Number 3, March 2005, pp. 389–423

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