Lilia D. Merino Morales
20 May 2019
Being American now comes with more diversity. A person can be African American, Asian American, or Mexican American, the list goes on and on. Because of the physical or cultural difference that these other Americans have that the Angelo American does not have they face discrimination. Encountering this discrimination for a long time, people begin to rise against the discrimination that does not allow them to get jobs, get equal pay, equal benefits as the Angelo American. A group in particular who fought to create their own identity is the Mexican Americans. Mexican Americans had a difficult fight because they were always getting lost between being considered white with the Angelo Americans or being called colored like the African Americans. In the article “The Civil Rights Act and the transformation of Mexican American Identity and Politics” Nancy MacLean talks about how Mexican Americans had to fight to establish their identity by not allowing themselves to be assimilated into the Angelo American category and protesting against the inequality as Mexican Americans not just people of color. Gloria Anzaldua describes some of what Mexican Americans had to go through in her essay “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”.
In the article “The Civil Rights Act and the Transformation of Mexican American Identity and Politics” by Nancy MacLean, she explains the events that began the Mexican American search for identity and political stance. With the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Mexican Americans began to identify as white, this allowing them to avoid some of the discrimination. Then with The Civil Rights Act of 1964 the Mexican Americans were able to start identify as their own person because the act outlawed discrimination. They began to join the African American people in their search for equal rights but by the 1960’s the Mexican Americas and African Americans were apart again declaring their rights for their races alone. Mexican Americans believed they needed to fight for their rights alone in order to create their own identity. Mexican Americans fought and continue to fight by protesting against the discrimination they have to deal with day by day in order to someday receive the equal treatment they deserve.
Mexican Americans felt they needed to categorize themselves as white because of the switch of lands it was forced upon them and the awful treatment they saw African Americans were facing. In 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was enacted and Nancy MacLean states, “made Mexicans in U.S. territory “white” by recognizing them as citizens at a time when the naturalization law made whiteness a perquisite of citizenship” (MacLean 124). At first Mexican Americans took advantage of this in order to avoid the same treatment that the African Americans received but this meant they had to confided to an identity that wasn’t their own. Gloria Anzaldua speaks of encounters where she gets told, “‘If you want to be American, speak ‘American.’ If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong’” (Anzaldua 1521). Anzaldua and many other Mexican Americans were told that in order to be American they could not have the accent they had when speaking English. This was one of the ways that the Angelo Americans were trying to assimilate the Mexican Americans. But the Mexican Americans began to rebel against the assimilation and discrimination that came with it.
When it came to fighting for their rights Mexican Americans decided to join the African Americans in the fight for equality but then realized they weren’t making much progress for themselves. In the article by Nancy MacLean she describes the conflict between the two groups being that the Mexican Americans would not support the African Americans as they “voted against the call for solidarity, which they viewed as a distraction from ‘our own problems’” (MacLean 126). The Mexican Americans wanted to make an image by themselves for themselves so that they would not be put into a category and have their problems be considered solved. In her writing Gloria Anzaldua explains that both African and Mexican Americans “suffer economically for not acculturating” (Anzaldua 1529). The African and Mexican Americans were always being set in the same group because they were both being discriminated against but their problems were not the same. Both groups are different people from different countries and by being set into a single group as ‘colored’ it was causing a further divide amongst them by treating their issues as the same for both groups.
Mexican Americans had their own fight for their rights just as the African Americans. Part of their fight was establishing that their identity is not white or black but brown. Through difficult times the Mexican Americans made sure that they kept their culture. Nancy MacLean recounts the history in “The Civil Rights Act and the transformation of Mexican American Identity and Politics” while Gloria Anzaldua illustrates personally what discrimination a Mexican American had to encounter in her essay “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”. Because of the color of their skin Mexican Americans were being set into the class of African Americans but because they were living on American soil during the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo they were considered Angelo Americans and being taught to act like it but they found that they did not fit in either state. They discovered they were in between these two lines being set by society and by the government and created a new name and identity for themselves, the brown people of America.
Anzaldua, Gloria. “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.”The Norton Anthology of American Literature, edited by Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine, 8th ed., vol. 2, W.W. Norton & Company, 2013, pp. 1521–1529.
MacLean, Nancy. “The Civil Rights Act and the Transformation of Mexican American Identity and Politics.” Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 123–134. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=36094372&site=ehost-live.