Racial discrimination is a term that signifies treating people with different skin tone and cultural heritage and not only different but also as inferior. This feeling or societal approach is not limited to just one area of the world, it is a habit being carried from generation to generation in all the countries of the world. Each skin color whether white, black, pin k or brown all view themselves as someone important while considering the other as subordinate or lower in rank to them. Discrimination has been the curse of the nineteenth and twentieth century's. This is the reason that this era is full to the brim with violent protests, wars, conflicts and civil rights movement, some of which have been quiet successful. The paper will look at the place of Hispanics in the U.S. And more specifically Houston society. It will examine their condition in the city before and after a civil rights movement as well as the opportunities, freedom and amount of equality available to them in the city.
USA is a multicultural, multi-ethnic society that has always suffered from the taint of racism. History of the land is filled with incidents of serious harm and injury inflicted on the blacks and other minority sections of the society. But as always there are two sides to every argument, the white population of the country believes that the Latinos, Asians and Africans enter the country illegally and snatch their jobs from them. According to research by Pew Hispanic Center, in 2004 the total number of foreign births within the country was 35.7million, which then rose to a round figure of 37 million. Estimate shows that only 10.4 million, in 2004, and 10.5 million, in 2005, had a confirmed a permanently legal status. Around 10.3 and 11.1 in the same years was the number of unauthorized immigrants, while 1.2 and 1.3 million respectively had entered the country on a temporary legal status. Temporary permission to reside in the country comes with a student visa, a temporary work permit and a tourist visa. Another estimate shows that in the total 10.3 or 11.1 million, half the population (5.9 million) was Mexican while another 2.5 million belonged to other parts of Latin America. Researchers, again point out that most of the immigrants coming in from Mexico or South America enter the country secretly, taking every precaution to bypass security. Such people don't have any proper documentation and those of them who do enter legally, often out stay their permit. Approximately 1.5 millions of such citizens are refugees, seeking asylum in the U.S.A., from the bloodshed, political upheaval in their homelands.
Such huge numbers have been bothering the American public and they often blame Latinos and other cultural groups for the increase in crime ratios as well as a decrease in employment opportunities for the legal citizens of the country. Another important aspect of this scenario is that even after entering the country, all of them are not able to improve their financial status and most live in squalor, away from homes and families. Part of the reason of this outcome is their poorer educational qualification and the misguided notion that as soon as they set foot on American soil, they will get jobs and start earning riches. The lack of education and their illegal status makes then easy game for business, agricultural and industrial magnates, who exploit them by paying extremely low wages (Chomsky. A, 2007).
Hispanics during the Civil War:
American Civil War is a landmark event in the history of the U.S.A. For many reasons. For one all the states of the country were joined together into a single country, Secondly it was the first real, organized struggle by the minorities against slavery and cruelty. Lastly and most importantly, although the Confederate army made up of slaves and peasants lost the war and had to surrender their weapons but they gained a greater victory when slavery was abolished as a direct consequence of the war.
The last blow was the case of Brown vs. Educational Board, in which the court ordered schools to end their discriminatory practices provide similar education facilities to students from all backgrounds. With an increase in protests, segregated seating in buses was done away with.
That the position of Hispanics or Latinos was far better than African-Americans, in pre-Civil War America, can be surmised from the fact that they were free to choose a side in the war and many of them put their support behind the Union army. In other words, a large number voted in favor of retaining slavery.
At the start of the war in1861, 2500 Mexican settlers joined the Confederate Army and around a 1000 took sides with the White government. Colonel Santo Benavides was first ever Hispanic commander and fought during the Civil War. Another testament to the fact that they were treated much better than the Black population is that Abraham Lincoln awarded the highest military honor to two Hispanics for their contributions in the Civil war. However, it is also wrong to suppose that Latinos were or have never been subject to any form of discrimination or prejudice from the other American citizens. In the time of World War I the people of Puerto Rico were given American citizenship and because of this their men were obligated to offer their services to the U.S. military. A large number of Hispanic soldiers took part in the war but they were not treated as equals by the Whites. However, they have continued to serve the American armed forces. Around 9 Latinos have been bestowed with the Congressional Medal of Honor. (CRM, 2011).
Civil Rights MOVEMENT:
Despite the official end to slavery after 1865 the society, utilities, education etc. remained largely segregated. Motels, schools, public toilets and even fountains were white and black. But blacks were not alone in their struggle for freedom from humiliation and ridicule of being second class citizens, outsiders. They organized many strikes, protests, campaigns and boycotts in an attempt to get the white people to give them equal opportunities and rights. The Latino movement began as a campaign planned and run by labor organizations of the country. In 2006, an enormous demonstration took place all over America, it consisted mainly of Latinos and its demand was that the government reconsiders its latest reform against unregistered immigrants. The reform stated that, any immigrant, not lists in the census record, be considered a criminal or a felon.
But their struggle began a long time ago, right after the civil war. 1903 was a land mark year for the Latinos as a Labor organization emerged victorious from their protest against California's agricultural society, a U.S. court ruled in favor of a Mexican living in U.S., calling her a citizen of USA. Full blown fights began between the rebels and the Texan Rangers, which eventually resulted in thousands of Latinos being killed by the rangers. An even larger rebellion was initiated with an attack on Columbia.
The American society was based on such strong racial divides that even years of living together, breathing the same air and eating from the same land did not erode the bias ingrained in their mind set. Even when the Latinos were helping the U.S. In its war effort, they were known as the 'red race'. A further divide was that Mexicans were considered white unless they had some Indian blood in their veins. In 1925, the U.S. government passes a law that all illegal or unregistered immigrants would be deported to their homeland, the result several American born children of Latino parents were also deported and many families were separated. In the words of author 'Rodolfo F. Acuna', 'during the first two decades of the twentieth century, most Americans, like Roosevelt, considered people of color and other cultures as threats to the American Race (Acuna, 2003)' these words are a clear deposition of the fact that Americans were hesitant and even afraid of the other races which lead to their unfair treatment and oppression of the minorities.
Latinos in Houston:
Houston has one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S. In between 1990 and 2010 its population grew by more than 1.2 million. It is the most diverse city of USA and is becoming increasingly diverse with passing time. This increase in diversity has brought about a marginal decrease in the segregation or discrimination that has always been an integral part of the Houston society. The nature of the segregation is such that only whites are not separated from the minorities but even the minorities are very distant from each other. Latinos form at least 35.3% of the total population of Houston. Experts believe that rapidly increasing Latino population might make them the largest minority group in Houston. As a result of this increase the number of Latino and White population is almost the same in Houston (Emerson, M.O, Bratter et al., 2010).