In nearly every category that measures social well-being, the conditions of racially oppressed people have worsened. In the communities of the [tag]African American[/tag], [tag]Latino[/tag], [tag]Asian American[/tag], [tag]Native American[/tag], and other nationally and racially oppressed peoples the situation is at crisis levels. Adding another blow, the xenophobic resident of [tag]Farmers Branch[/tag], TX has approved by a 68% â€“ 32% vote an ordinance that would fine landlords and property managers $500.00 for renting to the undocumented. However, what occurred in Farmers Branch is not unusual – it is one of America’s best guarded secrets. Towns such as Farmers Branch are often called “[tag]sundown towns[/tag]” – where communities systematically exclude people of color – mainly African Americans – from living in it.
A practice that began in the South in 1864 and later adopted by thousands of towns across the US in the late 1890s and continuing until 1968, where whites across the US conducted a series of [tag]racial expulsions[/tag], driving thousands of blacks from their homes to make communities lily-white. Some towns went as far as putting signs outside the city limits that normally said “Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You in __,” according to James Loewen in Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. But sometimes, the signs were never came out expressing their hatred and tried to be a bit clever in their messages such as, “If You Can Read … You’d Better Run … If You Can’t Read … You’d Better Run Anyway.” The signs are gone now but they are a part of America’s racist past, signs that could be found along the highway outside the city limits or county line. Just because the signs are gone, does not mean these practices do not exist today.
When one mentions [tag]Jim Crow[/tag], one often thinks of segregation and a problem that only occurred in South, with the exclusion of African Americans from private and public institutions in the Southeastern US. The truth is, the Southwest was produced through the practices of Jim Crow, which were not based explicitly on race, but also on language and culture inextricably tied to race. The history of Mexican Americans and Jim Crow in the Southwest demonstrates that state officials have been describing their discriminatory practices in terms of language and culture for most of the twentieth century, even when they were engaging in explicit racial discrimination.
In California, Mexican Americans as well as Asian Americans, Indians, and blacks were prohibited from white schools. Although, Loewen’s book chronicled the history of thousands of all-white “sundown” towns and suburbs across the West and North, a reader might get the impression that these towns only kept out African Americans, however, this is not true these towns also kept out Asian Americans and Mexican Americans. Loewen wrote:
Other towns passed ordinances barring African Americans after dark or prohibiting them from owning or renting property; still others established such policies by informal means, harassing and even killing those who violated the rule. Some sundown towns similarly kept out Jews, Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans, or other groups.
In Texas in the 1930s and 1940s, as in much of the Southwest and California, most Mexican-American children attended, separate schools; by 1930, 90% of South Texas schools were segregated. In agricultural areas, many Mexican-Americans lived in “company towns” likeTaft Ranch and the King Ranch with all separate institutions. In northern and southern Colorado, companies created “company towns” where the “Others” could be hidden from view. Those who lived in these towns included poor working class whites, African Americans, and Latinos, along with immigrants from Asia and central and Eastern Europe.
In Texas, Mexicans were regarded as subhuman, lower than dogs or worse.On cattle drives to the railroad loading docks, there was a clear “racial” hierarchy between Mexicans and Anglos; the former were the workers, and the latter, the bosses. What is often lost because of the legendary kineÃ±os fairy tale, is that not all ranches and “company towns” provided the same living conditions like the King Ranch. It was very typical to find deplorable living conditions on Texas ranches where both Mexican and “white” laborers were employed, the Mexican workers were paid one-third less than “any white man.”
Mexican-Americans were also discriminated against in jury selection and in voting and were often shut out of public accommodations like swimming pools, theaters, pharmacies, restaurants, shops, banks and schools together with African Americans. At Anglo cafes, Mexicans could not stay in the premises and were required leave with their purchases. School segregation was established, reflecting the established general pattern of racial discrimination. Not only were Mexicans forced into segregated inferior schools, few of them were admitted to high schools.
According to historian David Montejano, in Texas, the general tendency for racial [tag]segregation[/tag] against Mexican Americans was to use ethnicity and national prejudice as a basis for separation and control the same way the segregationists in the South used it against African Americans during the same period. Thus, Mexican-Americans suffered many of the same Jim Crow practices as African Americans.
Because most people today equate Jim Crow with racial discrimination, it has now allowed towns like Farmers Branch to defend cultural discrimination and distinguish it from discrimination on the basis of race. The history of the twentieth-century Southwest shows why we cannot prohibit racial discrimination while allowing cultural discrimination. Because racism has expressed itself in cultural terms, race and culture cannot be disaggregated without ignoring the way cultural discrimination reinforces racial hierarchy.