Race Relations: African-Americans

Juan Crow practices have been compared to Jim Crow laws. Many African-American and Mexicano activists have discussed coalition politics and employed these tactics in order to fight discrimination within both communities.

Dr. Gutierrez discusses an example of intercultural misunderstanding, Mexicano solidarity, and coalition politics in aiding Lee Otis, a SNCC activist:

“I’ll tell you one funny story. There was a SNCC activist by the name of Lee Otis Johnson who was entrapped in – and just like in the Las Vegas/New Mexico story – they found four seeds of Marijuana in his ashtray, and they gave him 99 years in prison. Preston Smith was the governor. This is the same governor who had segregated theaters in west Texas out of Lubbock. That was his claim to fame. So there were protests to “Free Lee Otis.” So when we showed up to protest the governor chanting, “Free Lee Otis”, in the media the next day, the Preston Smith is quoted saying, I did not understand what these Mexicans wanted. They kept shouting Frijoles! Frijoles!… That’s what he heard… ” – José Angel Gutiérrez

Renny Rosas describes his experience about identifying with African-American students in a primarily Anglo school:

“I was like, hanging around with the Blacks, because I felt out of place too. You know, I can remember my aeronautics instructor putting his arm around me and he said, why don’t you hang around with these white boys and try to better yourself instead of hang around with these nig*****. And I just pushed his arm off of me and I said, you know, I’m good enough already.” – Renny Rosas

In segregated Texas, Mexicanos experienced a form of segregation that was similar to that of African-Americans. However, it was unclear where Mexicanos fit when amenities were labelled “white or colored.” Eva Bonilla recounts her experience with being confused where Mexicanos fit in this color scale:

““I had to go to the bathroom. So, my grandmother, she tells me in Spanish – and she didn’t speak English that well even though she had lived here all her life – she says to go downstairs on the moving escalators, that’s the way it’s translated, and go to the bathroom. Well, when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I see colored and white, for women. And I’m thinking, I have to be colored – I tan, I color, I am definitely colored… So I went in the colored bathroom, and when I went into the colored bathroom, the ladies that were there they said “Honey, you don’t belong here.” And I quickly just left and went into the white bathroom. And when I went into the white bathroom, the ladies there made me feel like I didn’t belong either.” – Eva Bonilla


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