Four Questions For Malissa (Santiago Reading)

  1. What are the two narratives that are given that scholars and writers use as interpretations of the Mendez “story”?

2. What is excluded, or omitted, from the “first narrative” of the Mendez story, that makes it unacceptable to some who prefer a different narrative?

3. Why did Mexican Americans not face the same kind of legal discrimination/segregation as other ethnic/racial groups? What reasons could there be for it?

4. What happens when Mexicans are declared legally “white”, as happened in this case? What does it do to their identity and/or culture?

Replies To Malissa’s:

1.) How was Mendez v. Westminster different from Brown v. Board?

Though it could be argued that this case did on a state level that the former did on a national level, the case left out the language-based segregation, an omission that makes it different.

2.) Why did the children keep comparing Mendez as the precursor to Brown despite reading the “other white” narrative?

They do so because they can highlight the outcome – the judge’s ruling that Orange County schools could not legally segregate students – as a similarity of such importance that the two cases can be comparable.

3.) How would you teach the nuance of race and whiteness in your classroom?

I would teach it by illustrating the privileges that come with whiteness, and by making it very clear to students that this privilege has given what has been defined as “whites” a historical advantage. I think the most important thing when teaching race/whiteness is that students realize how discrimination is not just a sudden thing, or something that is “now over”, but something that has given different ethnicity and races different advantages or circumstances in the country. That being said, I also feel that it is vital to give all types of people agency in history studies, and I would be sure to include lessons that teach history from perspectives that we aren’t typically used to seeing, as this can be a way to bring in minority views while also teaching the “standards”.

4.) What does it mean to be “White?”

To me, being white means you look white. I only say it in that way because, though the real definition is more complex, outward appearance is what society judges people based on. While ethnicity and origin play a big role in it, what it means to be “white” in a realistic day-to-day basis is that you have a body that looks like a stereotypical white person. Even if someone is of a different race but looks white, that can be enough to, in society’s eyes, give them the privileges that whiteness can get you.


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