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14  Los Angeles was a white city in 1960; within a decade it became Mexican once more. The Mexican American student population rose to 22 percent by the end of the decade, doubling from 1960. Similar shifts took place throughout the Southwest, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. The inequality of education was on most people’s mind, calling attention to the unequal status of Mexican Americans in income, labor, and opportunity. Mexican Americans, in order to draw attention to their needs, advertised their underclass status and demanded a correction. According to the 1960 Census, the median years of schooling of Spanish-surname persons in California was 8.6 years, 4.8 years in Texas, 7.0 years in Arizona, and 7.4 years in New Mexico. Quickly the poor quality of education and demands to improve it became the standard for progress in other areas.1 From 1946 to 1964 the nation grew as 76 million babies were born in the United States. This new youth population played an important role in the 1960s, and the U.S. Census took on new importance. Before the Census count even started, Mexican American leaders were infuriated when they lumped all Latinas/os under the category of “Spanish-speaking,” making it difficult to derive accurate statistics. During the 1950s the growth rate among Latinas/os in the Southwest was 4.1 annually versus 3.1 for Euro-Americans; the 1960 Census dramatically undercounted 3,464,999 Spanish-surnamed persons in the Southwest who earned $968 per capita, compared with $2,047 for white Americans and $1,044 for nonwhites. California showed the most dramatic growth, from 760,453 to 1,426,538, surpassing Texas at 1,417,810. Some 42 percent of Spanish-surnamed children were under the age of fifteen, and the median age for the group was twenty years, compared to thirty for white Americans. Social segregation still existed, and in places like Texas and eastern Oregon “No Mexicans Allowed” signs were common.2 The organizational life of the Mexican American also expanded, and World War II and Korean veterans joined labor unions and political organizations. The careers of Edward R. Roybal (Los Angeles) and Henry B. González (San Antonio) were held up as examples of the existence of a “Sleeping Giant” and the untapped potential of the group. The Sixties and the Bean Count c h a p t e r 2 The sixties generation was shaped by World War II and postwar participation in government agencies such as the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, which was formed in 1957 in response to the disruptions at Little Rock, Arkansas, resulting from efforts to integrate public schools. In a dramatic confrontation, President Dwight Eisenhower was forced to call out the National Guard. The Civil Rights Commission was composed of a fifteen-member committee representing groups from various walks of life, including racial and ethnic groups. This partial victory began a struggle to put teeth into the commission, with enforcement powers coming only after prolonged battles in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans and southern Democrats opposed the creation of the commission. The bill set up “a five member commission to enforce anti-discrimination orders, through the courts if need be. The operation would be run by a $12,000-a-year executive director; commission members would be paid $5,000 a year.”3 The commission collected data and held hearings. Although painfully slow in coming, its findings laid the foundation for later civil rights legislation. While mostly focusing on African Americans, the expansion of the Latina/o communities in states such as California and Texas made them too large to ignore. Hearings in those states called attention to the plight of the Mexican American. The Chicago Defender reported in 1959: “The Commission said it expected the California hearings would yield much information in areas in which it has not previously had the opportunity to examine closely. It pointed to the existence in California of the Mexican-American and Oriental minorities and the continued large migration of Negroes to the State.” These were the first hearings the commission held in the West.4 California and Texas together numbered over three million Mexican Americans, and although they were gerrymandered, a number of legislators and Congress persons had critical numbers of Mexican Americans in their districts. The hearings held in San Francisco and Los Angeles were explosive: Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker testified that “Negroes commit 11 times as many...


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MARC Record
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