Mexican-American Assimilation at the Turn of the 20th Century

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Mexican-American Assimilation at the Turn of the 20th Century

By | May 2013
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MISCONCEPTIONS AND STEREOTYPES

The first major wave of Mexican immigration during the twentieth century triggered physical as well as verbal attacks by white Americans. Immigrant labor camps were raided by whites espousing white supremacist beliefs. By 1911 certain politicians lobbied against further Mexican immigration. The Dillingham Commission argued that Mexicans were undesirable as future citizens. Nativist scholars and politicians feared "mongrelization" as a by-product of contact with Mexicans, and in 1925 a Princeton economics professor even spoke of the future elimination of Anglo Americans by interbreeding with Mexicans (Feagin and Feagin, p. 265). These themes reemerged in 1928 when a congressional committee attempted to set limits on immigration from the western hemisphere. Congressman John Box called for restrictions on Mexican immigration because the Mexican was a product of mixing by the Spaniard and "low-grade" Indians. This mixture, according to Boxer, was an obstacle to participation in American democracy.

The image of the Mexican American male possessing innate criminal tendencies emerged during the World War II era. For example, in 1943, following the Zoot Suit Riots, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department issued a report alleging that the Mexican American's desire to spill blood was an inborn characteristic. Further, the report concluded that Mexican Americans were violent because of their Indian blood (Feagin and Feagin, 265). And as late as 1969, a California judge ruling in an incest case reiterated similar racist beliefs. He stated in court: "Mexican people ... think it is perfectly all right to act like an animal. We ought to send you out of this country.... You are lower than animals ... maybe Hitler was right. The animals in our society probably ought to be destroyed" (Feagin and Feagin, p. 266).

One of the most persistent stereotypes is the image of simplemindedness. In 1982 the U.S. Department of Defense issued a report...

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