Photo (Russell Lee) via The University of Texas
Ashley Perez just wrote a post for Latin@s in Kid Lit about her upcoming novel, which details the 1937 explosion at a school in New London, Texas. (You can read a selection here.) With this novel, she intends to throw a spotlight on the segregation practices in Texas and the Southwest during the first few decades of the twentieth century. As you may or may not know, Texans practiced not only black/white segregation but also Chican@/Anglo* segregation.
What's disturbing is the fact that I (a born and raised Texan) wasn't aware of this latter type of segregation until fairly recently. Sure, I'd learned about black/white segregation throughout my school years, and I knew that Texans, as Southerners, had engaged in this unjust practice, but that's it.
A few years ago, however, at a Thanksgiving dinner with a friend and her family, and I heard the truth from her grandparents, who had grown up in the 1950s-60s and, as Mexican Americans, faced injustice and discrimination. In those days, the "Americanization" of Mexican immigrant and Chican@ students was common, and educators banned Spanish and devalued Mexican cultural practices in many Texas schools. (Sadly, the fear of "foreign" languages and cultures is still a problem in schools all over the US.)
Why didn't I learn about this as a child? We performed a play about Texas in first grade, and I took Texas History in fourth and seventh grade -- and as far as I can remember, there was never any mention of Chican@/Anglo segregation. That's why we need authors like Ashley Perez, who highlight these historical events in their writing. I can only hope that current Texas History textbooks discuss segregation in more detail, and I intend to find out.
What are some historical perspectives in your state that need more attention? Shine a light on forgotten events and make voices from the past heard!
*Chican@ is a term that refers to US residents of Mexican descent. (Nowadays, many people put the "@" at the end of the word make the word more inclusive by blending the masculine ending "o" and the feminine ending "a.") Anglo refers to people of European descent.