A Microcosm of Segregated Education

This week, while reading the court transcript of the Mendez v. Westminster the importance of studying the segregation in Topeka became more apparent. The separate schooling of Mexican American students in Southern California started as an effort to teach English to parents that could not speak English; the idea was that the children would learn English at school and go home and teach their parents English. But in 1910, the Mexican Revolution forced Mexican citizens to move to the United States, the underlying discriminatory sentiments of segregated education became apparent. Additionally, when the United States began fighting in World War II the foreign policy of the US both reflected and affected the domestic landscape of ethnicity and race. In his article “Richard Kiuger’s Simple Justice: Race, Class, and United States Imperialism,” Gilbert G. Gonzalez, a professor at the University of California Irvine, explores the way Imperialism reinforced the discrimination of minorities in the United States.

Gonzalo Mendez

So how does Topeka fit into all of this? Well Topeka’s segregation became a miniature version of the complicated mess in the Southwest. Since Topeka could segregate all of it’s Latino students into one school — the historic Branner Annex school — it’s easier to track the evolution of this one school through the years. The effect of the Mexican Revolution, World War II, and the “Americanization” movement were all concentrated on one school. Furthermore, the Mexican population in Topeka and Kansas was very different from the populations in the Southwest. Unlike the states on the southwest border of the US, Kansas was not originally part of Mexico so this was the first state where a large immigrant population moved to. Unlike immigrants in California or Texas who were surrounded by Spanish roots in city names and street names (San Diego, Santa Ana, Santa Monica, Los Angeles), immigrants in Kansas confronted truly foreign names like Dodge City, Garden City, and Topeka. Ultimately what happened in Topeka, Kansas was a naturally formed laboratory experiment where Latinos fell into the turbulent and perpetually changing American landscape.

Old Mexico

Update on the film screening event

We are proceeding to advertise about the Latino Film Series at the end of July. We have secured a total of five speakers for the events. Virginia Espino will have a Q&A for the first week’s film. And Kansas House of Representative members John Alcala, Louise Ruiz, Valdenia Winn, and Ponka-We Victors will hold a panel discussion on the state of ethnic studies in Kansas after the second week’s film. Looking forward to this event.



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