Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The Hernandez v Texas case is a landmark case that proved that Mexican Americans were a class of their own. The incident leading up to the case involved an agricultural worker named Pete Hernandez. Hernandez was charged with the murder of Jose Espinoza.The issue with this case was not if Hernandez had killed Espinoza or not, but was because Hernandez was not granted a jury of his peers. Before this case, Mexican Americans were considered white. This in itself proved to be very problematic. By being considered white, Mexican Americans were left unprotected under laws put in place such as the 14th amendment. Another issue is that Mexican americans were considered white only when it was convenient to the majority. Examples of this would be that Mexican Americans were subjected to the same treatment as their African American counterparts, yet when faced with jail time, a jury of their peers was considered to be an all white jury. Taking this case to the Supreme Court was a risky move since lawyers, such as Gus Garcia and Carlos Cadena, had to prove that Mexican Americans were indeed a class apart to a panel of justices that had never heard of the term “Mexican American”. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in Hernandez’s favor, stating that denying access to Mexican Americans of a trial of their peers violated the US Constitution.
Issues that this case brings to life are equality for minorities, identity, and how the majority works against the minority in ways as significant as choosing a jury for a trial. The Hernandez case breaks down how race places a huge part in everyone’s lives. Lawyers, such as Gus Garcia and Carlos Cadena, provided evidence to support their claim. An example included how the Latino community was barred from establishments such as restaurants and movie theater, or were forced to sit in the back or on the sides. Another example is how even the restrooms in the courthouse were segregated. One was for whites, and the other said “Hombres Aqui” (Men Here). Both of these examples portray very clear and blatant acts of racism that would not be in effect if Mexican Americans truly were considered “white”. The case also highlights how white people can use the system against minorities and consider them “white” only when it works in their favor, such as forming a jury of their peers when a Mexican American is the defendant. White people would claim that since Mexican Americans are considered white, a jury of their peers consisting of all white men was determined to be fair. Even the state of Texas conceded that “for the last twenty-five years there is no record of any person with a Mexican or Latin American name having served on a jury commission, grand jury or petit jury in Jackson County” even though Mexican or Latin Americans made up about 15% of the county’s population. Being labeled “white” also left many Mexican American unprotected by laws made for minorities. An example of this would be the 14th amendment. The 14th amendment did not focus solely on issues such as discrimination and racism since it was based on a “two class theory”, meaning that the only two races to exist were “white and Negro”. The case also breaks down the meaning of the word “race” itself. The case highlights how there is nothing biological or stable about race. Race was merely a social construct that was fluid and whose definition changes throughout history. Thus it is possible for Mexican Americans to exist as a race of their own and not be thrown into the “white” category and be subjected to acts of discrimination and racism and only be associated with the label when it is convenient to the majority.
This is relevant to society today because minorities still face acts of racism and how you identity yourself can determine whether you’re safe or not. An example would be Trump’s allegations of building a wall and deporting Mexicans , and his recent signing of the bill that will make that allegation into a reality. What some fail to understand is that not only will President Trump deport illegal immigrants, but also natural born citizens with Hispanic sounding last names. History would repeat itself and follow in the footsteps of the Great Depression. During this time, up to 2 million Mexicans and Mexican Americans were deported; more than half of the deportees were US citizens. Will my race work against me and force me to me exiled to a country where I have never even visited? Why should a social construct that has held no real solidarity for more than a few years determine if I am American enough to not be held under scrutiny by my fellow Americans? The Hernandez v Texas case brought to light how the way you identify yourself can determine your very way of life. In today’s society, this issue has not changed. Minorities are still the subject of racism and suspicion and influential politicians will take advantage of this and instead of quashing these acts, they support them by saying things such as “Build a wall” and dehumanizing Mexicans to nothing but “rapists and criminals”.