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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the discrimination faced by Hispanic/Latino Americans and Asian Americans
  • Describe the influence of the African American civil rights movement on Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, and LGBT civil rights movements
  • Describe federal actions to improve opportunities for people with disabilities
  • Describe discrimination faced by religious minorities

Many groups in American society have faced and continue to face challenges in achieving equality, fairness, and equal protection under the laws and policies of the federal government and/or the states. Some of these groups are often overlooked because they are not as large of a percentage of the U.S. population as women or African Americans, and because organized movements to achieve equality for them are relatively young. This does not mean, however, that the discrimination they face has not been as longstanding or as severe.

Hispanic/latino civil rights

Hispanics and Latinos in the United States have faced many of the same problems as African Americans and Native Americans. Although the terms Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Hispanic usually refers to native speakers of Spanish. Latino refers to people who come from, or whose ancestors came from, Latin America. Not all Hispanics are Latinos. Latinos may be of any race or ethnicity; they may be of European, African, Native American descent, or they may be of mixed ethnic background. Thus, people from Spain are Hispanic but are not Latino.

“Hispanic v. Latino,” http://www.soaw.org/resources/anti-opp-resources/108-race/830-hispanic-vs-latino (April 10, 2016).

Many Latinos became part of the U.S. population following the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 and of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado following the War with Mexico in 1848. Most were subject to discrimination and could find employment only as poorly paid migrant farm workers, railroad workers, and unskilled laborers.

David G. Gutierrez. 1995. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity . Berkeley: University of California Press, chapter 1.
The Spanish-speaking population of the United States increased following the Spanish-American War in 1898 with the incorporation of Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory. In 1917, during World War I, the Jones Act granted U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

In the early twentieth century, waves of violence aimed at Mexicans and Mexican Americans swept the Southwest. Mexican Americans in Arizona and in parts of Texas were denied the right to vote, which they had previously possessed, and Mexican American children were barred from attending Anglo-American schools. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Mexican immigrants and many Mexican Americans, both U.S.-born and naturalized citizens, living in the Southwest and Midwest were deported by the government so that Anglo-Americans could take the jobs that they had once held.

See Abraham Hoffman. 1974. Unwanted Americans in the Great Depression: Repatriation Pressures, 1929–1939 . Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
When the United States entered World War II, however, Mexicans were invited to immigrate to the United States as farmworkers under the Bracero ( bracero meaning “manual laborer” in Spanish) Program to make it possible for these American men to enlist in the armed services.
See Michael Snodgrass. 2011. “The Bracero Program,1942–1964” In Beyond the Border: The History of Mexican–U.S. Migration , ed. Mark Overmyer-Velásquez. New York: Oxford University Press, 79–102.

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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