“We hear a lot about Brown v. Board (rightfully so!), but you hear very little about this groundbreaking court case that promoted integration for Latino kids!” – Gordon Wright
White – Black – Hispanic! Separate is Never Equal. March 2nd marks the anniversary of the Mendez family filing suit against Orange County to allow Mexican-American students to attend school with white children. We hear a lot of references to the Brown v. Board case but we rarely if ever hear about the groundbreaking Mendez vs Orange County court case that promoted integration for Latino kids. Brown lives matter! We are constantly reminded of the importance and need to continue to advocate to equal rights for all citizens from the great strides of Black Americans and others.
Women’s History Month is a great time to talk about why education is an important civil right. Sylvia Mendez is a pioneer in educational advocacy. Particularly for students of color who have faced severe and systemic segregation for generations. Just as we are still advocating for the continued growth and developed of Black history, we must also begin to embrace and advocate for equitable rights for the Hispanic communities, their inclusion and civil right to a quality education.
The Mendez family’s victory empowers equity for Hispanic communities. Some facts that you should know about the case:
On March 2, 1945 the Mendez family officially sued the county
After more than two years, on April 15, 1947, they won the case
Before the case desegregated California schools, Mexican-American students were forced to be in separate and unequal “Mexican schools.”
The Mendez family is the subject of the children’s book “Separate Is Never Equal”:
Sylvia Mendez – A Pioneer in Education
Sylvia Mendez is still alive and speaking today about the case. She is a true Latina hero for equity and reform, what they would call a Luchadora over at La Comadre. She has her own website where she tells her story. You can find it here: http://sylviamendezinthemendezvswestminster.com/. She has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Education was a critical stepping stone to her success. She completed Nursing school and throughout her career became the Assistant Nursing Director of the Pediatric Pavilion at the Los Angeles University of Southern California Medical Center. She is now retired from the medical profession. However, she believes that her story is a constant reminder to the heritage and history of Hispanic American citizens. We too have a story to tell as American citizens.
Her story is truly a motivational piece to help change the educational rights of Hispanic students in America: http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/background-mendez-v-westminster-re-enactment