“to classify these people here as ‘colored’ is to jumble them in as Negroes” (Maury Maverick, qtd. in Foley)

The real issue over racial classification was clearly as much about Mexican racial pride as it was about fear over discrimination. In Texas, Mexicans endured the injuries of discrimination daily. Middle-class Mexican Americans needed to believe that segregation stemmed from Anglo ignorance of Mexico’s history and the fact that many middle-class Mexicans, like their Anglo counterparts, actually believed that whites were superior to both Indians and Africans. Mexican Americans did not necessarily acquire a belief in white racial supremacy in the United States, although it was certainly reinforced there whenever one encountered blacks and Indians in the United States.[23]

These mostly middle-class Mexicans were not simply content to deny any “negro ancestry.” For many Mexicans and Mexican Americans, “colored” meant racial inferiority, social disgrace, and the total absence of political rights–in short, the racial equivalent of Indian and Negro.[24] In their injunction against the El Paso city registrar, for example, they cited an Oklahoma law that made it libelous to call a white person “colored.”[25] Mexican Americans in San Antonio, who joined the campaign to change the classification scheme, sent a resolution adopted by various LULAC councils to U.S. Representative Maury Maverick, a liberal Texas Democrat, to register their “most vigorous protest against the insult thus cast upon our race.”[26] Maverick wrote to the director of the Census Bureau in Washington, D.C., that “to classify these people here as ‘colored’ is to jumble them in as Negroes, wich [sic] they are not and which naturally causes the most violent feelings.” He urged the director to include another category called “other white,” and argued that the classification of Mexicans as “colored” was simply inaccurate, because “people who are of Mexican or Spanish descent are certainly not of African descent.”[27] An irate Mexican American evangelist wrote that if Mexicans were colored, then [133] Senator Dennis Chavez of New Mexico, who was the first U.S. senator of Mexican descent, “will have his children classified as Negroes. Then Uncle Sam can hang his face in shame before the civilized nations of the world.”[28]

Neil Foley, "Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and Their Problem with the Color Line," in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, ed. Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 123-144 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 204), 132-133.
  1. [23]García, “Mexican Americans and the Politics of Citizenship,” p. 189.
  2. [24]El Continental, Oct. 6 and 25, 1936, CCC.
  3. [25]Collins v. State, 7. A. L. R., 895 (Okla.) in petition presented to the District Court of El Paso, M. A. Gomez et al., v. T. J. McCamant and Alex Powell, Oct., 1936, CCC.
  4. [26]LULAC Resolution, San Antonio Council no. 16 and Council no. 2, Oct. 14, 1936, CCC.
  5. [27]Maury Maverick to William L. Austin, Oct. 15, 1936, CCC; see also Calleros to Mohler, Oct. 9, 1936, CCC.
  6. [28]Herald-Post, Oct. 8, 1936, CCC.

“Such a conflation created a two-race system–whites and ‘others.'” (Deutsch)

When Harjo and his fellow Snakes returned gunfire, two men, including the son of the sheriff, died in the battle. The white newspapers had a field day, vastly inflating the numbers killed and declaring “WAR WITH SNAKES.” Posses roamed the countryside arresting Indians and blacks. They burned Harjo’s house and looted others, under the guise of putting down a rebellion. White papers demanded “protection and Indian suppression”; the mayor of Henryetta declared, “The Snake Indians and the negroes affiliated with them are a menace to the country and should be captured.”[46] The local federal Indian agent maintained that Harjo would have to admit that “this was going to be a white man’s country.”[47]

The white posse and its allies had strategically conflated freedmen from everywhere, blacks of all sorts, and Creek resisters. Such a conflation created a two-race system–whites and “others.” In this case, “blacks” (unlike in the state’s constitution) became “Indians.” Engaging the script of the Anglo western conquest allowed these whites to pose the eradication of a black settlement as a final Indian engagement, a legitimized whitening of the West against a known external enemy.

Sarah Deutsch, "Being American in Boley, Oklahoma," in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, ed. Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 97-122 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 204) Deutsch, Sarah. “Being American in Boley, Oklahoma,” in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, edited by Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 97-122. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004., 113.
  1. [46]Quoted in Littlefield and Underhill, “The ‘Crazy Snake Uprising,'” pp. 323-24.
  2. [47]Kelsey quoted in Kenneth Waldo McIntosh, “Chitto Harjo, The Crazy Snakes and the Birth of Indian Political Activism in the Twentieth Century” (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Christian University, 1993), p. 136. The troops never found Harjo, who had sought refuge among the Choctaw Snakes and died in 1911.