FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Scapegoating Mexicans is an American Tradition

by MICKEY Z.

Zoot suit, white jacket with side vents
five inches long I’m out on the street again
and I’m leaping along
I’m dressed right for a beach fight
but I just can’t explain
Why that uncertain feeling
is still here in my brain

From “Cut My Hair,” The Who

Imagine a time when Mexicans bore the brunt of patriotic (sic) fervor: physically threatened, targeted by legislation, an easy scapegoat for working class frustration. Surely I’m talking about 2006 AmeriKKKa, right? You know…the fascist police state ruled by Nazi Dubya and his cadre of brown shirts who cynically exploit good vs. evil rhetoric in the name of furthering their global agenda.

Well…not so fast. Sorry to disappoint the lesser-evil crowd but this time, I was referring to events that climaxed 63 years ago this week…during the reign of liberal (sic) hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt who cynically exploited good vs. evil rhetoric in the name of furthering his global agenda.

During the good (sic) war, young Mexican workers entered the U.S. en masse in response to a worker shortage on the Pacific coast. Over time, some Latino youths formed gangs and dressed almost exclusively in zoot suits. A zoot suit, as described by authors Walter Glanze and Jerome Agel, is made up of a “very long jacket, flared at the bottom, with exaggeratedly padded, boxy shoulders, and pegged sleeves. The trousers are pleated at the waistline, cut very wide over the hips, and taper to such narrow bottoms that men with big feet have trouble slipping the pants on.”

While the zoot suit eventually attained widespread popularity in the mainstream, it also became a pejorative synonym for “Mexican” on the West Coast as some Americans took umbrage at so many able-bodied young men who were not “helping to win the war.” To the local white population of Los Angeles, the manufacture of the zoot suit was a glaring example of waste in a time that demanded sacrifice in the name of defending democracy (as it were). This perception inevitably led to racist violence sparked by angry white soldiers on leave.

“In June 1943, the ‘zoot suit’ riots exploded in Los Angeles,” says historian Michael C.C. Adams. “For almost a week, off-duty white enlisted personnel roamed the streets, assaulting Hispanics.”

Mexicans and blacks “were dragged into the streets by soldiers and civilians,” wrote Agel and Glanze, where they were “stripped and beaten.” The response of the Los Angeles city council was positively Bush-like. Rather than address the issues of cheap labor and racism, they made it a misdemeanor to wear a zoot suit.

Racist scapegoating: an American tradition…brought to you with bipartisan support.

MICKEY Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.

 

 

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here. This piece first appeared at World Trust News.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail