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California Indians Encounter Racism

The disastrous experience of the California Indians with white racism found expression in 1902 in the testimony by Cecilio Blaektooth, the “Captain of the Indians” living in Warner Ranch in Southern California to an Indian Commission. His testimony is reproduced in Douglas Monroy, Thrown Among Strangers: The Making of Mexican Culture in Frontier California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), p. 270:

“You see that graveyard over there? There are our fathers and grandfathers. You see that Eagle Nest Mountain and that Rabbit-Hole Mountain? When God made them he gave us this place. We have always been here. We would rather die here. Our fathers did. We cannot leave them. . . .If Harvey Downey says he owns this place, that is wrong. The Indians were [always] here.”

“If you [the Commission] do not buy this place [to make it a pro­tected reservation], we will go into the mountains like quail and die there, the old people and the women and children. Let the government be glad and proud. It can kill us. We do not fight. We do what it says. If we cannot live here, we want to go into those mountains and die.”

Mexican Immigrants Encounter Racism

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For Mexican immigrants coming to California in the early twentieth century, the encounter with Anglo culture was often harsh and hurtful. A Mexican corrido (folk song), titled “El Deportado,” expresses the initial shock of border crossing at a time (c. 1930) when immigrants were especially vulnerable to immediate deportation in hard economic times. From George J. Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 14:

 It must have been about ten at night,

the train began to whistle,

I heard my mother say, “There comes that ungrateful train

that is going to take my son.”

“Goodbye my beloved mother, give me your blessings.

I am going to a foreign land, where there is no revolution.”

Run, run little train, let’s leave the station.

I don’t want to see my mother cry for her beloved son,

for the son of her heart.”

Finally the bell rang, the train whistled twice.

“Don’t cry my buddies, for you’ll make me cry as well.”

Right away we passed Jalisco, my, how fast the train rap. La Picdad, then Irapuato, Silado, then La Chona, and Aguas Calientes as well.

We arrived at Juarez at last, there I ran into trouble. “Where are you going, where do you come from? How much money do you have to enter this nation?”

“Gentlemen, I have money so that I can emigrate.” “Your money isn’t worth anything, we have to bathe you.”

Oh, my beloved countrymen, I am just telling you this, That I was tempted to go right back across.

At last I crossed the border, and left with a labor agent. And there, dear countrymen, was much that I endured.


For Mexican immigrants who raised families in Southern California, the clash between traditional-minded parents and “Americanized” children could be both comic and tragic. A father lamenting his daughter’s insistence on bobbing her hair—“flapper” style—during the 1920’s, from Douglas Monroy, Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles: From the Great Migration to the Great Depression (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 177:

My Lupe says she will bob her beautiful hair, if I say,  “yes,”  or if I say, “no.” What makes her like that? She knows that her father will beat her if she does not mind us. Since we have been in the United States she has always been a good girl, until now when, she says that she will do  what she wants. She says that we are funny and that we want her to be funny and like the old people, too. Do you  think that the girls will laugh at her in the school if she has long hair? The nurse says  for us to let her cut her hair, that it will be good for  the hair. Lupe: says it is her hair, and she will cut it if she wants to. She is young and she will not listen to the  ones who know more than she does.

Sexism in White and Black

The following two selections, written almost a century apart, capture similarities and differences between white women’s and black women’s encounter with sexism in the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

Deborah Dash Moore discusses their experiences with anti-Semitism:

Contrary to stereotypes that Jews wouldn’t fight, More than 550,000 Jews served in the U.S. military during World War II; about 11,000 were killed and more than 40,000 were wounded. Read the rest of this entry »

Facing Racism: Reminiscence of Chinese American Immigrant

Between the 1850s and the 1870s, tens of thousands of Chinese immigrated to the West Coast of the United States in search of opportunity. They worked in the gold mines and on the transcontinental railroad, but were subjected to violence and discrimination, ultimately leading to their segregation in “Chinatowns” and exclusion from further immigration under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Read the rest of this entry »

Facing Racism: Reminiscence of Japanese American Immigrant

The Japanese began immigrating to Hawaii (incorporated as a U.S. territorial possession in 1900) and the West Coast in significant numbers starting in the 1890s. Chinzen Kinjo, who arrived in Hawaii soon after 1900, described how Japanese plantation workers reacted to the despotic rule of the “lunas” or overseers—reminiscent of the racist abuses of Old South slave plantations. From Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, The Japanese American Family Album (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 50: Read the rest of this entry »

WARF’s “Person of the Decade”




The World Against Racism Foundation  (WARF) chooses its “Person of the Decade.”  

The choice is easy: Caster Semenya—the teenage track phenom who won in women’s 800m final of the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, only to be subjected to a battery of “sex verification tests” to determine whether or not she qualified to compete as a woman! Who better than Caster Semenya the possibilities and perils of the twenty-first century—and the prejudices against which our website was established to combat?  

Born in the South African village of Ga-Masehlong, she initially raised the eyebrows of neighbors by preferring “boyish” games to “girlish” dolls. Then, entering puberty, she developed a deep voice and a preference for pants suits over dresses. Clearly, this was more than an enough to make her a suspect character, though anatomically and psychologically she was a young woman with one master: to run faster than anybody else.  

Her real troubles began when  Athletics South Africa (ASA) and  officials of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)  conspired to lie and manipulate her into undergoing a scientific inquisition into her gender and identity—the results of which were selectively leaked to the media, further compromising her privacy. She was so upset she considered  boycotting—what a loaded term in her case!—the gold medal ceremonies in Berlin. Her South African coach resigned after admitting his complicity in the inquisition. South Africans exploded in indignation in what they considered an example “racism” in the form of gender discrimination. The  Minister for Sport and Recreation, Makhenkesi Stofile, retained legal counsel for her  “to make certain that her civil and legal rights and dignity as a person are fully protected.”  

What exactly can science tell us about Caster Semenya and many other people often called “intersex” or suffering “disorders of sexual development—terms which themselves are highly suspect—because they display physical characteristics of both sexes rather than one. Does her chromosomes xy (male) rather than xx (female)—the assumption of those who wanted to prevent her from competing as a woman. We don’t know for sure, but we do know that at least one in 20,000 individuals who look, feel, and act like women have an xy genotype buy a phenotype or physical characteristics that are female. One cause is so-called  “androgen insensitivity syndrome” inhibiting testosterone. High levels of testosterone—associated with being a male—produce muscle bulk that can translate into superior athletic performance.   

But even the International Olympic Committee (IOC)—which no longer officially tests to certify the gender of athletes—recognizes that a competitor with a “male” genotype but a “female” phenotype because of androgen insensitivity syndrome would not enjoy an unfair advantage over other female athletes.  Indeed, the IOC since 2004 has allowed  all transsexual athletes to compete in the Olympics under their “new” sex, beginning two years after their sex change operations.  

Someday, our modern day witch doctors may be replaced by real scientists who understand that “male” and “female” are not polar opposites but gradations on a wide spectrum of possibilities defining what is it to be human. When that day arrives, champions like Caster Semenya grow up without social stigma, invasive tests, and—not elective gender change surgery—but  coerced operations to change their gender.  

 Visit our website——for further context of gender stereotyping and discrimination as forms of racism.  

 Caster Semenya said all that needed to be said in a magazine interview: “God made me the way I am and I accept myself.”

About:Blogmaster Harold Brackman

Acting as Blog Master for the World Against Racism Foundation (WARF), I am a historian specializing in intergroup relations.