The case Mendez V. Westminster was the first court case that stopped segregation in all the school systems of the state of California. The Mendez case was used to back up the Brown vs. Board of Education case and helped shape the ideas of a young NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall, it very surprising to people to see that Thurgood Marshall was also a lawyer in the Mendez case. The NCAAP contributed their part in the Struggle for Desegregation. This was great because it forced two different ethnicities and cultures join for the same cause, which was to have the same education as white individuals and to desegregate school campuses. On April 1947 there was a decision ruling on the Mendez vs. the Board of Education.
The United States of America Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco ruled in favor of Mendez and the other parents that stood up to the Westminster School District. Judge McCormick stated that “according to California Laws the segregation of Mexican-American public-school children in the absence of a state law mandating their segregation violate California law as well as the equal protection of the law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S.
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Constitution. The reason this lawsuit did not go all the way to the Supreme Court was because in the Court’s ruling, it noted that the United States Supreme Court’s segregation decisions were not controlling because, at this time, there was no Hispanic race; In this era all Mexican Americans were considered Caucasian.This case could not have gone to the Supreme Court because the law of the state said nothing about segregating Mexican Americans in the Constitution. As the Mexican and Mexican American population started to increase in California, more white Americans started getting scared; this led to segregation in schools. Not only were schools getting segregated, but housing was also being segregated as well.
It all started in 1945 with Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, who were new to the city and had just moved to a farm in Westminster. The reason they moved to Westminster was because they had leased a farm there from a Japanese family, due to Roosevelt’s executive order 9066. As the Mendez family sent their kids to the public school closest to their neighborhood one early morning, which was the Seventeenth Street School, Westminster, in Orange County.The parents were shocked when both kids had to return, because they could not attend the school do to their race. They had to attend the Mexican American School that was further away. That was not the only case, the Mexican American schools that were built for the children, were unethical. The 17th Street School was not only brand new, but it also had had a beautiful playground, it had a nice cafeteria, it had good educators that could help the students, and a non-electronic fence. The link between Mexican Americans and African Americans in the struggle for desegregation has been obscured with time.
Successfully, the legal dream team of the Mendez defeated the defense as the Court of Appeals supported Judge McCormick’s earlier decision which claimed the segregation of Mexican American children violated the Fourteenth Amendment. McCormick’s decision ushered in the end of segregation and a new bill, entitled “The Anderson Bill.” The Bill passed the California Assembly and the Senate and was signed into law by California Governor Earl Warren in June of 1947. By September of 1947, Mexican American children were able to attend integrated schools in Orange County.
The Mendez v. Westminster School District case broke down legalized segregation and illuminated conditions of systematic racism and discrimination which was prevalent not only in California but the rest of the country.