Westminster High School (Westminster CA) Dedicates New Learning Pavilion In Honor Of Sylvia Mendez – A Central Figure In Legal Fight To Integrate Local Schools Years Before Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board (1954)

Sylvia Mendez knows a thing or two about breaking barriers. But, as she noted Wednesday, this may have been her first time cutting a ceremonial ribbon.

Not far from where she and her brothers were denied enrollment at a school because of their Mexican heritage, setting in motion a landmark desegregation case with national reverberations, the civil rights icon visited Westminster High School to help dedicate a brand new learning pavilion named in her honor.

“I am very aware how much work went into putting this together,” Mendez said. “Muchísimas gracias. I am so grateful, and so thank you. Thank you very much.”

On an outside wall, a towering mural created by artist Chuck Adame — with the help of fellow artists Israel “Ezra” Cervantes and Jose Joaquin — captures both the vision of the pavilion and the significance of Mendez v. Westminster.

The dignified profile of Sylvia Mendez occupies the top left corner of the mural, along with the year her case was resolved. Also depicted are her parents, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, the Presidential Medal of Freedom she was awarded in 2011, a blindfolded Lady Justice, books with the term “equality” written on their spines in multiple languages, and the Japanese kanji character for “harmony.” The latter symbolizes the family’s bond with members of the Munemitsu family who leased their farmland to the Mendezes after being ordered to an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

This story begins in 1943, also in Westminster. That’s where Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez tried to enroll Sylvia and her brothers, Geronimo and Gonzalo, at 17th Street School, known as “the white school.”

But district officials directed the family to Hoover Elementary, a campus for Mexican American children. Sylvia Mendez, just 8 years old at the time, would later describe Hoover as “a terrible little shack” with dirt for a playground.

Her parents hired a local attorney, who later consolidated the case with four other Orange County families who were willing to take legal action. Mendez, et al v. Westminster claimed that 5,000 children throughout the county were unjustly harmed by unconstitutional segregation policies.

The families won a groundbreaking victory in the U.S. District Court in 1946 that was upheld by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the following year. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Brown v. Board of Education decision, which asserted that all laws promoting school segregation were unconstitutional.

Gonzalo Mendez died in 1964, and Felicitas Mendez died in 1998. In accordance with her mother’s wishes, Sylvia Mendez has spent much of her post-retirement life speaking publicly about the case and talking to students about the importance of education.

She’s now 85, and there is little doubt that her efforts to raise awareness have been successful, expanding the case’s profile across the country.

The Santa Ana Unified School District opened Gonzalo Felicitas Mendez Fundamental Intermediate School in 2000. More recently, the Westminster School District rededicating its central office with a marquee that reads, “Westminster School District, In Honor of La Familia Mendez.” And last year, Felicitas Mendez became the subject of a Google Doodle.

Meanwhile, OCDE has teamed up with the city of Westminster to construct a local trail, park and monument that will honor Mendez v. Westminster and its legacy.

“In Mendez v. Westminster there was no violence, I have to tell you,” she said. “People came together to right a wrong. It took my parents and the other families a lot of courage. This court case is all about the struggle for equal education and for basic human rights.”

Source: OCDE Newsroom

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‘Forgotten By Society’ – How Chinese Migrants Built The Transcontinental Railroad

When one thinks of the transcontinental railroad, rarely do Chinese migrants come to mind. But in a new exhibition at the National Museum of American History in Washington, a vital revision is presented.

Until spring 2020, Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad peels back the layers to see who else should be commemorated during the recent 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion – an achievement which has typically been celebrated with photos of old locomotives, successful-looking men in suits and anonymous workers hammering away.

But this exhibition takes a different tack, tracing the forgotten Chinese workers who built the western leg of the railroad across the Sierra Nevada mountains, connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad in 1869.

“Historians have always known and written about the Chinese workers, but it’s forgotten by society,” said Peter Liebhold, who co-curated the exhibit with Sam Vong. “We’ve forgotten the contribution of these workers, and in fact, we forget the contribution of all workers. We tend to focus on the achievement of the few and not the stories of the average everyday person.”

Ittells the story of Chinese workers through old maps, detailing where they worked, their labor materials – from conical hats to miner’s picks – and photos, showing the tents they lived in, their working conditions and their nomadic lifestyle.

“The artifacts on view are meant to help visitors understand how forgotten workers had to endure hazardous, unfair conditions, in addition to backbreaking labor,” said Leibhold. “The 150th anniversary is not just about completing a railroad, but the workers involved.”

From 1863 and 1869, roughly 15,000 Chinese workers helped build the transcontinental railroad. They were paid less than American workers and lived in tents, while white workers were given accommodation in train cars.

Chinese workers made up most of the workforce between roughly 700 miles of train tracks between Sacramento, California, and Promontory, Utah. During the 19th century, more than 2.5 million Chinese citizens left their country and were hired in 1864 after a labor shortage threatened the railroad’s completion.

The work was tiresome, as the railroad was built entirely by manual laborers who used to shovel 20 pounds of rock over 400 times a day. They had to face dangerous work conditions – accidental explosions, snow and rock avalanches, which killed hundreds of workers, not to mention frigid weather.

“All workers on the railroad were ‘other’,” said Liebhold. “On the west, there were Chinese workers, out east were Irish and Mormon workers were in the center. All these groups are outside the classical American mainstream.”

The exhibition features a century-old pair of chopsticks, as well as canisters for tea and soy sauce. The railroad company provided room and board to white workers, but Chinese workers had to find their own meals, which were often brought to them from local merchants.

There are also miner’s picks and shovels, conical hats, as well as photos of the camp sites where the workers lived in Nevada in 1869. There are photos, as well, of the Native Americans, many of whom protested against the building of the railway in 1869, which displaced the Lakota, Shoshone, Cheyenne and other communities.

The Chinese workers were educated and organized; 3,000 laborers went on strike in 1867 to demand equal wages, as the white workers were paid double.

“They were unsuccessful because they were out in the middle of nowhere,” said Liebhold. “The railroad stopped them from getting food. That’s one way it failed.”

One telling photo on view is a shot of the Union Pacific board members sitting in a business class train car from 1869. By paying laborers a low wage, they were able to skim millions from the construction and get rich.

“Building railroads is often profitable but operating them isn’t necessarily, if you look at the history of railroads in the US,” said Liebhold. “To totally condemn the businessmen is challenging because they took huge risks raising money to build a railroad that was astronomically difficult. Many people didn’t think it was possible.”

There is one photo from 1869 that shows how the company commemorated the last hammered spike to complete the railroad, however, only one Chinese worker is in the photo. Many of the actual workers were left out.

This story could still be one which resonates with today’s America. “There’s no question this is a story about migrant labor,” he said. “Chinese workers were not citizens, weren’t allowed to become citizens. From the 1850s to 1882, they were tolerated in the US, but not accepted as peers.

“Then, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred immigrants from coming into US, unless you were a diplomat or a businessperson,” said Liebhold. “You’re always welcome if you’re affluent, then you’re allowed to come in.”

Source: The Guardian

Retired Fortune 100 Executive Thomas B. Walsh Answers To Why So Many People Settle For Low-Paying Jobs With Expensive College Degrees

“Settle” for low-paying jobs?

You can’t be serious, Dude.

There was a time in the US when you could get a great job if you earned a bachelor’s degree in “anything.”

The catch is that JFK was president at the time.

Most parents (and their students) are oblivious to how college really works today.

In some ways it is hard to blame them. Colleges and universities have a powerful public relations team, pushing the message 24/7 that “college is for all.”

The team is made up of educators, guidance counselors, financial aid officers, politicians, pop culture, special interest groups–like the College Board, and college administrators—who are the biggest beneficiaries. Their influence is everywhere.

Many, many years ago, my “anything” degree, Philosophy, was from a state university in fly-over country, better known for its football team than scholarship. (As I vaguely remember, my GPA wasn’t that robust either.)

However, I had a successful career in IT, and retired as an executive from a Fortune 100 company.

The bad news is that college doesn’t work that way anymore.

Years ago very few high school grads (7%) went on to college. (They tended to be the “smart kids.”) If you graduated with a degree in anything, i.e. English, Gender Studies, Comp-lit, Philosophy, etc., you could get a good job.

Over the years a greater and greater portion of high school grads answered the call,

“You have to go to college!”

We are now at 45%. Probably half these teenagers don’t have the “academic firepower” to handle a serious, marketable major.

Back in the day having a college degree was a big deal. By the year 2000, the quality of a college education had deteriorated significantly, and college grads were a-dime-a-dozen. There were too many graduates, but not enough suitable jobs.

Then we got hit with the Great Recession of 2008.

In the US almost anyone can find a college or university that will accept them and their parent’s money.

You might even manage to graduate with some degree or another.

The problem comes when you try to find a real job. Employers aren’t stupid. They are going to sort through that gigantic stack of resumes and find the smart kids.

Today college is a competition for a relatively few (1,100,000) well-paying, professional jobs. Every year colleges and universities churn out 1,900,000 graduates with shiny new bachelor’s degrees. We don’t know the exact number, but a heck of a lot of minimum wage jobs are held by young people with college degrees in stuff like English, Gender Studies, Comp-lit, Philosophy, etc.

Given the high cost of college, that just doesn’t make any economic sense.

PS

The “Anything” Degree

Two decades ago in his book, Another Way To Win, Dr. Kenneth Gray coined the term “one way to win.” He described the OWTW strategy widely followed in the US as:

  • “Graduate from high school.
  • Matriculate at a four-year college.
  • Graduate with a degree in anything.
  • Become employed in a professional job.”

Dr. Gray’s message to the then “academic middle” was that this was unlikely to be a successful strategy in the future. The succeeding twenty years have proven him inordinately prescient and not just for the “academic middle.”

The simple explanation is that it comes down to “supply” (graduates) and “demand” (suitable jobs).

Fifty years ago only seven percent of high school graduates went on to college. In post-WW II America our economy was booming while the economies of many European and Asian countries were–only slowly–being rebuilt. The “Law of Supply and Demand” strongly favored the freshly minted college graduate.

Parents and students noticed how college really paid off, and the “great gold rush” to the halls of higher learning began.

Today my local, Midwest run-of-the-mill high school sends eighty percent of their graduates on to college.

Most of them are going to be very disappointed.

Source: Quora

Wisconsin Man Arrested and Charged with Disorderly Conduct and a Hate Crime ‘Enhancer’ After Harassing Asian Americans at Grocery Store; May Face Up to 90 Days in Jail and a $10,000 Fine

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Police have arrested a 57-year-old white man who was allegedly harassing a group of Hmong Americans at a grocery store in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, WAOW reports.

According to the police, the incident occurred on May 12 at a Save Lot grocery store near Church St. Authorities say 57-year-old Robert Shrote, who was highly intoxicated, began shouting “loud, derogatory racial comments” at a group of Hmong Americans who walked into the Save Lot wearing masks.

Source: AsAmNews