Both Hispanic and Native Americans experienced severe discrimination and prejudice in the USA, just as Black American’s did. By the 1960’s a great deal of change had occurred within the USA, especially concerning the Civil Rights Movement of Black Americans where progress was made. In the late 1960’s racial protests broadened to include campaigns from Native and Hispanic American’s who fought for a better status within America.
Native American’s were able to improve their status through two pan-Indian groups, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC).In 1960 there were 523,591 Native American’s living in America, with the large majority living on reservations. By 1968, 42% were living in urban areas like Oklahoma, California assisted by government-sponsored relocation programmes. Native American status was also improved when 56 reservations were turned into ‘redevelopment areas’ when the head of BIA, Dr Philleo Nash worked closely with Native American leaders. This means that these areas could then receive government funding to improve their living conditions and community. In addition, the 1967 Indian Resources Development Act allowed Native American tribes to sell and mortgage their land to raise financial resources for their communities. This shows that Native American lives were improved by the late 1960’s.
However, despite these improvements, there are many things that didn’t change for Native American’s. Living standards were extremely poor with 80-95% of housing classed as in a ‘dilapidated, makeshift, unsanitary and crowded condition” where the national average was only 8%. This shows that Native American’s were right at the bottom end of the scale, economically and socially, within America. Also, the health of Native American’s was horrific, with the death rate of tuberculosis being four times the national average and the life expectancy at just 44 years old when the national average was 20 years older at 64. They also experienced discrimination in the work place. Unemployment was extremely high, with an estimated figure of 42% out of work showing that de facto discrimination was a huge issue. Of those that did work, nearly two-thirds were employed in low paid seasonal farm activities and only 3% had industrial jobs. To add to this, of the 32,000 Native American’s on Navajo reservations in 1965, only 8000 had a job which paid a regular wage. This proves that discrimination causes huge unemployment which led to poor housing conditions and ill health. And to make bad matters worse, a study of 19,000 Oklahoma Indians found that almost half didn’t receive welfare benefits. With low pay, high unemployment rates, extremely high death rates and no welfare benefits, a great deal of the problems Native American’s had to deal with were not improving.
Hispanic American campaigners also campaigned, striked and boycotted in an attempt to improve their social standing. In 1965 the National Farm Workers Association began a boycott of the grape growers in Delano, California to gain greater economic rights for Chicano farm workers. The strike lasted for five years. In 1966 Chávez and his followers began a 340-mile trek from Delano to the state capitol in Sacramento to bring the plight of the farm workers to national attention. The march started with 75 people and ended in a rally of 10,000 people on the capitol steps. That same year Schenley Vineyards and the NFWA negotiated the nation’s first union contract between a grower and a farm union. As the grape strike continued and the story of the farm workers became more widely known in the United States and abroad, many Americans rallied to their cause and joined the boycott of table grapes. This shows that Hispanic American’s did have an effect on the economy and had a large group of supporters willing to fight alongside them. Even though the grape strike was very effective with 17 million American’s refusing to buy Californian grapes, it took a long time as it wasn’t until 1970 for more than 65 percent of California’s grape growers to sign contracts with the UFW. One really strong step forward for Hispanic Americans was the election of Edward Roybal, head of MAPA, to the House of Representatives in 1962. This shows that the Hispanic’s were making progress as this was a huge step up for a race of American’s who had spent so long beneath the surface of prejudice.
Although there was some progress and there was also many parts of Hispanic American life that hadn’t change. De facto segregation in schools and public entertainment, such as cinemas and swimming pools still existed in many parts of the USA. Though this were localised pockets rather than wide spread, racial prejudice still occurred within the states when progress towards equality was meant to be being made showing that their position in society was still very low. In towns like El Paso and San Diego, where Hispanic American’s were the majority of the population, boundaries were gerrymandered so that it was difficult for them to elect their own representatives. This is one example of the discrimination that Hispanic American’s faced, as even though they held the power in that town, their white counterparts wouldn’t allow them their right to elect their candidate successfully. In addition, white police treatment of Hispanics was often extremely prejudiced. A case where a white police officer was alleged to have shot and consequently killed a Mexican was eventually abandoned on the grounds that a conviction in such a case was unlikely. This proves just how much discrimination they were subject to, very similar to the racist discrimination Black American’s had to deal with in the Deep South. Finally, the federal government were less sympathetic towards Hispanics (in comparison to Black Americans) as their low numbers within the American population meant that they wouldn’t have a strong power in elections. This meant that the government did very little to help the plight of the Hispanic American and instead simply brushed them under the carpet. Collectively this shows that although there were some advances in Hispanic rights in society, a lot of the problems weren’t solved and so not a lot changed.
In conclusion, many changes in favour of Native and Hispanic American’s did occur such as 56 reservations being turned into ‘redevelopment areas’ to gain federal aid and a Hispanic American was elected to the House of Representatives, which shows that there was some improvement in their status. However the large majority of the problems they faced still remained. This included de facto discrimination which caused low employment, low wages and therefore horrid living conditions as well as low electoral power which meant that Native and Hispanic Americans were unable to make change legally as they had no representatives. So despite large effort on the part of the campaigners and some small changes, the improvement of Hispanic and Native American status was minimal by the late 1960’s.