FORUM. WHITENESS AND OTHERS: MEXICAN AMERICANS AND AMERICAN LAW: "Another White Race:" Mexican Americans and the Paradox of Whiteness in Jury Selection Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2003 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Law and History Review

FORUM. WHITENESS AND OTHERS: MEXICAN AMERICANS AND AMERICAN LAW: "Another White Race:" Mexican Americans and the Paradox of Whiteness in Jury Selection

Spring, 2003

21 Law & Hist. Rev. 109

Author

CLARE SHERIDAN

Excerpt

In 1954, seventy-four years after the U.S. Supreme Court held that African Americans could not be banned from jury service by statute, and fifty-four years after it ruled that they could not be purposely excluded from venires due to their "race or color" through court, executive, or administrative action, 1 the Court found that Pete Hernandez had been denied equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. His constitutional rights were violated because of the de facto, systematic exclusion of Mexican Americans from the pool of potential jurors--and thus juries--in Jackson County, Texas. 2

In arguing the case before state courts, civil rights lawyers for the appellant were confronted with a paradox: because Mexican Americans were classified as white by the government and not as a separate race, lower courts held that they were not denied equal protection and there was no violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Attorneys for the state of Texas and judges in the state courts contended that the amendment referred only to racial, not "nationality," groups. Since Mexican Americans were tried by juries composed of their racial group--whites--their constitutional rights were not violated. Using rhetorical analysis, I discuss the implications of the arguments in Hernandez v. Texas, which held that "nationality" groups could be protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. I analyze the language used in this and other cases about jury selection to impart how community norms helped to define and circumscribe the meaning of citizenship for Mexican Americans, ...
 
 
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