Shelley Tang

Mendez v. Westminster: Making Mexicans White
  
US History
Volume 8 | Issue II | June 2024
Noble and Greenough School ’25
Massachusetts, USA
  
My interest in education policy began in the 8th grade when I wrote a research paper on Brown v. Board of Education. While reading testimonies, I discovered the importance of equal education because of schooling’s integral role in the community’s culture and advancement. During the project, I repeatedly encountered Mendez v. Westminster named as a “precursor” to Brown. However, I did not explore this case further until my 10th-grade final US History research paper, which I revised for The Schola. Particularly, I pondered why the Mendez lawsuit, predating Brown, did not lead to the overturning of the Plessy v. Ferguson precedent earlier. Subsequently, this served as my focal research question that guided me through countless primary and secondary sources. Delving deeper allowed me to formulate my answer: Mendez centers on the Mexican-American Mendez family’s fight to desegregate schools in California; their lawyer, David Marcus exploited two loopholes in state and federal law to classify Mexicans as white, thereby winning the case but eliminating the racial question and, consequently, Mendez’s opportunity to challenge Plessy. Through this process, I became fascinated by the trial transcripts and Marcus’s ingenuity in presenting the argument; moreover, I learned more about the role of education in the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to history, I love math and its applications in statistics, which allow me to explore my interest in education by quantifying and analyzing data regarding the effectiveness of new policies. In my free time, I enjoy reading, playing tennis, and running.
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