Chapter 8: World War II and the Emerging Civil Rights Struggle
8. How did World War II change Mexican American identity?
World War II changed the Mexican American people’s perception of themselves. George Sánchez, author of Becoming Mexican American, believes that the war resulted in a shift of leadership. Moreover, that there was a "
transition from a Mexico-centered leadership to one focused on political and social advancement in American society."
Throughout the 1930s, the children of Mexican immigrants matured and came of age. They were citizens of the United States and prophetically in 1940 the U.S. Census showed that the native-born Mexican Americans outnumbered Mexican immigrants. Their new majority was emphasized by World War II where, on both the home front and in battle, Mexican Americans "proved" their patriotism and broke with their immigrant identity. Increasingly they thought of themselves as Americans not Mexicans, at least in a political sense.
During and after the war these Mexican Americans were targets of discrimination and racism, and this provoked among their new leadership a renewed commitment to work for civil rights. Ultimately the war changed the larger society too, making the American public more sensitive to the evils of racism. This made it possible for there to be more positive gains in terms of social justice.