Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Documentary on Landmark Suit Airs on PBS Tonight at 8 pm

“A Class Apart” Airs tonight at 9/8 pm Central on PBS. It recounts a little known yet historical case known as Hernandez v. Texas, in which the legendary San Antonio attorney Gus Garcia decided to challenge the discriminatory system to gain equal rights for Mexican-Americans.

In an article by Raul Yzaguirre in the Houston Chronicle he says that during this time, Mexican- Americans were officially classified as white, yet were facing ethnic discrimination, housing, school and employment segregation and hate crimes – including lynchings.”

Garcia picked an unlikely test case: the murder conviction of a man named Pedro Hernandez, whom he believed did not receive a fair trial because Mexican-Americans were barred from serving on his jury in Edna, Texas. On appeal, the state attorney general insisted the trial was fair because Mexican- Americans were considered white and the jury that convicted Hernandez was all white – although no Latinos served.
By the time the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Garcia, fellow litigator Carlos Cadena and a legal team that included James DeAnda of Houston, formulated a unique argument: Mexican-Americans, they conceded, might be white, but the established pattern of discrimination against them proved they also were “a class apart”.

The Supreme Court bought that argument, and on May 3, 1954, only two weeks before ruling on Brown v. Board, the justices overturned the lower court rulings and ordered a new trial for Hernandez.
Hernandez was later convicted by a jury of his peers – one that included Mexican-Americans – but the justices’ decision also set a precedent that led to a countless number of successful challenges of employment and housing discrimination, school segregation and voting rights barriers against Mexican- Americans. The case literally helped improve the lives of millions of Latinos nationwide.
We urge you to please tune in tonight to learn about the historical battle that helped impact the lives of millions of Mexican-Americans.

PBS: “A Class Apart”

Houston Chronicle