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As revealed from the American Experience report entitled “People & Events: The Zoot Suit Riots of 1943” published by the PBS Online (2009), the history of the racial/ethnic tensions in California that led to several violent attacks and injuries from what has been known as…
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The Zoot Suit Riot and the UFW Strikes Consider the history of racial/ethnic tensions in California and discussthe historical context of the Zoot Suit Riot.
As revealed from the American Experience report entitled “People & Events: The Zoot Suit Riots of 1943” published by the PBS Online (2009), the history of the racial/ethnic tensions in California that led to several violent attacks and injuries from what has been known as Zoot Suit Riots (American Experience) originated from the reported unprecedented population explosion in Los Angeles. As disclosed, people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds converged in Los Angeles, to wit: Midwesterners, Mexican refugees, landless white laborers, and even African Americans. Likewise, the war that ensued in 1941 caused “white men went off to fight in a segregated military, and women and people of color filled the jobs in the defense industry previously reserved for white males” (American Experience: People & Events par. 3).
Concurrently, a group of Mexican Americans who became enthusiastic in jazz began to don zoot suits, originally defined as “an African American youth fashion, closely connected to jazz culture, the zoot suit was co-opted by a generation of Mexican American kids, who made it their own” (American Experience: Zoot Suit Culture par. 1). When military servicemen drove by the thousands in Los Angeles, seen as a leisure spot as a playground for drinking, womanizing and engaging in fight, civilians detested the behavior and stirred tensions between servicemen and Mexican Americans. The constant tension between these groups over Mexican American girls provided the impetus for the Zoot Suit Riots that took place for more than one week in June of 1943 (American Experience: People & Events par. 8; Star xxiv; American Express:The Press and the Riot).
2. What was the signficance of the UFW strikes in the context of the social, political, and cultural movements.
The United Farmworkers Union (UFW) was primarily envisioned as an organization to reclaim “dignity for people who were marginalized by society” (Tejada-Flores, CEZAR CHAVEZ). Eventually, the UFW was reported to have evolved as a political force spurred from growing awareness of the need for Mexican Americans to participate in deciding on economic issues, electoral activity and cultural enhancement. This organization was presided by Cesar Chavez who was also instrumental in winning the battle for the farmers’ rights. However, setbacks from these victories cased the UFW to strike, to wit: “the UFW responded with strikes that led to the jailing of thousands. Many strikers were injured by violent attacks on the picket lines, and two were killed in dreveby shootings and attacks.. But the “inter-union” battle had left the public confused and made a new boycott against lettuce and grape growers difficult” (Tejada-Flores, CEZAR CHAVEZ par. 18).
Likewise, as noted, “Chavez and the UFW leadership put less and less emphasis on the fields, and more and more attention on reaching the American public” (Tejada-Flores, THE UNITED FARMWORKERS UNION par. 27). What started as an organization fighting for the rights of farmworkers emerged as an organization that embraces and addresses other ills and concerns that besieged the American society during Chavez’s time. In sum, in Chavez’s own words, he recollected that the UFW was “not only the union, but it represents, together with you and me, all our brothers, Chicano and white and black and everything, represents an idea that poor people can get together and win” (Chavez par. 2).
Works Cited
American Experience. "People & Events: The Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 ." 2009. PBS Online. 23 May 2012 .
—. "Zoot Suit Culture." 2002. PBS Online. 23 May 2012 .
American Express. "The Press and the Riot." 2002. PBS Online. 23 May 2012 .
Chavez, Cezar. "CESAR CHAVEZ: IN HIS OWN WORDS ." 2004. pbs.org. 23 May 2012 .
Starr, Kevin. California: A History. New York: The Modern Library. 2007. Print.
Tejada-Flores, Rick. "CEZAR CHAVEZ." 2004. pbs.org. 23 May 2012 .
—. "THE UNITED FARMWORKERS UNION." 2004. pbs.org. 23 May 2012 . Read More
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