Brown, Not White

Chicano Resistance to HISD Integration


The Chicano resistance to HISD integration followed the trend of other Civil Rights events because it displayed the reluctance of Southerners to obey federal law that protected the rights of minorities and the initiative of minorities to use the legal system to their advantage in their fight for equality.

A Fight for Racial Identity

Before 1970, people of Hispanic descent were legally classified as white. In addition, school desegregation plans generally required "colored" kids to ble placed with "white" kids. This meant that in 1960, when a Federal judge ordered HISD to speed up their year-by-year phase-in desegregation program, the school district could legally put Hispanics and blacks in the same school and call it desegregated

Chicano Response

In 1970, 3500 Hispanic students organized a three week long boycott to protest an HISD integration plan that again paired Hispanics and blacks in order to avoid true desegregation. Anger and tensions simmered for more than a decade before the NAACP and MALDEF settled a 28 -year old lawsuit with HISD over segregation for $58 million in 1984. This settlement effectively promised tentative reconciliation from both sides and assured the minority groups of greater magnet school representation and resource allocation.

Court Response

In February 1983, the Fifth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on Ross v. HISD, the lawsuit in question, stating, “During the twelve years since 1970 when the first desegregation plan took effect, residential segregation within the district has increased dramatically...While the number of black families has increased only moderately, white families have moved from the district and Hispanic families have moved into it. In most instances, black neighborhoods remain adjacent to Hispanic neighborhoods." With this statement, the court made clear its opinion that de facto segregation was no longer an issue of racism, but rather a demographical one.

Comparison to National Trends

The Hispanic resistance to biased desegregation in Houston certainly followed the national trend of the Civil Rights movement in its use of legal activism. Although Ross v. HISD did not have the notoriety or national significance of a case like Brown v. Board of Education, it nevertheless made an impact on the lives of thousands of young Americans of Hispanic descent.