Dr. George I. Sánchez, Mexican Americans, and the transformative impact of the mask of whiteness : 1946-1970.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


This thesis analyzes the history of how racial identity shifts evolved in the Mexican American community beginning in the 1930s. Historians have acknowledged that Mexican Americans adopted a whiteness strategy in the 1930s in order to claim that they were white and not a member of a lesser race. However, around the year 1968, the Mexican American community rejected this strategy in order to claim a Mexican or minority strategy, thus distancing themselves from whites. Using the works and papers of Dr. George I. Sánchez, this project uncovers how public intellectuals, like Sánchez, came to realize that the use of the mask of whiteness was a failed strategy in the end of the 1950s, almost a decade before the Mexican American community as a whole came to this conclusion. This project also provides a historical case study that demonstrates the importance of race in America, as early Mexican Americans understood the consequences of creating the mask of whiteness, especially living in the Southwest during the 1930s, where Jim Crow segregation defined law, custom and behavior. Jim Crow stressed the superiority of whites while stressing the inferiority of anyone that was not considered white, like African Americans and even Mexican Americans who were wearing the mask of whiteness. Today, race still matters in America as the mask of whiteness is still being used. Various Hispanic groups, including Mexican Americans, still continue to wear the mask of whiteness, believing that it will provide them with more societal advantages and privileges. This division between those who do and do not wear the mask continues to confront not only Mexican American and Hispanic communities in the 21st century, but it also poses critical political and social questions about the meaning of race and the struggles for social justice and equality in contemporary American society.