“The Minority Citizen”
During World War II, Ruth Tuck conducted ethnographic interviews with Mexican Americans in the town of Descanso (probably San Bernardino or Pomona), California, and published her work in 1946.1 She took her title, Not with the Fist, from Charles Horton Cooley's belief that discrimination was often not intended to be malicious but was done with the “elbows,” not with the fist. Indeed, the general theme of the book was to downplay the overt acts of racism toward Mexican Americans. Ignacio López, a civil rights activist and publisher of El Espectador, wrote in the foreword to the book that “the author could have been harsher with the dominant community,” but that Tuck had, nevertheless, managed to give “a rounded exposition of the way millions of our little Americans like and move and have their being. She has “got underneath.”2
In the selection here, Tuck describes the kind of discrimination Mexican Americans encountered in Southern California during the war and discusses the civil rights actions they took as a community. This was one of the first major community studies devoted to describing the complex and nuanced realities of barrio life.