The Movement in the Mirror
Civil Rights and the Causes of
Black-Brown Disunity in Texas
BRIAN D. BEHNKEN
Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools illegal in Brown v. Board of Education, local and state government in Texas began examining ways to prolong separate education. The American G.I. Forum, one of the most important Mexican American civic organizations in the Southwest, hoped to halt these efforts. But when G.I. Forum executive secretary Ed Idar Jr. sent out a bulletin that vaguely promoted the unification of African American and Mexican American civil rights groups to fight for school integration, others in the forum firmly rebuffed his idea. For instance, G.I. Forum official Manuel Avila feared that Idar’s proposal might damage the Mexican American civil rights struggle. “I only hope this does not hurt our cause,” Avila wrote, “but I can already hear the Anglos saying, ‘those nigger lovers, look it came out in their official organ with their blessing.’” Avila told Idar that “anybody reading it [the bulletin] can only come to the conclusion we are ready to fight the Negroes’ battles.” “To go to bat for the Negro as a Mexican-American,” he added, “is suicide.”1
Manuel Avila’s comments helped to divide African Americans and Mexican Americans during the civil rights era in Texas.