Violence Against Mexicans in Texas as a “Habit of Whiteness”

(Image of Hayden Edwards and the Republic of Fredonia)

By Joseph Orosco (August 6, 2019)

Irene Sanchez reminds us that white supremacist violence against Mexicans is not a new phenomena in Texas. She charts it to beginning of the Texas Revolution in 1836, when Anglo Mexican settlers seceded from Mexico to form the Lone Star Republic.

But I think the use of violence by white supremacists against Mexicans in what is now Texas is even older.

Almost 200 years ago, the newly independent nation of Mexico opened its borders to US American settlers. Northern Mexico was a sparsely populated region and the Mexican government believed that immigrants from the United States would help it to develop economically. Many of the immigrants that took advantage of the invitation were from Southern States where slavery was allowed, so they brought with them many Black slaves. This also meant a lot of white supremacist attitudes. Anglo settlers would become Mexican citizens as long as they agreed to convert to Catholicism and swear allegiance to Mexico.

In 1826, one of these Anglo Mexicans, Hayden Edwards, called for a violent overthrow of the Mexican government. Edwards had started legal proceedings against Mexican residents in the Nacogdoches area, forcing them to prove title to their land. He intended to displace them and sell their land to other wealthy Anglo settlers. When the Mexican authorities caught wind of this scheme, they ordered him to be deported. He then rose up with several of his friends, and the nearby Commanche tribes, and announced he was forming an independent nation—the Republic of Fredonia.

The Mexican government sent regular army troops, along with militia from among the Anglo Mexicans in the area, and put down the rebellion. Edwards escaped back into the United States and stayed there until other Anglo Mexicans followed his lead about ten years later and formented the Texas Revolution.

The Hayden Edwards Revolt demonstrates that violence against Mexicans is what my colleague Terrance MacMullan calls a “habit of whiteness” or I have called (see my essay here) an aspect of “los estadounidos profundo” (the Deep United States)—it is one reaction among the many “practices and institutional policies of exclusion, marginalization, and eradication of non white peoples; these are the ready-to-hand tools that are reached for in moments of fear and crisis for white Americans.”

If you read the manifesto of the El Paso terrorist, you can clearly see the fear that is part of what social scientists are calling “white replacement theory”—the idea that white Americans are being displaced as the majority of the population by demographic shifts. As Black and Brown people become the majority, the theory goes, there will be social decay, economic downturn, and environmental catastrophe.

These are all ideas that one can find among the writings of Anglo Americans who were settling Northern Mexico from California to Texas—they were quite mainstream at the time. The El Paso shooter might be elated to find out that the poet Walt Whitman agreed that Mexicans had no capacity to run their own political and economic affairs:

“What has miserable, inefficient Mexico—with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom, her actual tyranny by the few over the many—what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a noble race?” 

And the shooter’s concerns with “race mixing” come right from the work of notable writers, such as Thomas Jefferson Farnham (who was one of the Oregon Trail pioneers). In 1851, Farnham wrote:

No one acquainted with the indolent mixed race of California will ever believe that they will populate, much less for any length of time, govern the country.  The law of nature which curses the mulatto here with a constitution less robust than that of either race from which he sprang, lays a similar penalty upon the mingling of the Indian and white races in California and Mexico.  They must fade away…the old Saxon blood must stride the continent…and in their own unaided might erect the altar of civil and religious freedom on the plains of California.”  (Life, Travels, and Adventures in California, 1851)

As the late Toni Morrison pointed out in 1993, there is what she termed a “profound neurosis” among white Americans that needs addressing: “If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem…My feeling is that white people have a very, very serious problem. And they should start thinking about what they can do about it.”

Realizing that the use of violence against Mexicans in Texas (and even before Texas was Texas) is one of the classic go-to responses of white Americans in crisis would be step toward dealing with this profound problem of white supremacist terrorism.

“Terrorism” Is About Race in the US

By Teka Lark (October 4, 2017)

The problem with the conversation in regards to what is and what is not terrorism is that, in the US, people don’t get that our definition of terrorism has little to do with political ideology and has 100% to do with not being a white person born in the US.

Maybe in other parts of the world terrorist means something, but in the US–a country that murdered Native American men women and children because they wanted their land, and enslaved Africans for hundreds of years, and then spent another 100 years murdering them for sport–terrorism is a code word.

It is a code word like ghetto, urban, thug, slut…the term terrorist isn’t about terrorism in the US, it is about race.

The four little girls blown up in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama? The people behind that, are they terrorists? No, that is different? How? Not different, just the victims are not white and the perpetrators were white.

This “let us wait and see what this guy really is” assumes that the label of terrorism is reasonable and objective.

It is not.

OK, you still doubt my assertion. You are going to continue to be reasonable in the era of Trump.

You need political motivation. OK, his political motivation was capitalism. Yes, capitalism; is that motivation enough for you?

Oh, but that is different.

The god of money, power and privilege isn’t political, even though my ancestors were brought here and enslaved because of it, and a whole way of life was murdered and attempted to be erased in the US because of it.

But you still say this is different.

Think about why you think this is different.

If he were brown, Muslim, born not in US, and was called a terrorist would you still think I was being unreasonable.

I live in a place that will put you in jail for a parking ticket and weed, and I am unreasonable, because I call a white American with a college degree who injured 506 people and murdered 56 with an automatic rifle a terrorist?


How NOT to think about the Bundy Militia in Eastern Oregon


By Joseph Orosco (January 5, 2016)

So far in the analysis of the Bundy militia in Eastern Oregon, I haven’t seen anyone point out that the closest historical precedent to this incident happened fifty years ago in Northern New Mexico. Continue reading “How NOT to think about the Bundy Militia in Eastern Oregon”

Standing for Those Who Don’t Get Hashtags


By Phoenix Calida (November 14, 2015)

I’m tired. I’m weary. it’s not that I don’t care about France, it’s that the rest of the world cares about France. It’s a tragedy. It shouldn’t have happened. But the emergency medical care, emergency funds, emergency safe spaces and counseling will be provided for French citizens by default. Continue reading “Standing for Those Who Don’t Get Hashtags”

Were Attacks on Beirut and Baghdad Attacks on Humanity, Too?

By Adam Hefty (November 14, 2015)

I spent last night, like many, watching the news from Paris unfold, feeling relief as my friends who live there posted that they were alright, worrying about UC students who might be in proximity at UC Paris which a friend said was close to one of the attack sites, worrying about the possible backlash and the instant expansion of the security state. Continue reading “Were Attacks on Beirut and Baghdad Attacks on Humanity, Too?”

Tried, Tested, True Five Step Strategy for “Domestic Threats and Attacks”


By Harsha Walia

Regarding the incident in Ottawa yesterday:

1. Immediately characterize the suspects as racialized (“suspects appear dark”) and link to an Othered political or religious ideology (if possible, not only link, but prove that violence is inherent to said religion or culture). Continue reading “Tried, Tested, True Five Step Strategy for “Domestic Threats and Attacks””