"Policing along the Color Line": Mexican American Policemen and Racial Crime Discourses in San Antonio, 1870-1900

Joseph Jewell, Texas A&M University

Narratives about race and crime played an important role in the construction of racial distinctions in the late nineteenth century Southwest. In urban centers like San Antonio, newspapers constructed a racial crime narrative in which both Mexican Americans and blacks were described as a source of violence, immorality, and social disorder. However, the visibility of Mexican American elites on the city’s police force problematized broad categorizations about the links between Mexicanness and crime. In this paper, I analyze press coverage of incidents involving San Antonio's Mexican American police officers to show the importance of middle class occupational identities as a site for constructing, sustaining, negotiating and contesting racial identities. Analysis of the data suggest evidence of a shifting racial boundary for Mexican American policemen, in which the subtraction or addition of moral categories like criminality and lawfulness helped to reposition Tejano policemen relative to racial boundaries between whites and Mexican Americans.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 177. Racializing the American City