What was the experience of minorities throughout California history? In what ways were they persecuted socially, economically, and culturally? Were they treated in a humane manner?
Was the Second World War’s internment of Japanese Americans a crime against humanity? What political, economic, and social harm did they suffer? Was this detention a serious injustice?
A few days before Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, on January 24, 1848, two Anglo settlers discovered gold in Coloma on the south branch of the American River. The two men made an effort to keep their finding a secret, but it quickly reached a globe eager to learn about California’s fertile western land. A trickle of miners turned into a deluge during the following several years. However, the immigrants came upon a population of native Americans and Mexicans, some of whom had the audacity to be occupying the most desirable territory.
The notorious case of Juanita, a young Mexican lady who killed an Anglo miner trying to steal into her cabin in Downieville, a tiny mining town, was among the chaos and vigilantism that followed.
The state accused her of murder; she pled to self-defense. Juanita was found guilty and hung after appearing before an informal court made up of the deceased man’s friends. She was the first woman executed in California. Similar outcomes befell other Mexicans who stood in the way of the miners or their appetites.
The California legislature imposed the Foreign Miners’ License Tax, imposing a cost of $20 per month on Mexicans and Asians who sought to mine gold—a penalty never enforced against Europeans—to guarantee that prospectors from Mexico and China got the message.
California currently has a population of about thirty-three million, with nearly half of it being people of color, including over nine million Latinos, over two million Blacks, and almost four million Asians. This is in spite of several other instances of overt racism.