Police Brutality and Mexican American Families in Texas, 1945–1980

Date01 March 2021
AuthorBrent M. S. Campney
Published date01 March 2021
Subject MatterIntergenerational Effects
108 ANNALS, AAPSS, 694, March 2021
DOI: 10.1177/00027162211006016
Police Brutality
and Mexican
Families in
Texas, 1945–
1006016ANN The Annals Of The American AcademyPolice Brutality and Mexican American Families in Texas
Scholarly literature on racist violence has typically
focused on the experiences of young males who suffer
a disproportionate share of the police violence directed
at their communities. This study widens our view of the
effects of racist violence by examining the experiences
of the family members of these men, and particularly
the wives, children, parents, and siblings. The article
shows that family members often witnessed the abuse
of their loved ones, endured feelings of helplessness in
the face of these acts of violence, confronted threats (or
worse) from these officers at the time or subsequently,
and experienced firsthand the injustice of the justice
system. The article builds on a recent scholarship on
racist violence—primarily lynchings—that focuses on
the effects of this violence on the families and commu-
nities of the victims.
Keywords: Mexican Americans; Texas; family; racist
violence; police brutality
In 1952, Federico Gutiérrez, a Mexican
American resident of Beeville, Texas, died
after the local sheriff, Vail Ennis, beat him with
a chain and shot him during an arrest. When he
perished, Gutiérrez left behind a devastated
family, including “several children who now
have no father” (La Verdad 1952, 1). After the
Gutiérrez killing, Mexican Americans, along
with some Anglos, organized to defeat the ree-
lection bid of Sheriff Ennis, who had killed
three other Mexican Americans seven years
earlier. They focused on the propensity of the
officer to slay husbands and fathers. “The same
day word of Ennis’ intent to run for re-election
ran,” the Houston Chronicle recalled, an
Brent M. S. Campney is a professor in the Department
of History at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
He is the author of This Is Not Dixie: Racist Violence
in Kansas, 1861–1927 (University of Illinois Press
2015) and Hostile Heartland: Racism, Repression, and
Resistance in the Midwest (University of Illinois Press
Correspondence: brent.campney@utrgv.edu

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