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Unformatted text preview: 6 Social and Civil Rights Struggles In the mid-1970s, a study about Puerto Ricans in the United States sponsored by the US Commission on Civil Rights made reference in its subtitle to their "uncertain future" (1976). This assessment of their overall status was based on the analysis of all the available census data, which showed that Puerto Ricans remained at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, part of that unprivileged "other America" (Harrington 1962), still afflicted by socioeconomic and racial inequalities and segregation. All official indicators made it evident that Puerto Ricans were far from reaping the benefits of many of the reforms that came out of the 1960s Great Society. The data called into question the traditional "melting pot" model of immigrant assimilation that ostensibly led to social mobility and integration into mainstream society, since it did not seem to apply to Puerto Ricans or other ethnoracial minorities (Glazer and Moynihan 1963; Torres 1995). The fact that the civil rights achievements and social transformations of the 1960s and 1970s did not have a significant impact on improving the un- derprivileged status of US Puerto Ricans led some policymakers to simplistic generalizations about "the Puerto Rican problem," "the Puerto Rican under- class" (Tienda 1989; Lernann 1991), or "the Puerto Rican exception" (Chavez 1991). The combined effect of these characterizations is a portrait of a group lagging behind other nationalities that are part of a growing Latino population ostensibly on its way to joining the US mainstream. The unfavorable socioe- conomic status of Puerto Ricans only reinforced the argument that the advan- tage of being the holders of US citizenship, whether they were born in Puerto Rico or in the United States, did not necessarily make Puerto Ricans better off than other Latinos or, for that matter, non-Latino ethnoracial groups. It also al- lowed some policymakers and scholars to continue putting forward debasing explanations regarding the subordinate status of Puerto Ricans by blaming the victim or by arguing that their condition was largely "self-inflicted" (Chavez 1991, 161). 147 1 4 8 Puerto Ricans in the United States Social and Civil Rights Struggles 149 What is usually lacking from the many disparaging past assessments of the US Puerto Rican population is a more discerning sociohistorical analysis of ways in which the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States perpetuates most of the conditions that produce migration. The long- term consequences on Puerto Ricans living in a racially segregated and so- cially stratified environment and the structural factors that limit their social mobility and keep them as part of an underprivileged working class are also missing from those analyses....
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- Spring '11