Delta celebrates Constitution Day

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Sylvia Mendenz speaks about desegregation and her family's fight for equal education. Photo by Maisy Macato

Sept. 17 is the day the Constitution was signed in 1787.

To commemorate this day, Delta College invited Sylvia Mendez to speak at the Tillie Lewis Theatre about how her family fought for the desegregation of schools in California because the state violated the 14th amendment in the case of Mendez v. Westminster.

“Education is what gave me the American Dream,” said Mendez.

Everyone has a right to equal education but in the 1940s segregated schools were fairly normal and education differed in the school settings.  

Gonzalo Mendez didn’t understand why his children had to go to a farther school when there was one already near the family. Since it was a white school it wasn’t allowed, which led to the father’s struggle to fight for his children’s right to an equal education.

The case ruled in the Mendez family’s favor and after the case California’s governor Earl Warren ended segregation in California schools.

“This wasn’t fought by one family… and it wasn’t just for the Mendez family, but for all the children,” said Sylvia Mendez.

Sylvia didn’t know that not everyone knew of Mendez v. Westminster and it was her mother who encouraged her to go out and talk about it because it was an important part in history. 

“I see prejudice all over the nation,” said Mendez in response to the question of whether schools are still segregated.

Segregation is somewhat still part of the U.S. school systems now but has to do more with poverty and income.

Marin County is a prime example of segregated schools still happening in 2019 knowingly yet not broadcast where the public knew until recently. 

Everyone has the right to an education that is equal and is justified in fighting for it when it is denied.