In The Souls of Black Folk by Du Bois, the author sighed for the lack of social and cultural recognition for the African American populations: “Through history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness (Du Bois 5).” This shows the importance of constructing racial identity and pride. In establishing Chicano Studies and the Mexican American identity, the word “Chicano” played the key role in identity building, education, and pride installation.

Chicano studies were established because there was little effort in the mainstream academic community to conduct research on the topic. The lack of interest from the mainstream was largely originated from their arrogance and condescending view of the Mexican Americans. Despite the vibrant and blooming Mexican American culture in the US back in the 1960s, and despite the rich, colorful, multiracial historical past (Menchaca 19), Mexican Americans in general suffered from serious stereotyping, employment discrimination, racism laws, police violence, and identity distortion (Menchaca 15). Moreover, the mainstream academic society even associated the problems of poverty and crime among Mexican Americans with their culture (Menchaca 14). An objective perspective to view and study the Mexican culture became urgently needed to solve these injustice problems.

The “Chicano” in Chicano Studies is inseparable from the emerging identity awareness of Mexican Americans in the 1960s. Along with the rising tide of the Civil Rights Movement, Mexican Americans also organized various forms of activities to defend their own rights (Menchaca 19). Chicano was created this time as a name for Mexican American groups to identify themselves. Originally, it was used by white Americans as a means of racial distinguishing to demonstrate their superiority. However, initiators of the Chicano Studies decided to install pride into this word, which shows a tremendous amount of unity and independence. The word itself contained the power to motivate the Mexican Americans to be proud of their race and take the “responsibility” and “inevitable destiny” to be recognized with confidence (Menchaca 23).

Such a signification of the word contributed to the initial force of Chicano Studies through education. The Chicano Youth Liberation Conference served as a major force in motivating the Mexican American students to establish a political awareness and realize the racial injustice against their population (Menchaca 20). This liberating education was the key to realize racial freedom for Mexican Americans: instead of being oppressed and feeling marginalized by the mainstream society, more and more young Mexican Americans realized that they were part of the mainstream as well. It was the injustice in the system that needed to change, not their own culture (Freire74). They later spread such ideas back to their own communities and neighborhoods, further expanding the social influence of the Chicano identity and advocating racial equality.

In conclusion, the impetus of Chicano Studies lies in its nature of self-reflection, as “reflection upon situationality is reflection about the very condition of existence (Freire109).”  In the context of racism and stereotyping, studying and understanding the culture internally solves the external problem of social injustice. It was through this reflection that Mexican Americans consolidated their racial pride through education, and fought for their racial equality causes.