Paul R. Lehman, America and re-segregation

April 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Posted in Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 3 Comments
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When the Supreme Court made its decision in Brown v Topeka Board of Education, the ruling underscored the fact that the schools in America were not equal, that is, the schools attended by European Americans and African Americans were separate and unequal. Many European Americans believed that the goal of desegregation was to bring the two ethnic groups together for the purpose of socialization. The African Americans were concerned only with having their children receive a quality education. Since that court decision in 1954 the progress made in America providing a quality education for all its children has not been good, fair at best. Why? Simply because education in America is connected to economics which is connected to ethnicity which is connected to geography.

Any family with the financial means can provide a quality education for its children. Unfortunately, not every family in America has financial means to give its children a quality education. That was the situation in America after the Civil War when African Americans were allowed to receive an education at public expense. Segregation and Jim Crow laws ensured that the African American children would receive an inferior public education. This fact was made certain simply because the European Americans controlled not only the schools, but the monies that they received. Even more important than the control of the schools was the control of the economy which meant jobs.

African Americans were not able to earn a living comparable to that of the European American because of prejudices and bigotry. For example, in the 1940’s and 1950’s skilled African American workers were denied the opportunity to join unions, so when they worked, even along side their European American counterparts, they earned considerably less money. Also, the type of jobs that were available to them did not pay wages high enough to guarantee their children a good education. After 1954 the chances of African Americans getting an education equal to that of European Americans began to quickly disappear because of white flight. When the law to desegregate was made, European Americans who could afford it moved to the all-European American suburbs where they could again control the schools and who attended them.

When the middle and upper class European Americans moved to the suburbs, they took their money, schools and teachers along with them. The lack of money and teachers had a direct negative impact on the inner city public schools. The school equipment, facilities, and employees that departed the inner cities resulted in the quality of education slowly diminishing. This departure also changed the demographics of the inner cities. They began to reflect a greater ethnic minority presence.

A significant number of European Americans remained in the inner cities for a variety of reasons—lack of money, transportation, jobs. However, because there was a greater ethnic minority presence the per capita income of the school districts changed as well. The differences among the European American schools and those of the African Americans showed just how important money was to a quality education. So, in an effort to address the problem of inequity in the schools, the Federal Government established commissions to help deal with the problem. The most dramatic program for addressing the educational inequity was bussing. Bussing was a two-headed monster because of what it took and what it gave.

One of the most detrimental things to happen to the ethnic communities during desegregation was a loss of neighborhood identity, integrity, and input into the schools. Most people confuse desegregation with integration; they think they are the same. In desegregation, a minority is taken into the majority with no changes to the majority. In essence, when African American children desegregated a school the only thing that changed for the majority students was the addition of new faces of color. For the African American children the changes were significant; they went from being in a normal environment to being like a small turtle in a fishbowl. Their main objective was to try and get an education and adjust to a way European Americans conducted themselves in school.

In integration, the environment shares elements of each group even through a majority and minority still exists. Unfortunately, for African American children the cultural references, comfort zones, and sincere concerns for their education were left behind when the busses took off. The new teachers could not relate to the concerns and challenges of the African American students because they were ignorant of their plight; that is, teachers were not educated to consider the problems of ethnic minorities except to have their stereotypes underscored. Much has changed since ’54, but much has also stayed the same.

Over the years integration has made its way into some of the curricula, but much of the attitudes against desegregation still remain. As a matter of fact, a number of states have begun the process of reintroducing neighborhood schools and doing away with bussing. If that takes place, the end result will undoubtedly be re-segregation. Drive through any city or town of thirty thousand or more and the areas of income levels will manifest themselves like raisins in a bowel of milk. What determines these residential boundaries are income and education—the more money and education a family has, the better the quality of living and schooling. If children are made to attend school in their neighborhood, and the level of income and education is low, then the education those children receive will not be comparable to that received by the children living in the upper income and educated area.

In an article published by The Christian Science Monitor / January 25, 2008, re-segregation is taking place in many places in America. One place singled out is Charlotte, North Carolina: “Charlotte is rapidly resegregating,’ says Carol Sawyer, a parent and member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Equity Committee.’” The article states further that “It’s a trend that is occurring around the country and is even more pronounced than expected in the wake of court cases dismantling both mandated and voluntary integration programs, a new report says. The most segregated schools, according to the report, which documents desegregation trends, are in big cities of the Northeast and Midwest.”

Why is this re-segregation occurring? One reason offered by some critics is due to the fact that the Supreme Court is reviewing some cases of ordered desegregation and in overturning them they have taken race out of the equation without replacing it with ethnicity. In so doing, it makes the assumption that everything—jobs, income, and education are all equal, so neighborhood schools should be re-established regardless of the harm it might cause to some ethnic group students. In effect, the court has said that the problem of separate and unequal schooling is solved, so go back to segregating yourselves. This problem is causing enough attention that many national civil rights groups are becoming directly involved.  And here we thought we were making progress.



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  1. It has long been my personal view that the funding model for education in the USA is wrong. Totally wrong.

    While ours may not be perfect, it is a great deal more equitable.

  2. No question momentum for this has escalated since the 2008 election as opportunist take advantage of the Nation’s economic issues and the feelings of lost entitlement by many European Americans. These elements are using “crisis” mentality to legitimize reversals of gains made over the last 50 years. Liberty is literally at risk.

  3. I just happened to show my students a documentary today about the violence that took place in Boston when bussing began there in 1974. They couldn’t believe what they saw. One student asked, “This was all about taking kids to a different school? I don’t get it.”

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