Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Disintegration of Integration

Nettie Hunt and daughter Nikie on steps of U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, Library of Congress

Further evidence of the disintegration of integration...
Black students are significantly more likely to attend high-poverty schools than white students, according to the Urban Institute. 
"In some metropolitan areas, the racial concentration of school poverty is so severe that black and white students effectively attend two different school systems: one for middle- and upper-middle-income white students, and the other for poor students and students of color," says an Urban Institute feature on the subject.
--The Huffington Post
Remember that little episode in history called Brown vs. Board of Education?  It was kind of important in a way because it laid the groundwork for the desegregation of public schools all across America thanks to the legal brilliance of one of America's greatest legal minds, Thurgood Marshall, who at the time was a lawyer for the NAACP. But saying that Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer for the NAACP is kind of like saying that Abraham Lincoln had something to do with the Civil War. If you even whispered Thurgood Marshall's name to black folk way back when, before the civil rights era really got under full steam, the reaction would be as if you had mentioned the name of Moses. Because just like Moses, Thurgood Marshall could part the bloody waters of racism just like...well...just like Moses. Just to hear that "Thurgood's coming" was, to so many terrorized black communities in the Deep South, like hearing the voice of hope itself. If Thurgood was coming that meant there was a chance. Which is why I say that, although I do understand why Dr. Martin Luther King is lionized as The One when it comes to civil rights warriors? Truth be told,  Thurgood Marshall is right up there with him. You don't believe me, study up on the man and then come back and tell me I'm wrong.

But here's the thing that's painful; now that we're recognizing 61 years' worth of 'progress' beyond that fateful day of May 17, 1954, when  Marshall won the day with his victorious - and unanimous - 9-0 Brown vs. Board of Education decision before the U.S. Supreme Court (the same Supreme Court where he would later be appointed as the first black Supreme Court Justice by President Lyndon Johnson on June 13, 1967) it almost seems as if Moses was never here. As if the waters, once parted, are now just as turbulent as they ever were, swallowing whole any evidence of racial reconciliation. From The Atlantic:
Brown's core mission of encouraging integration can best be defined as unfinished. Many civil-rights advocates, such as Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, argue that after gains through the late 1980s, the public-school system is undergoing a "resegregation" that has left African-American and Latino students "experiencing more isolation … [than] a generation ago." Other analysts question whether segregation is worsening, but no one denies that racial and economic isolation remains daunting: One recent study found that three-fourths of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics attend schools where a majority of the students qualify as low-income.
I live in Detroit so you don't have to roll out any statistics to convince me of what's going on. All I have to do is walk into just about any public school in this city and see the evidence for myself. And I have to wonder not only what would  Marshall feel about the seeming rollback of such a monumental and hard-fought victory but..
What now..?

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