This week, there was a great story about housing segregation and another new report on the connection between charters and school segregation.
The key argument of “Segregation had to be invented,” is exactly that. The article traces the history of segregation in Charlotte, NC, though its historical background is relevant for much of the South. Specifically: segregation increased after the turn of the century because (why else?) rich white elites felt their political power was threatened by a growing alliance between working class white people and black people (the “Fusionists”). So, they “invented” segregation to split up this block – a Southern strategy before the Southern Strategy.
Here are the highlights:
- Housing and public accomodations were generally integrated in the period between the Civil War and the turn of the century, leading to a populist political alliance.
- During this time, black people and white people lived together in what historians described as a “salt-and-pepper” pattern, and shared the same public spaces that would later become segregated.
- Black people wouldn’t see their voting rights restricted until later, and their alliance with white people “was strong enough to control states like North Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia at various points throughout the late 19th century.”
- Black farmers and white populists, united under the “Fusionist” ticket, pursued policies to alleviate the poverty that affect both groups and to improve factory working conditions.
- Rich white people didn’t like it.
- “White elites, cast out of power and facing policies that threatened their economic hold on the state, launched a campaign that they knew would drive black and whites apart. They called it a campaign of ‘white supremacy,’ and sought to unite whites of all economic backgrounds in hatred of black people.”
- Democrats, the party of the wealthy elite, “began to talk of blacks as an ‘other,’ warning of the dangers of miscegenation, portraying blacks as rapists who would come after white women.”
- “Back in power, Democrats were determined to never lose power again. There were two ways of ensuring this, according to Leloudis: making sure blacks could no longer vote, and making poor whites feel superior to and animosity toward black voters.”
- Of course, this legacy is alive and well today.
- Housing is more segregated in Charlotte than it was before the turn of the century.
- And, here’s the link to school segregation – Recent research found “that poor children in Charlotte have a worse shot at economic mobility than do poor children in 49 of America’s largest metro areas.”
Last week, the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity came out with the first in a series of reports about charter schools and segregation in the Twin Cities. This week, the UCLA Civil Rights Project came out with a report about charter schools and segregation in Washington, DC. Here’s highlights of the UCLA report from stories in the Atlantic and the Washingtonian.
- “The researchers found that D.C. charter schools, which serve over 40 percent of the city’s student population, are more segregated than D.C.’s other public schools. In 2012, over two-thirds of charter schools, Orfield and Ee note, were “apartheid schools” (defined as having less than 1 percent white enrollment), whereas only 50 percent of public schools had such completely segregated populations.”
- “Voucher schools, another model that DeVos favors, often heightened this problem, according to the report, concentrating in affluent, white communities and underserving black families, who could often not afford to pay fees required beyond the vouchers themselves.”
In an interview with the Atlantic, Gary Orfield, director of the Civil Rights Project, argues that:
- “Charters were created without the key mechanisms the magnet-school experience showed were essential,” such as “recruitment across racial and ethnic lines, free transportation, a strongly appealing and distinctive curriculum, admission to all groups of students, integrated faculties, etc.”
- He notes the following have been influential in the past: “subsidized housing policies,” “South’s mandatory countywide desegregation plans,” and community organizing that creates “a strong attractive educational program with an explicit dedication to diversity.”
- He concludes with the following reflection on “school choice” – “If you really want to offer choice to poor students of color, why not the choice of your kids’ schools rather than another segregated high-poverty school that no middle-class families choose?”
Why isn’t this a bigger part of the school choice debate today?
Lastly, of course, this week there was a very strange and offensive cartoon that compared Betsy DeVos to Ruby Bridges, a 6 year-old girl who integrated New Orleans Public Schools and later became a civil rights activist. I decided not to link to it, but I felt like I had to at least mention it. Though, I don’t really know what to say. I guess I think that this kind of stuff wouldn’t exist if people had any sense of the kind of courage it took for students like Ruby, the Little Rock Nine, so many others, to face the mobs of protest that greeted them on their way to school. Here’s a short video with commentary from Ruby about her experience that year and her reaction to the Norman Rockwell painting.
She later went on to found the Ruby Bridges Foundation, whose mission states that “racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”