Separate Is (Still) Not Equal

Cross-posted from Integrated Schools

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A sad note to begin…  Linda Brown, the symbolic center of Brown v. Board of Education 1954 Supreme Court decision died yesterday at the age of 76.
Brown’s death came only a few days after the Newsweek coverage of Charlotte NC announcing what we already know — that we are as segregated now as we were in the 1960s.  This story goes into some depth about what happened in Charlotte as a result of Brown v. Board and, tragically, what has happened since.
Says Amy Hawn Nelson (education researcher UPenn), once the desegregation orders were lifted,  “real estate brokers could lure buyers by promising that their children would be guaranteed a spot in some well-regarded suburban school, since the fear of those children being bussed elsewhere was pretty much gone. And what typically burnishes a school’s reputation? Racial composition, not academic achievement. “Even when you look at school quality metrics, Nelson say, “white families are more likely to pick a white school rather than a high performing school.”
… Or one with a special program like Montessori.  In MontessoriSoWhite?, Jenny Abamu digs into ongoing research that has been looking into demographic patters at public Montessori schools.  These findings suggest a “segregational pattern… is indicative of a trend where upper and middle-class families push their way into public Montessori campuses, effectively gentrifying spaces originally created for a mix of communities”
But then, in gentrifying communities, as Matt Barnum reports, school choice makes possible residential integration and school segregation.   “Wealthier families are more open to entering racially segregated neighborhoods if they can avoid the local schools …. Past research has demonstrated both that schools affect housing choices and that race is used by white families as a proxy for school quality.”
Today we also read about segregation in the UK.  While this is an England-based story… it also totally isn’t. This story is one of white supremacy, the move toward education-as-a-consumer-good and of spiraling, reinforcing negative stereotypes which re-powers the desire to segregate. Sound familiar?

As we think about Linda Brown’s legacy and those of the many children and families who fought to end school segregation (who were often met with heinous violence), we can choose to be horrified at our growing re-segregation or, instead, ever-more-motivated to work for justice long overdue.
This work is about digging in, starting somewhere, doing our part in shaping the future. It is about disruption. As the Newsweek article so eloquently stated:  “Integration is difficult work, the work of generations.” “We sold our soul,” says Justin Perry an inspiring colleague at One Meck (if you’re in Charlotte, please support!), “and now we’re gonna have to deal with it.”

To commemorate the upcoming 64th anniversary of Brown v. Board in May, join Integrated Schools as we partner with and uplift the work of the amazing youth at IntegrateNYC. We will have action plans and ways that parents and students alike can participate. Stay tuned!

And ICYMI, check out Will Stancil’s Atlantic article, School Segregation is Not a Myth.  There’s a lot of great in this piece — and especially his rebuttal to those who believe that the brouhaha around segregation is misguided.  Here are just a few snippets…
“Almost everybody agrees that economic segregation is growing in schools, and many of those dubious about racial segregation like to advance this idea as a competing, alternative theory for educational inequality. But while income segregation can be simpler to measure than race, race and income are closely interwoven… The existence of economic segregation does not contradict evidence of racial segregation-it helps confirm it. It shows that, underneath the confounding effects of growing diversity, American schoolchildren are still being divided on the basis of social caste.”
“Entire school districts are becoming more racially distinct from each other, even while racial diversity within those districts may be increasing.”
“school openings and closures [are] a major blind spot when talking about the causes of new segregation… closures are about three times as common among segregated schools, and new schools account for a substantial share of current segregation.”
“The vast majority of research into school segregation does not focus on its causes, but rather on the costs of attending a racially isolated school. There are many. They include reduced academic achievement, increased exposure to the criminal justice system, and significantly worsened professional and educational outcomes. Children in integrated schools find it easier to live and work in diverse environments; children in segregated schools are more prone to hold racially prejudiced views later in life. Racial isolation also tends to deprive children of color of what are sometimes obliquely called “networks of opportunity”-in plain language, the day-to-day connections most people rely on to get a job or get into college.”
“And of course, there’s another reason to worry about school segregation, regardless of its cause: the problem of second-class citizenship… Civil-rights advocates are not wrong to worry that, beyond any set of individual outcomes, it is not healthy nor sustainable for a society to effectively consign most children of color to an alternative system of schools. Doing so helps construct or reinforce ideas about racial caste in the minds of Americans-and, worst of all, in the minds of the children themselves.”
AND FOR THE RECORD: At Integrated Schools, we know that reinforcing “ideas about racial caste” in the minds of white kids is what so many white and/or privileged parents are doing every single day. How easy would it be after 13+ years in a privileged-segregated environment to *really believe* that you somehow deserve the privilege. Or that you have earned it. Or, alas, that others haven’t. It’s a heavy lift to undercut these ideas on the weekends when the weeks are thusly filled to the brim. Individual parent choices may not be able to cure segregation, but we can disrupt it.

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