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Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal

Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal

On this date in 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.


Posted by John B. Chilton

Photo: Library of Congress


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Marshall Scott

Philip, I think if we put the effort into good schools I don’t know that we’ll need to worry about “separate.” In my city folks who have resources are moving back into the inner city and starting families. If we can provide schools that are equal (and good!) across the board, I believe issues of racial distribution will, over time, sort themselves out.

That’s my problem, really, with issues of “school choice.” I want a strong public schools system for everyone. I’ve heard rhetoric that every parent should have the right to send a child to a good school. I don’t think any parent should have the right to send a child to a bad school; or a bad school to send the child to.

Marshall Scott

Carolyn, I do think that is the idea; but then we get into issues of what is “good.” For so many families these days that can mean access to after-school programs, or proximity to home, as well as academic rigor. With so many families for whom one income is not enough (especially for those for whom one income is all that is available) “good” is as much about security and supportive services as it is about test scores.

Philip, I’ve noted the economic shift. The local school system has begun to respond, but is as political (and as politically bound) as anyone else’s. Moreover, I largely agree with you about Charter schools, and especially for the number of kids who can’t access equitable resources.

Philip B. Spivey

Marshall: I’m encouraged that your community is working towards educational equality in your city. In my city, New York, universally excellent education is a crap-shoot if you live in poor, and largely children of color, neighborhoods. I, too, support public education as the best way to educate all our citizens. Unfortunately, our best public schools are in white communities throughout the state.

As a counter to failing schools in our poor neighborhoods, the Charter School movement pretends to be answer. It’s a divide and conquer attempt to set up a two-tier system in which our (Black) children who don’t make it into the Charter system are condemned to an inferior “public'”education. The proponents of Charters maintain that these schools are “public” because they receive public funding; true, but they are not universal.

The irony of course is that many of the Charters
are no better at educating our children. Worse, Charters are the Trojan Horse for universal public education; for-profit “public” education is not far off. Public education, as we know it, will be so eviscerated that we won’t recognize it.

Carolyn Peet

But Marshall, isn’t that the underlying premise, that by allowing parents to self-select, the “bad” schools will naturally cease to exist? Not saying it works, necessarily, but I think that’s the idea, anyway.

Philip B. Spivey

Thank you, John: Of course there were many of us that did not see it this way at the time; those who did not see integration as a goal were deemed “separatist”. Of course, the integration of public accommodations and conveniences was critical. But not necessarily children’s education.

We conflated ‘separatist’ with ‘separate’. Simply, separatist denotes a withdrawal from; separate denotes the status quo of place (community) with equal resources.

Years after the Civil Rights wars, many activists regret this ideological error. But truth be told, a Marshall Plan for Black communities in the 1960s and 1970s was no more likely to see daylight than it is today.

We fought the good fight and in so many ways, radically shifted the moral compass of the nation.

Philip B. Spivey

Thank you, John, for noting the 61st anniversary of this historic Supreme Court decision. Unfortunately, many of us who fought for school desegregation back then, now have grave misgivings about the consequences of that decision.

Excuse me, (because I’ve posted my opinion on this matter recently at the Cafe before), but I believe the “remedies” that were sought to rectify generations of separate and unequal education have been unmitigated disasters for Black children.

Sixty-one years later, the schools are more segregated than ever and that is because of white flight and the wholesale reallocation of resources from poor neighborhoods to wealthier ones. In America, the poorest neighborhoods are often populated by African Americans and other folks of color.; ditto the schools.

Since 1954, when Black children are shipped to white schools for a so-called better education, they must confront racism, acute class differences, and lower performance expectations from teachers. These children have been taken out of their communities to be confronted with hostility and an acute sense that they are “different” and unwelcome in the new school.

I believe that the just remedy to separate-and-unequal education is to mount a Marshall Plan for extremely poor Black neighborhoods; a concerted public and private effort to rid our cities of blight. The goal? Separate AND equal.

Rather than taking the children from their communities —very reminiscent of the Native American and Austrailian Aboriginal re-education schools of the 19th century—bring the Black schools (where they are) up to par with the white schools. Invite government and private investment in these neighborhoods so that they can become self-supporting; that will afford a new degree of self-determination to its citizens. This is not impossible to do—it only requires the will.

What would this accomplish? Among other things, the uprisings in our nation’s economic ghettos will diminish and will grab less media attention which invariably demonizes Black neighborhoods. Better yet, a Marshall Plans for our poorest neighborhoods would be a realization of “reparations” that is both just and effective.

Thank you, Brown. But it was only a beginning.

David Streever

White flight was made possible by something other than anti-segregation laws, however; the racist housing policies of the 50s, 60s, & 70s, which let white families buy suburban houses (and the colossal mistake in building complex, expensive, and hard to maintain infrastructure with an economic windfall in rural areas).

That infrastructure came due in the 80s for maintenance (a huge factor in the ensuing recession) and is coming due again.

The huge & inordinate shift of money into the housing policies & infrastructure development for rural communities is the direct cause of white flight.

Philip B. Spivey

Thank you, David. I think Cynthia pretty much said it for me: Black ghettos are “baked-into” the the very fabric of our laws and entitlements.

Stories of Black and brown folks trying, and failing, to rent or buy in the white bastions of New York are legion. There are a number of neighborhoods in New York where I am looked at with suspicion. There are still taxi cabs that will not stop for me. I could go on, but I think you get the point: The kind of mentalities that make me feel unwelcome in the streets of my own city—-these folks also occupy high places of power and they have devised ingenious ways to keep us in the ghetto while sucking the life out of Black communities.

Real estate moguls don’t cause this; they take advantage of the privileges afforded them.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Yes David. Specifically, FHA loans deliberately excluded neighborhoods with black residents from its inception in 1934 until 1968. After 1968, we know that many realtors continued the practice. So FHA enabled whites mobility and opportunity to build wealth. Meanwhile, most schools are funded by property taxes. Education is the best way out of poverty. Thus, in that one racist policy, ghettos were created and maintained.

That is one major reason that the black experience is different from that of immigrants. I’m sure there are many more…

Anand Gnanadesikan

Interesting headline given the role played by Episcopal schools in maintaining racial separation…

James Von Dreele

I was child in the 5th grade when two black children entered as my new classmates because of Brown v. Board Of Education. This is an experience that I shall never forget! Gratefully, I lived in a very liberal community and no issue was made of this.

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