Sunday, December 28, 2014

Segregation...now?

ProPublica finds that segregation is making a comeback

Segregation...now?



In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

-- Alabama Gov. George Wallace, 1963 inaugural address.

I know that it's Throwback Thursday, but this seems to be taking things too far. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that was intended to end school segregation "with all deliberate speed." But today, from New York City to the Heart of Dixie, school segregation is actually on the rise.

This morning, the great investigative news org ProPublica came out with a lengthy report called, fittingly, "Segregation Now." It focuses on Tuscaloosa, the city where Wallace would famously "stand in the schoolhouse door" later in 1963 in a futile and staged effort to block the integration of the University of Alabama:

The reason for the decline of Central's homecoming parade is no secret. In 2000, another federal judge released Tuscaloosa City Schools from the court-ordered desegregation mandate that had governed it for a single generation. Central had successfully achieved integration, the district had argued—it could be trusted to manage that success going forward.

Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa's schools have seemed to move backwards in time. The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city's poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. D'Leisha, an honors student since middle school, has only marginal college prospects. Predominantly white neighborhoods adjacent to Central have been gerrymandered into the attendance zones of other, whiter schools.

Tuscaloosa's schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-white schools exist anymore—the city's white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

No one ever said that de-segregating America's schools would be easy, because in many communities patterns of residential segregation persist as well. But students who attend well-managed integrated schools learn tolerance and understanding along with their ABCs. More importantly, the factor that drove the High Court's ruling in 1954 -- that separate schools clearly do not provide an equal education for minorities -- is as true today as it was then. Going backwards on civil rights -- especially on core issues such as education and voting rights -- is ridiculous -- and for these things to be happening in 2014 is unconscionable...even on Throwback Thursday.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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