Winter, Greg. (16 May 2004) “Long After Brown v. Board of Education, Sides Switch,” The New York Times, p.21.
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Black Families and activists fought to integrate segregated all-white and all-black schools in Brown v. Board of Education and won when the Supreme Court banned racial segregation, 17 May 1954. Recently black families have been fighting to overthrow racial quotas and let their children attend local schools with racial imbalance. Their objections point to long and fatiguing bus rides, competition without teaching instruction that sometimes leads to failure, and racial quotas that can keep their children from attending a favorite, local school.
Central High School in Louisville, KY was the alma mater of Muhammad Ali and is one of its communities “most recognizable institutions.” When Gwendolyn Hopson’s daughter was denied entrance to this her local high school in the late 1990s, this auto parts saleswoman sued the school district and won. Central High School has now “reverted to a school with about eight black students for every white one.”
I didn’t care if there was an equal balance of black and white. All I cared was that my child was denied because of racial quotas…. Integration? What was it good for? They were just setting up our babies to fail (Gwendolyn Hopson concluded).
The writer of this article summarizes:
… the fatigue of busing their children for hours each day, only to see them do poorly at predominantly white schools, has led some black parents to almost yearn for the type of tight-knit network of black educators that integration disbanded.
Professor of Law at Harvard University reflects:
I find an enormous nostalgia for the world pre-Brown. This is very disconcerting but not surprising. People feel like what was lost was a sense of community.
Black parents in Nashville, TN also overturned rights and quotas of mandated integration in 1999. They were promised newer, better schools in their own neighborhoods and the possibility of more neighborhood control. But the funds and change of control have been slow coming, and some of these parents wonder if they have a mistake. Mr. Dixon of the local N.A.A.C.P. explains that they have little to show in exchange for letting go of busing and integration in better white schools-and have also lost the leverage of a court order. “We’re actually worse off than we were five years ago because now we have no legal protection.”
More than a hundred school districts have been released from court-ordered desegregation since 1990 (according to the Civil Rights Project of Harvard). Hundreds of school districts in the U.S. are still under court-ordered desegregation decrees.
A 1998 poll by Public Agenda found that 82% of whites and 62% of blacks “oppose making children leave their neighborhoods to create racially balanced schools, and about three-quarters agree that ‘the schools work so hard to achieve integration that they end up neglecting their most important goal-teaching kids.'”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What are your feelings about the Brown v. Board decision? What were the positve affects of it and what were the negative affects?
If you were on the Supreme Court, what would you decide to do and why?
How important is being educated in one”s own community do you think?
School desegregation is not a clear issue and involves many complexities that must be understood before making quick statements.
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