It has been reiterated in class time and time again that the current social structure was purposely constructed to be the way it is today. (For example, where blacks have a tendency to live compared to where whites tend to live.) For my group’s research paper I was looking up the history of African American and black education in the United States. It is common knowledge that segregation of public schools became technically illegal in 1954 with the decision in Brown v. Board. However, I stumbled across a decision that took place from 1994-1999 that shocked me: federal court orders release public school districts from having to continue to implement their desegregation plans (Jackson 2001, 55-56). Segregation is legal.
First, I’m shocked because this happened so recently. Our class was already born when the federal government started issuing orders that released the schools from implementing their desegregation plans. Second, I’m shocked because this was very clearly a shift from viewing segregation as a forced, intentional act to viewing segregation that still exists as a social norm that “just happened”. Less than 50 years after segregation was ruled to be illegal it was once again overturned. Yet segregation does still happen and it is because of events in history that things became the way that they are today! This frustrates me to no avail. In fact, schools were more racially segregated in the 1980’s than they were in the 1950’s due to “white flight” (Jackson 2001, 55). “White flight” is the movement of whites from the city to other areas to avoid black neighbors and school desegregation (Jackson 2001, 55). Therefore, whites helped ensure that segregation still took place. A mass movement of people from one place to another is quite intentional. Yet somehow city schools with all black students and suburbs with white students are the choice of the citizens… This baffles me.
How would I overcome this? I’m not sure. Likely something along the lines of racial quotas for public schools, even if that means having to bus students further, but that obviously is not realistic in all cases. I would love to hear other thoughts on this!
Citation: Jackson, Cynthia L. African American Education: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2001.