Article Review 4: "Schools Resegregate Study Finds" by Greg Winter
The New York Times describes the rapid—some might say frenzied—flight of white children from schools recently proclaimed to be "integrated enough" as reported in a study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard. Is this phenomenon an expression of the modern racism supposedly bubbling beneath the fair skin of outwardly PC Caucasians? My brain tells me, "pretty darn likely." Y'all don't want to know what my gut is telling me (I think I feel an ulcer coming on)…
Basically, the situation breaks down thusly. Following "the termination of dozens of court-ordered desegregation plans" the white presence in the districts affected have experienced a sharp decline. "Dozens of Charlotte schools have basically changed color in the months since the appeals court lifted the desegregation order," writes Winter, "and though few other places have seen swings so rapid, the city offers a time-lapse view of the steady transformation of the nation's schools." The city in reference is Charlotte, North Carolina, "the city for which [ironically enough] the Supreme Court first endorsed the use of busing to desegregate," and, according to the Harvard study, a fast-forwarded glimpse into the future of this nation's academic landscape.
Aside from the recent de-desegregation of schools, the article cites "[Big] increases in enrollment by black, Latino and Asian students; continuing white flight from the nation's urban centers; and the persistence of housing patterns that isolate racial and ethnic groups" as the factors contributing to the white exodus.
So what did white parents have to say about this? "[Some] white parents have challenged the desegregation plans for considering race at all. Here in Charlotte, white parents filed suit in 1997 contending that their children were being discriminated against because they could not go to schools of their choice." In typical fashion, the majority group was successful in taking a situation in which minorities were treated like a plague into one violating their own individual rights. Not surprisingly, "[a] federal appeals court ruled in their favor in 2001, lifting the district's plan" and sending white children into a veritable stampede out of classroom doors. (Although, to be fair, the parents seemed to be the ones who called "wolf!")
So, to boil down the situation even further, white parents, resenting a government imposed program which they perceived to impede their individual right to choose their children's school and which favors minorities unfairly (because, after all, they don't deserve a thing) took the first justifiable excuse to head for the hills and, boy-howdy, did they ever take it! "[According to the Harvard study] black and Latino students are now more isolated from their white counterparts than they were three decades ago." Is this fact proof of modern racism at work? Well, it sure as heck isn't progress, that's for sure…
Taking the role of devil's advocate for a moment, perhaps it really isn't a question of race that white parents are now opting for their children to attend schools closer to home. After all, it's not like there is a huge disparity between the percentage of white people who live in middle to upper class neighborhoods as compared to their minority neighbors, right? Nor are the schools located within these neighborhoods better funded, better equipped or better staffed than their urban counterparts. And even if that were all true, don't white parents have a right to keep their children out of these sub-par institutions? In describing Reid Park elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina, Greg Winter glowingly wrote, "It's spacious halls echo a kind of focused calm that many private schools would envy." And yet the white children continue to disappear. (and at a faster than normal rate, no less)
It seems that the bottom line is this: in the case of this nation's schools, "integrated enough" isn't up to snuff. And Reverend Jackson can quote me on that.