Forced segregation.

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We just came back from a long weekend in New York. Brooklyn mainly.

As diverse a city as Chicago is, it is hard to imagine any city in the world as diverse as New York. It is one of its many glories.

We spent most of Tuesday with our grandkids who were out of school because it was a professional development day for teachers. As my seven-year old grandson ran around a playground with his grandmother, my twelve-year-old granddaughter and I walked and chatted about the usual things: Life, school and friends.

To get to school she takes a train and then a bus, she explained. The parents of the kids from other neighborhoods and who go to her school have arranged for them to ride the train together. They wait for their train and meet up in the conductor’s car.

Her elementary school was mainly African American, she told me. Her middle school is more white and Asian.  We talked some more about her experiences with race and attitudes toward Gay students. She struggles with how to deal with what she perceives as the bigotry of some of her classmates.

It was a big-issue conversation I can only imagine having with a kid from a big diverse city like Chicago or New York.

While I was in New York the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, came out against what she called “forced integration.”

Stepping into a charged debate over school segregation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Chancellor Carmen Fariña said Wednesday that while diversity benefits all students, integration should not be forced on families.

I was reminded of similar statements from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Whatever we can do to continue to increase integration in a voluntary way—I don’t think you could force these kinds of things—we want to be very, very thoughtful and to try to do more in that area quite frankly.

What is the problem with these alleged education leaders? What is it with their obsession with the imaginary threat of forced integration?

Carmen Fariña was responding to parents who wanted changes to district boundaries so that overcrowded schools would be less overcrowded. This could only happen if the schools are integrated. She refused to support the boundary change when she made her “forced integration” argument.

When Fariña and Duncan take their shots at what they call forced integration I wonder what America they think they live in.  The American history I know is one of forced segregation – legal forced segregation of schools until Brown v. Board of Education – de facto forced segregation in the years since.

In 1954 the Supreme Court decided forced segregation hurts the students of color who are segregated.

That is still true.

Richard Rothstein, responding to Arne Duncan’s forced integration remarks, wrote:

He stated that we should “increase integration in a voluntary way—I don’t think you could force these kinds of things.” Secretary Duncan is young (only 48 years old) and may not realize that in 20th century discussions of integration, “voluntary” was a code word for massive resistance to desegregation, and saying you can’t “force these kind of things” was the most common rationale for maintenance of black subjugation.

We know that segregated schools hurt children of color.

Who does integration hurt?

Carmen Fariña and Arne Duncan should take a walk with my granddaughter in the park and have a talk.

They could learn a few things.

3 thoughts on “Forced segregation.

  1. Yeah, y’know, I feel so sorry for those slaveholders having abolition forced on them. I’m sure they would have done it themselves voluntarily sooner or later. Well, maybe, much, much later. Like never.

  2. The children are asked to recite a pledge every day. In the pledge are these words: “with liberty and justice for all”. Perhaps Carmen and Arne ought to ponder a bit on what those words, and what that pledge, is trying to convey to the young students who recite it daily.

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