I hate racial segregation. It’s in my DNA.

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Back in 1896 the United States Supreme Court ruled that when it came to race in America, separate but equal was the law of the land.

Apartheid was legal in this country until the Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson in 1954.

The named plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education was Oliver Brown.

Brown’s daughter Linda was in third grade at the time. She had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to her segregated black school one mile away. Linda Brown’s nearest school was a white school. It was seven blocks from her home.

Linda Brown:

… well. like I say, we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities. And so when I found out that day that I might be able to go to their school, I was just thrilled, you know. And I remember walking over to Sumner school with my dad that day and going up the steps of the school and the school looked so big to a smaller child. And I remember going inside and my dad spoke with someone and then he went into the inner office with the principal and they left me out … to sit outside with the secretary. And while he was in the inner office, I could hear voices and hear his voice raised, you know, as the conversation went on. And then he immediately came out of the office, took me by the hand and we walked home from the school. I just couldn’t understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.

Former Arne Duncan advisor and now Eli Broad funded ed reformer Peter Cunningham complain that the fight against desegregation is too hard and too costly. Better to return to accept the notion of separate but equal. More than accept it, they suggest it as a policy.

My brother took this on yesterday.

Peter Cunningham’s latest apologia for school segregation, in U.S. News & World Report, is basically a defense of current reform policies that have been shown to re-segregate schools. It represents more than just the opinion of a lone education gadfly. Cunningham is paid millions to speak for some of the most powerful and wealthiest among those who influence national ed policy.

It’s run up the flag pole at a time when corporate-style “reform” has come under attack from civil rights groups and teacher unions, and appear to be losing their cachet, even within the Democratic Party establishment.

Cunningham tries to come off as a tormented soul, torn between his personal and “pragmatic” side, the latter arguing that ending poverty and integration are just too “politically difficult and financially expensive” and therefore, instead of spending hundreds of billions more to reduce poverty and reduce segregation, we should just “double down on our efforts to improve schools.”

At a recent DFER-sponsored forum at the DNC, Cunningham laid out his anti-deseg line in an obvious attempt to influence Clinton’s education agenda. He answered a question about school integration this way: “Maybe the fight’s not worth it. It’s a good thing; we all think integration is good. But it’s been a long fight, we’ve had middling success. At the same time, we have lots and lots of schools filled with kids of one race, one background, that are doing great. 

There nothing original in Cunningham’s comments. If they strike you as a throwback to Plessy v. Ferguson and the separate-but-equal doctrine, you’re definitely on to something. As we learned back then, when it comes to schooling, separate is never equal. Following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, the difficulty and protracted nature of the struggle against de factosegregation and poverty has caused some to throw in the towel.

Cunningham is basically echoing the call of his boss at the D.O.E., former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan. It was he who tried to put the kibosh on a Justice Dept. civil right suit against the state of Louisiana, which would have blocked expansion of the state’s school voucher system.

Peter Cunningham does not just speak for himself. He represents the corporate school reform movement and those in Obama’s Department of education – and perhaps Hillary’s too.

Last week Cunningham lashed out claiming our lack of appreciation for the work Arne Duncan had done to improve teacher salaries and pensions had something to do with my brother’s DNA and mine.

Talking about our DNA.

Promoting separate but equal schools.

I don’t think I’m missing anything here.

Do you?

 

11 thoughts on “I hate racial segregation. It’s in my DNA.

  1. You have missed nothing. I feel like a spinning top as the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement of my childhood are torn asunder. No, segregation is not better. Poverty is not healthy for children and other living things. If Peter Cunningham thinks poverty and segregation are acceptable, I would recommend that he move into a poor, segregated neighborhood in the city of his choice and experience the reality. He would benefit from observing white people driving into the ‘hood to purchase drugs. He could feel first hand the trauma of children losing friends and family to senseless gun violence. He could get a glimpse of gang demarcations. Let him try a little food insecurity and homelessness for a change. Finally, he should taste the flavor of over-incarceration of people of color for minor legal infractions and try to maintain his family intact. Cunningham is seeking a nuanced conversation. Well, there is absolutely nothing nuanced for children growing up in poverty in American urban centers.

  2. Cunningham is an utter disgrace. The Broad Foundation needs to cut him loose to recapture any semblance of credibility. They also need to stop funding charter schools and work towards a society that values young black and brown students enough to ensure that public schools are well-resourced no matter what neighborhood or town or rural area they are in.

  3. Peter: 2 heads are better/smarter than one. Especially if they share the Klonsky DNA.
    & the “one” they’re smarter & better than? Why, you, of course, Peter.

  4. Cunningham debated Jennifer Berkshire (aka The Edushyster) at the NPE conference in Raleigh. There he made it apparent that he’s just paid for his viewpoint. The last person to comment during the Q and A was a parent from the Seattle area. His voice was choked with emotion as he told Cunningham that the policies he backs are hurting real people, had in fact hurt his child. Cunningham’s only response was some bland generic stuff about change was hard but necessary – he’s one of the hollow men.

  5. Separate but equal has been proven not to work. I spent a number of years doing subbing in the Chicago South substitute area. I sincerely doubt that many schools in the northern suburbs have windows that won’t open, holes in the floor, desks that are too small for children whose knees went up higher than that the top of the desk or had outdated books.

    Anyone who says separate but equal has never toured poverty level school to see the difference. Those in power simply don’t care.

  6. “The philosophy of nonviolence which I learned from Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr., during my involvement in the civil rights movement was first responsible for my change in diet…Under the leadership of Dr. King, I became totally committed to nonviolence, and I was convinced that nonviolence meant opposition to killing in any form. I felt the commandment ‘Thou Salt not kill’ applied to human beings not only in their dealings with each other – war, lynching, assassination, murder and the like – but in their practice of killing animals for food or sport. Animals suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain…the same arrogant, cruel and brutal taking of life.” – Dick Gregory

    “As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.” — Isaac Bashevis Singer

  7. Peter Cunningham @PCunningham57
    More proof that forced integration didn’t work.

    Huh??? Peter, it’s hard to determine whether you’re just (1) a complete ignoramus, (2) a blind, amoral, neoliberal ideologue, (3) a paid corporate shill, or (4) a disgusting racist. Which one of those are you? Is it conceivable that you’re all four? If it walks like a duck… Yes, vouchers and charter schools — your version of “educational reform”— are scams that lead to income inequality, further segregation, and eventually to a complete societal breakdown.

  8. Pingback: What’s More Important – Fighting School Segregation or Protecting Charter School Profits? | gadflyonthewallblog

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