By Isabel Manuela Estrada Portales, Ph.D., M.S.
My previous post dealt with the second of two This American Life’s radio shows about school segregation. I decided to go in reverse order because Part II clearly showcased the basic tenants of our current educational system and how the odds are stacked against black and brown children in impoverished neighborhoods, due to historic and present day racism on one hand and the eternal catering to white fragility on the other. Even integration efforts need to be done in a way that favor whites so that it is accepted to put some resources in places black kids may access them.
Among many other seminal issues, Part II points to the essential problem of local funding of education, which was put in place for the stated purpose of preventing white dollars from going to fund black schools.
Part I discusses, among other things, the Normandy School District in Normandy, Missouri, which is on the border of Ferguson, Missouri, and the district includes the high school attended by Michael Brown, the black 18 year old killed by a police officer in 2014. A district that lost its accreditation in January of 2013, after having a provisional accreditation – a warning of sorts – for…15 years.
This part, however, will enrage anyone with a sense of right and wrong, anyone with a conscience, because there is no need to understand the intricacies and finer points about education funding, integration or even the racial history of the United States to see through the despicable spectacle with which these white parents regaled us.
As I mentioned before, the overall premise of the programs is that school integration is the only educational strategy that has proven to be effective in closing the achievement gap between black and white children and improving attainment across the board for all races.
I won’t retell the episode here, listen to it, please, it is worthy. At the very least, listen to the segment in which white parents scream about how to prevent black children from coming to their schools…in the presence of some of those children and of many of their parents. The kernel is that the Normandy School District had to send its (nearly all black) children to another district – they chose one that was far to make it very inconvenient for children to transfer out – and the one chosen was Francis Howell whose children were nearly all white.
Just listen to this segment and tell me that the United States is not a structurally racist society; indeed, purposely structured for whites’ racial advantage. It was racially structured for oppression and suppression and, while no doubt progress has been made, we have continued to rebuild and recast some of those foundational structures to ensure submission of some groups for the sustained privilege of others. That these groups are demarcated along racial lines is plain to see.
Tell me that we have not, willfully, turned our backs to the most basic truths that will require of us acting justly and, therefore, that will require of some of us to forgo minimal measures of the immense privileges we enjoy in order to create a more equitable society and to bring forth the real conditions of progress for those on whose work our privileges were built.
Just listen to this segment and see how we, black parents are a bunch of lazy bums who do not care about our children’s education. That is why we are willing to wake them up at 5 am to send them half way around the county to get a public school education they wouldn’t be able to get in the school around the block. I wonder why…Perhaps because of that pesky idea of locally funding our schools.
They assumed parents and children wouldn’t want to go through the trouble:
“1,000-- that's how many kids wanted to do that. That fall, fully one quarter of Normandy students chose the evacuation plan the law created, even though many of them would have to get on a bus at 5 o'clock in the morning and travel a good 30 miles away. The word “integration” does not appear in Missouri's transfer law. When the law was passed, no one thought an entire district would lose accreditation. Integration was not the law's intent.”
It is perfectly apparent that our black kids are a bunch of criminals, dumbs and good for nothing who…thrive in good schools, are willing to wake up at 5 am to go to those good schools and, surprise, surprise, don’t stab anyone once they are there. Oh, Lord!
Listen to this segment and see how white parents are NOT RACISTS, they just demand that the black kids coming from the other neighborhood bring with them their health records to make sure they don’t have some communicable disease – wouldn’t blackness be contagious?; their criminal records – because they assume black children are coming straight from prison instead of a school.
“The woman says she was an education professor and warned Frances Howell officials not to be naive about the type of students they'd be receiving.“Woman 2: So I'm hoping that their discipline records come with them, like their health records come with them.”
And they demand that before black kids come in the school installs metal detectors and brings drug sniffing dogs. Yeah, this was actually said:
“Woman 3: I want to know where the metal detectors are going to be. And I want to know where your drug-sniffing dogs are going to be.
“I deserve to not have to worry about my children getting stabbed, or taking a drug, or getting robbed because that's the issue. I don't care.”“One mother asked why residents did not get to vote on letting in Normandy kids like they vote on public transportation.“Woman 3: Years ago, when the MetroLink was being very popular, Saint Charles County put to a vote whether or not we wanted the MetroLink to come across into our community. And we said no. And the reason we said no is because we don't want the different areas-- I'm going to be very kind-- coming across on our side of the bridge, bringing with it everything that we're fighting today against.”
Notice that she was “going to be very kind” and, what? Not refer to them as niggers?
Did I mention Normandy parents and kids were in the audience?
And what does the school board members, you know, the leaders say when witnessing this lovely situation?
“School Board Member: I just want to remind everybody that this timeline, nor this solution, are solutions that Francis Howell would have chosen either... We did find out yesterday that those student scores will become our scores.”
It was so embarrassing that the school teachers from the “white” high school were ashamed and organized a very nice welcome for the children of the Normandy School District.
Referring to integration, the reporter, a product herself of desegregation the first time around, said the saddest and truest phrase in this program: “We somehow want this to have been easy. And we gave up really fast.”
A piece in The New York Times, The Continuing Reality of Segregated Schools, summarizes this well:
“Most black children will not be killed by the police. But millions of them will go to a school like Michael Brown’s: segregated, impoverished and failing. The nearly all-black, almost entirely poor Normandy school district from which Brown graduated just eight days before he was killed placed dead last on its accreditation assessment in the 2013-2014 school year: 520th out of 520 Missouri districts. The circumstances were so dire that the state stripped the district of its accreditation and eventually took over.”
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