If you take time to examine disadvantages and inequality that dwell in many urban segregated schools, you will find that it is easy to identify the demons that devour the education of many black children.
By ROGER C. WILLIAMS JR.
Special to The Star
One is poverty. It is ultimately the monster that affects the amount of taxes collected to operate these schools. When that demon growls, many of the major food chains, restaurants, and other businesses move out of the communities that surround these schools.
Sometimes the entrepreneurs of low-risk business ventures that could benefit these distraught urban schools pass up the opportunity. Property values where these schools exist fall, and in some cases the incidents of crime soar. Poverty destroys the opportunity for many willing black parents to expose their children to preschool intellectual experiences that could enhance the success of these children when they turn school age.
What often escapes notice when poverty is scaring people away is that many of Americas most productive black citizens graduated from some of these separate and unequal schools. Nevertheless America has been enriched by the contributions of blacks who graduated from segregated schools. But that should not be a reason to condone their re-segregation.
In After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation, Charles Clotfelter indicated that the Supreme Courts decisions in Milliken v. Bradley in 1974 left open the possibility that segregation caused by racial disparities between school districts could continue to grow. If you take the time to look around and evaluate Clotfelters research, you will notice that its true.
Schools across the nation have become more segregated and isolated since 1974. Writing the dissenting opinion in Milliken v. Bradley, Supreme Court Jurist Thurgood Marshall stated for unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together.
Can America in the 21st century afford to have its children grow up in isolation?
When cross-racial conversations are not an active part of the educational experiences of all children, some undesirable by-products can grow to maturity.
In Can We Talk About Race: And Other Conversations in an Era of School Re-Segregation, Beverly Daniel Tatum indicated that stereotyping is not only a problem for African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and American Indians. It is also a problem that affects whites because some of the unattractive behaviors of whites paint the whole race inaccurately.
Tatum argues that most of the early information we receive about others does not come as a result of firsthand experience. I realize that there may be some people who are very comfortable living in communities where the majority of the residents mirror their race.
However, communities and racially imbalanced schools can inadvertently and without malicious intent become incubators of misinformation about others.
Can schools flecked across racially isolated communities effectively prepare children to live together in ways that foster understanding of those different from themselves? The re-segregation of schools increases the difficulty of this challenge.
Roger C. Williams Jr., Ed.D., is a retired principal, counselor and instrumental music teacher. He lives in Lee's Summit. To reach him, send email to email@example.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.