59 Years after Brown vs. Board of Ed, the Spectrum of Segregation Persists

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The Center was invited to write for Teach For America's blog, Pass the Chalk, to commemorate the Brown v. Board of Education anniversary. We wrote about the spectrum of segregation and resegregation in North Carolina as an example of this disturbing nationwide trend.

Halifax community members at a rally for education equality

Although racial segregation in public schools was held unconstitutional in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education, massive resistance by segregationist state and local governments prevented meaningful implementation of this landmark ruling for over a decade. It wasn’t until the late 1960s, and in response to community activism, litigation, and intervention by the federal government, that the doors of educational opportunity were finally forced open to create equal access for children of color.

Today, almost 60 years after Brown, its promise of an integrated and equal education remains unfulfilled. The cross-exposure of black and white students—an important measure of integration—peaked in the mid-1980s but, by 2000 was even lower than in 1968. [For more, see studies by the Civil Rights Project. A Multriracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?; Southern Slippage: Growing School Segregation in the Most Desegregated Region of the Country.]

Halifax County, a majority-African American rural county in eastern North Carolina, is an example of a district that never truly desegregated in the first place. Halifax maintains three racially isolated school districts. . .maintained through structural exclusions rooted in residential and educational segregation. With most schools in the county performing below the state average, all students in Halifax are being denied the benefit of a racially diverse learning environment and a sound basic education.

There are also districts in the state that are still under a federal court order to desegregate. In 1965, Pitt County was ordered to move from a “dual” (segregated) to a “unitary” (integrated) system. Almost 50 years later, the district has yet to fully comply with the court’s order. As a result, African American (and now Latino) students in Pitt County attend schools with significant racial disparities in student and faculty assignment, and discipline.

Finally, at the other end of the spectrum are school districts that have resegregated after a period of successful integration. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were placed under court order to desegregate following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District. The court declared the district unitary in 2000, even over the objection of the district itself, which feared resegregation if it would be prohibited from considering race in student assignment. In less than five years, Charlotte’s adoption of a proximity-based school assignment policy, also known as “neighborhood” or “community” schools, has returned the district to a level of racial and economic segregation that nearly mirrors the era before the court orders. [The Center also recently wrote about lessons from community activism against neighborhood schools in Wake County]

[read the full post at Pass the Chalk]

Posted by Taiyyaba A. Qureshi on Thu. May 16, 2013 12:09 PM
Categories: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Education, Halifax County, Pitt County, Race Discrimination, Segregation, Wake County
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