Thursday, January 15, 2009

Post-racial era?

U.S. schools more segregated than at any time since civil rights era

About 40% of U.S. black and Latino students attend schools that are increasingly racially isolated, according to a new report from the University of California's Civil Rights Project. "It would be a tragedy if the country assumed from the Obama election that the problems of race have been solved, when many inequalities are actually deepening," said Gary Orfield, Civil Rights Project co-director.
Reuters (1/14)


  1. Here's Oakland's story. I'm using 2000 Census figures, but the essence of what's going on doesn't seem to change.

    2000 Census:
    Black 35.7
    Asian 15.2
    Latino 21.9
    White 31.3

    Oakland Unified 2000-01
    Black 46.7
    Asian 16.1
    Latino 28.7
    White 5.6

    Average income
    Black $31,184
    Asian $33,614
    Latino $38, 184
    White $57,399

    No amount of busing would integrate schools here, unless public school kids are delivered to all the private schools. And as much as I like the Obamas, I feel relatively certain, because of their Ivy League educations, that they would be "going private" too, if they were living in Oakland instead.

    I don't see the point in the article that Orfield was making saying these trends being "the result of a systematic neglect of civil rights policy and related educational and community reforms for decades." No policies or laws could change what is going on here.

    It seems to me that the US is just getting more and more firmed up in its class stratification. People w/more money feel it's their duty to separate their children from those who have less, that's all.

  2. Perimiter,

    Thanks for your comments.

    You're right about increased class stratification.This has especially been the case during the past 8 years when the neocons waged a one-sided class war against affirmative action, unionization and every other avenue towards class mobility.

    Laws and government policies DO matter. No one understood this better than Bush/Cheney who were able to turn back the clock on nearly every piece of civil rights legislation we fought for and won back in the '60s.

    You are right about some people's unwillingness to have equal rights in this country. That's precisely why we need laws and policies. I think that's the point of Orfield's study.

  3. Right, I agree that Bush/Cheney made matters worse, but at least here, the desire to class/race stratify has been going on long before their reign, by people who are at their polar opposite.

    Oakland butts up against ultra-liberal, supposedly "open-minded" Berkeley and the values of our city's educated, higher-income parents are very similar. It doesn't stop most of them from wanting to flee the poor kids, though.

    Oakland 1990 (Before Bush/Cheney)
    Black 43.9
    Asian 14.9
    Latino 13.2
    White 32.5

    OUSD 1992-93 (the closest I could find)
    Black 54.9
    Asian 17.7
    Latino 17.6
    White 7.3

    The discrepancy for Berkeley vs. Berkeley Unified is similar, but that city is much more white. They supposedly have a very rigorous desegregation policy.

    Berkeley 2000
    Black 13.6
    Asian 16.4
    Latino 9.7
    White 59.2

    Berkeley Unified 2000-01
    Black 35.7
    Asian 7.5
    Latino 13.9
    White 28.2

  4. As more evidence of the hypocrisy, Berkeley offers its public school teachers the lowest starting salary of 11 of its county neighbors in the East Bay, at $35,842. Oakland, at three steps above is $38,778. Our region's cost of living is nearly 41% higher than the US average. Of the 11, Berkeley's teacher retention is fourth from the bottom.

    This is a blunt message from the most liberal of liberals about how much value they place on supporting public schools. I wonder where Orfield, and other civil rights people, send their kids.

  5. PP,

    I still don't see what your liberal bashing and personal attacks on Orfield and family have to do with your lack of support for federal civil rights legislation and supportive policies. I sent all three of my kids to urban public schools and still oppose institutional racial segregation. What's your point?

  6. Sorry, but watching what is going on in my community stirs up a lot of emotion for me. The problems are so very, very deep that it's hard for me to believe that laws can correct the situation (mixing different groups) enough, especially when it's clear how extraordinarily motivated people are to find their way around them.

    Until we're all intermarried, it all makes me wonder about how much of human nature is unavoidably tribal, and what that means for managing a society such as ours. If you know any good reading on that topic, thanks for letting me know.

  7. I can understand your frustration, especially with hypocrisy and the racist avoidance of liberal elitists. But I don't think we need wait for universal intermarriage before adopting some good, reasonable and enforceable civil rights legislation--especially where it pertains to public schools. There's no reason that children of color have to attend the worse schools with disproportionate numbers of un-certified teachers, outdated texts, crumbling facilities, etc...

    As for good reads, of course there are many. I hardly know where to start.

    I've been re-reading "Parting the Waters" a great history of the Civil Rights Movement, by Taylor Branch. I also just got notice that my colleagues Ayers & Dohrn have a new book out called "Race Course: Against White Supremacy" (Third World Press). I haven't read it yet, but it's likely worth a read. You might also pick up a copy our book, "A Simple Justice: The challange of small schools" (Teachers College Press). Maybe readers will post other suggestions for you.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.