Saturday, June 30, 2007

Changing our future...for the better or the worse??

To what extent will we (Whites) go to in order to avoid being around people of color?

If you read the history books, that was a real problem back in the '50s. Thank goodness we are beyond that.

...aren't we???

This week we have a new landmark case to add to our history books. Fifty three years after Brown v. Board, we now have Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. As a result of this case, schools are no longer allowed to use race as a factor when trying to create a diverse student body.

What bothers me most about this decision is the way it was argued. Chief Justice Roberts argued that, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” He went on to say that his views were “more faithful to the heritage of Brown,” the landmark 1954 decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional.

Roberts' argument is flawed. True, discrimination means creating unfairness. However, Brown came into effect because schools were segregated and unequal. A school system that is committed to racial diversity for the sake of our future is not unfairness. It is strategizing the only way it knows how because it recognizes that we have not and are not choosing to live beside one another. Our neighborhoods are highly segregated...which is why our schools are highly segregated. (The average White student attends a school that is 80 percent White, while 70 percent of Black students attend schools where nearly two-thirds of students are Black and Hispanic.) The school systems that chose to make racial diversity a priority in their schools obviously recognized that unless we begin associating with one another on a regular basis while we are still young, we will continue to remain segregated.

Unfortunately, many people side with Justice Roberts...liberals and conservatives alike. Maybe not so much in their speech as in their actions. Over many years, we have become comfortable with who we live around. Because of those time-honored traditions, it is hard to change. Because of those time-honored traditions, we like to make all kinds of excuses as to why we don't need to participate in active diversity initiatives:

We say our children are already in diverse situations. (Yet when you look at their friends, they are all one color)

We say it's not fair for our kids to have to endure such a long bus ride away from their family and friends. (What's the difference in a child commuting to school and an adult commuting to work? We accept it later in life. Why not get them ready for commuting while they are still young?)

We say it's not fair that the kids have to go to school with other kids that aren't their friends (Yet families move from city to city and state to state and kids change schools. The kids always seem to make friends in their new settings in those situations. What is different in this situation?)

It was uncomfortable for the Little Rock 9, Ruby Bridges, and so many others to integrate schools in the 50s. I'm sure they didn't always enjoy doing the right thing so that the rest of us could benefit. Those kids and their families persevered because it was "the right thing to do." We need to do the same. They have already paved the way for us. It is our turn as White people to make some sacrifices so that what they started will continue to progress.

Note: The Time magazine cover in this blog was from 1971.
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