April 19, 2014

"We like to think of the men and women whose struggle led to Brown v. Board of Education as democratic idealists..."

"... but their motivations were more complex: if the efforts to upend Jim Crow reflected idealism, it was a cynical idealism," writes Jelani Cobb in a New Yorker article titled "The Failure of Desegregation."

In the decades prior to Brown, the civil-rights establishment had fought a fierce and futile battle for the equal distribution of resources between black and white schools. It was only after attempting to force school districts to uphold the latter part of “separate but equal” proved to be a failure that the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund changed its tactics, and attacked separation itself.... The tactical shift was not universally welcomed by African-Americans: critics like Zora Neale Hurston howled at the implication that black learning could be insured only by proximity to white children. Elijah Muhammad warned, ominously, that “only a fool allows his enemies to educate his children.”...

The architects of Jim Crow were fixated by notions of white racial purity, but black people subjected to that dictatorship of pigment were concerned with a different question: In a hostile society, is it better to be isolated from those who view you with contempt or in close proximity to them?... In the thirties, W. E. B. Du Bois inspired rancorous debates within the N.A.A.C.P. by arguing, in his writing, that there were important economic benefits—the built-in market for black businesses, for instance—that came with segregation.... Black teachers in South Carolina, where another of the desegregation suits had been filed, worried, with some cause, that integration would end a state of affairs in which black children, though deprived of equal resources, at least benefitted from teachers who did not calibrate their expectations according to the color of their students’ skin.

28 comments:

jr565 said...

Crack bait.
Hey, Crack sounds just like Elijah Muhammad!

Seriously though,whatever the motivations of those wanting to desegregate we are left with two options desegregation or re-segregation. Pick one and then realize that there are consequences for both.

JohnJEnright said...

Separate but equal was really a lot of separate and not so much equal.

Carol said...

In Colored People by Henry Louis Gates, the end of segregation is kind of sad and poignant. His mom finally gets to live in the White Lady's house, but realizes she doesn't really want it and breaks down. Kids will leave their schools, and the neighborhoods, black social clubs and churches will start to weaken.

Gates didn't seem all that happy about the prospect. But it was Progress and had to soldier on through it.

EDH said...

"...though deprived of equal resources, [black children] at least benefited from teachers who did not calibrate their expectations according to the color of their students’ skin."

Even with the deprivations of segregation, was the black family in better shape before War on Poverty? The return on investment of so much government largess has been the destruction of the family and the schools in many precincts.

Republicans need to make the historical case that choice and competition, rather than more money or testing, are what all races need to break free of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" that has become the norm in union-dominated public schools, particularly in big cities.

Scott said...

I read the article, and found an editing error. It should read:

"The architects of Jim Crow [, who were all members of the Democrat Party,] were fixated by notions of white racial purity, ..."

Skeptical Voter said...

Well the author of the piece offers no concrete solutions or proposals.

The commenters on the New Yorker piece are also all over the lot.

St. George said...

"Mr. Woodson saves his most passionate disdain for those on the black left who all but abandon the black poor except to exploit them. "Around 70 cents of every dollar designated to relieve poverty goes not to poor people but to people who serve the poor—social workers, counselors, et cetera," he says. "We've created a poverty industry, turned poor people into a commodity. And the race hustlers play a bait-and-switch game where they use the conditions of low-income blacks to justify remedies"—such as racial education preferences—"that only help middle-income blacks."

Mr. Woodson broke with the traditional civil-rights movement in the 1970s over forced busing. In the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren suggested that all-black classrooms were inherently inferior, and liberals convinced themselves that ending legal segregation wasn't enough. "The left assumes that if you're not for forced integration, then you support segregation, but that's a false dichotomy," Mr. Woodson says. "I believe we should have fought for desegregation, but forced integration is a separate issue, especially in education."

A majority of black parents always opposed this social engineering and said they wanted better neighborhood schools, "but the civil-rights leadership pushed busing for the poor. Of course, none of their kids were on the bus," says Mr. Woodson. To this day, the left's obsession with the racial composition of a school trumps its concern with whether kids are learning."

From an article in today's WSJ profiling black conservative Robert Woodson, Sr., 76, former National Urban League member and head of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

Big Mike said...

Hard choices, you know. Hard choices all around. Everyone has to make hard choices in life.

YoungHegelian said...

at least benefitted from teachers who did not calibrate their expectations according to the color of their students’ skin.

After having lived in the DC area for some 40 years, I can tell you with sad certainty that having black teachers doesn't translate to higher expectations for black students.

David said...

Desegregation has largely failed to bring equality of educational opportunity to black kids, but the reasons cited in that short article are too conventional.

The dirty truth is that we don't expect poor black kids to be able to learn very well, and therefore they don't. The tangible barriers of poverty, social segregation and the like stated in the article are real and formidable, but barriers will be crossed only if you believe that they can. On a broad scale, we have lost that belief, or at least the will to take the steps to implement it.

Racism? Of course that's a significant factor. "The soft bigotry of low expectations" isn't actually soft. It's a sharp knife that makes a painful wound. But there's something beyond that. Cynicism. Despair. Denial. Even on the part of the well intentioned.

One of the great tragedies of the Obama era is that it has gotten worse during his time. Blame him. Blame society. Blame white racists. Take your pick. That kind of stuff is one of the elements of tragedy.

glenn said...

Integration is that condition that exists between the time the first black family moves in and the last white family moves out. There's a reason for that and it's mostly practical.

jr565 said...

St George wrote:
Mr. Woodson saves his most passionate disdain for those on the black left who all but abandon the black poor except to exploit them. "Around 70 cents of every dollar designated to relieve poverty goes not to poor people but to people who serve the poor—social workers, counselors, et cetera," he says. "We've created a poverty industry, turned poor people into a commodity. And the race hustlers play a bait-and-switch game where they use the conditions of low-income blacks to justify remedies"—such as racial education preferences—"that only help middle-income blacks."


I'm wondering if Republicans should make some promises of their own. Basically gut all social programs. But in turn say anyone who was poor could apply for a million dollars which would be given out over ten years. And those who were relying on it needed to pay for their medical bills, their housing etc and retirement. no reliance on govt. This might be revisisted every ten years. If we gave everyone a million dollars over ten years we'd probably save a boat load of money, and get govt out of peopels hair.

Michael K said...

"From an article in today's WSJ profiling black conservative Robert Woodson, Sr., 76, former National Urban League member and head of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise."

I read it and could not get through the New Yorker piece. Too predictable. I doubt they would be interested in a submission from him.

hombre said...

Clearly, the answer to the New Yorker author's concerns is for judges to order white people and Asians to move into predominately black neighborhoods.

Given the direction the country is going and the avant -gardism of today's judges that appears a logical next step.

pm317 said...

Outsider looking in, I was not here when it happened and as a brown immigrant, never have ever been made to feel anything less than 'white'; I attribute much of that to my own confidence and how I project myself to others -- and, whenever I read articles like these, they seem to benevolently absolve the blacks of any responsibility to reform their own segregation tendencies. How about if all the racebaiters, white and black out there celebrate more of people like Dr. Ben Carson and less of Sharpton and his ugly crowd (unfortunately, that includes Obama). I know, I know, it is a simplistic notion and asks for a big sacrifice, especially from the Democratic politicians and the big media to change their political agenda and give up on their vote banks to really think of the long term welfare of black people. They could help in instilling the much needed confidence in these people instead of making them afraid of their own shadow.

Jerry said...

Multiracial/multiethnic countries are put together and held together at the point of a gun. Always have been always will be. The 1% uses the natural conflicts between groups to divide and control. Others use African Americans as some kind of self actualization project. Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Old Soviet Union - as soon as the gun goes away so do the ethnic minorities.Hell, even Scotland wants to bail. Take the gun away and the US won't be any different.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


Left to their own devices, human beings self-segregate.

Is anything more obvious, or more natural?

Gary Rosen said...

St. George, that piece on Woodson in the WSJ was great. He had it exactly right, too, that it was a huge mistake to fight de facto segregation with forced busing. I remember thinking at the time that was when the civil rights movement went off the rails.

Lydia said...

For those too young to remember: Busing’s Boston Massacre -- A Boston judge’s experiment in social engineering unraveled neighborhoods and frustrated black achievement

cubanbob said...

Social engineering has apparently failed. Perhaps its time to give up on it and rather focus on a general societal solution of maximizing economic growth. A labor shortage would certainly go a long way towards ameliorating the ills of the underclasses.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

pm317 said...

Outsider looking in...


I have worked with many Mexican immigrants, legal and otherwise, in the last thirty years. Some never learn English, probably because since they mostly work with other Mexicans, they don't really need to. Hopefully without making an offensive generalization, what I see are very hard working people. OK, that's preamble, because what I really want to talk about are the second generation, those born here or brought here very young. These kids appear to integrate themselves seamlessly into US culture. They finish high school, speak English without an accent, often go to college, and carry on their parents' tradition of hard work. The idea that they might be "acting white" apparently never occurs to them. This minority is integrated because it chooses to be. Blacks will never be successfully integrated until they choose to be.

Jupiter said...

"But, as we approach the sixtieth anniversary of the Brown decision, next month, the landmark case seems, in hindsight, like a qualified victory."

A "victory" is what you have when you defeat an enemy.

Kirk Parker said...

hombre,

"Clearly, the answer to the New Yorker author's concerns is for judges to order white people and Asians to move into predominately black neighborhoods."

OMG. GENTRIFICATION???? Have you no decency, sir?

Gahrie said...

The soft bigotry of low expectations" isn't actually soft. It's a sharp knife that makes a painful wound.

True, and the rest of your comment was true also. But for some reason you omittted one of the greatest barriers to minority education...a culture that creates and nurtures the concept of "Acting White". There is not much you can do for people who see success as selling out and failure as authenticity.

wildswan said...

We ought to compare Milwaukee's experience with New York's. In Milwaukee parents can choose the school they want their child to be in and one quarter of them have done so. The statistics for the minority kids remaining in the inner city Milwaukee schools are dismal and those schools are segregated. This is the same situation as the one the New Yorker article talks about. But in Milwaukee another reality, the 35,000 who have escaped, exists along with with the "New York" situation. In other words, it isn't that there isn't a way out, it's that there isn't a one-size-fits-all way out. Moreover some of the partial solutions based on choice or based on charter schools or based on home-schooling (each of which would help some of the kids) aren't acceptable to the teacher's unions. But we don't have to regard the situation as hopeless just because the sole solution acceptable to the teachers' unions is hopeless.

John said...

St George quoted:

"We've created a poverty industry, turned poor people into a commodity.."

Tom Wolfe's best novel is Bonfire of the Vanities. One of the things that has long stuck in my mind, and that I have frequently used in discussions about education is his use of the word "chow"

He uses this word to refer to the prisoners brought before the court. They are the "chow" on which the system feeds. No prisoners, no system.

Ditto education. Students are simply the "chow" on which teachers, administrators and others making a living from the system feed. It is not about educating the students, it is about providing jobs for all those folks.

The same word would apply above. We've turned poor people into the chow on which the poverty industry ("Poverty Pimps") feeds.

John Henry

Jupiter said...

I sometimes feel like there must be something wrong with me, because what I see as completely obvious, so many say is obviously false. But then I remind myself, that what they say with their mouths has no bearing upon where they live, or where they send their children to school. There's nothing wrong with my vision. They see exactly what I see.

Jupiter said...

There is a longer article on resegregation in Tuscaloosa in the Atlantic;

http://tinyurl.com/mlgxujm

It is pretty funny reading about how the professors at the university carefully managed to gerrymander their neighborhood out of the black school district. I am sure they all decry racism as loudly and regularly as a rooster greets the dawn.

Somewhat sadder is the story of the black girl who has taken the ACT exam over and over, but can't come near the score that will get her into college. I would say that encouraging this girl to aspire to the sort of career college is supposed to prepare you for is like encouraging me to aspire to play in the NBA. If you just try hard enough! I guess if the NBA had affirmative action, I might have a chance. Do you suppose that is what her advisors are counting on? That the government will force someone to give her a job she can't do? Or maybe just give her a fake job, and pay her for being black?