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Integration

White progressives have a lot of work to do, and I’m not here to help

When I ran for school board it was former Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges who was the first elected official to endorse me. She asked me a lot of questions, offered some straight talk about the political system, and spoke very clearly about what it takes to win in a whiter than white town like Minneapolis.

Later, after winning a seat on the board and facing white parents who came for my head and demanded I resign, Betsy was the first to call me and offer more advice. I can’t share what that was, but it was about standing firm in the good fight.

I hear echoes of her voice from back then in new a piece she wrote for the New York Times.

It opens with this:

Democrats have largely led big and midsize cities for much of the past half-century. Yet the gaps in socioeconomic outcomes between white people and people of color are by several measures at their worst in the richest, bluest cities of the United States.

That opening might as well be the preamble for a report my organization released early this year that showed racialized inequities in public schools are worse in the top “progressive” cities than in the top “conservative” ones. As proud as progressive democrats are of their hometowns, they are citadels of inequity.

I’m happy to see Facebook liberals accepting the message from Betsy because when our report dropped more than a few education lefties on Twitter hated on it. They challenged the methodology, the motives behind it, and it’s usefulness.

What they didn’t do is show the slightest curiosity as to why wealthy, college-educated enclaves like San Francisco and the Twin Cities were hosts to terrible gaps in education, home ownership, and economics for people of color when compared to whites. And that, in my eyes, was (and is) the actual problem. Liberal white people who subscribe to all the right periodicals, vote for the wokest sounding political candidates, and give money to causes that surely prove their stellar virtues also suffer from colossal blind spots that hide their contributions to the perpetuation of racial inequity.

That’s why it’s satisfying to say this in her piece:

As the mayor of Minneapolis from 2014 to 2018, as a Minneapolis City Council member from 2006 until 2014 and as a white Democrat, I can say this: White liberals, despite believing we are saying and doing the right things, have resisted the systemic changes our cities have needed for decades. We have mostly settled for illusions of change, like testing pilot programs and funding volunteer opportunities.

These efforts make us feel better about racism, but fundamentally change little for the communities of color whose disadvantages often come from the hoarding of advantage by mostly white neighborhoods.

In Minneapolis, the white liberals I represented as a Council member and mayor were very supportive of summer jobs programs that benefited young people of color. I also saw them fight every proposal to fundamentally change how we provide education to those same young people. They applauded restoring funding for the rental assistance hotline. They also signed petitions and brought lawsuits against sweeping reform to zoning laws that would promote housing affordability and integration.

She is speaking mostly about policing in Minneapolis, but she was there to see firsthand white parents who talked endlessly about social justice online organize privately to sabotage plans to change school boundaries and integrate our schools.

There were many parents who declared their principled support for public education until they didn’t get their way in a policy battle and then threaten to put their kids in private schools. (Those same parents, ironically, also railed against school choice – especially when it meant people of color might take their per pupil income from Minneapolis’ chronically failing schools that the city’s white families had abandoned years earlier to culturally-affirming charter schools).

I lost faith in white “progressives” so long ago that I scantly remember having it. Every now and then I go back and read the emails I received as an school board member just to remind myself how truly awful fauxgressives can be. As the target of their social violence on many occasions, as an audience to their massive eruptions of privilege, and as a witness to their duplicitous hypocrisy during a decade of negotiating with them, I’m tapped out. I’m not alone. Many people of color are tapped out. Disgusted. Tired.

I hope to see more Betsy’s take up the battle of finally confronting their friends, neighbors, and family to see their part in keeping too many faces at the bottom of the well.

I won’t hold my breath for an unlikely awakening, but I will cling to the nominal hope a merciful God put in my heart for these things.

 

Pursuing the power of self-sovereignty and personalized learning to create secure citizens and abundant communities. #TheOppositeOfSchool #AllPowerToThePupil

Integration

Everyone knows that magnet schools work. Except when they don’t.

An editorial in yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch about that city’s magnet schools takes issue with the pervasive claim that “integration is the only thing that has ever worked at scale.’

It didn’t work. Feel free to keep saying it though.

This is where you point me to this or that book or report by this or that professor (or “journalist”) who attended white schools and feels they’re the best thing since round wheels. To which I’ll tell you to look at the outcomes in all the centers of integrationist policy and tell me which one is working?

Hartford?

Hardly. That district’s magnet are discriminating on the basis of race, cherry picking students, and making the traditional schools that the left behind kids suffer in more segregated classrooms.

Louisville?

Come on man, we’ve talked about this before. Not Wake County, Charlotte, or anywhere else.

All of them have whopping achievement gaps.

Looking at the decaying city schools where major desegregation efforts happen you have wonder if the billions of dollars spent in those communities to build systems of exclusive magnet schools are better off. Look at this example from St. Louis.

With all the problems magnet schools cause, why are there no calls for moratoriums?

But, when it’s magnets, no such demand. Why?

Here’s the heart of the editorial:

If desegregation and diversity are the goals, then the school district has failed. Clear disparities persist, and instead of attracting students from around the city, magnet schools tend to reflect the racial profile of the communities where they are based.

These schools, which require students to apply, are designed to provide training in subjects such as military preparation, visual and performing arts, or science and technology. The idea is to provide advanced education to students who can’t afford a private education. Students normally have to meet a grade-point average threshold, submit essays, and even conduct interviews, depending on the school’s requirements. Once the students qualify for their desired schools, they are then entered into a lottery.

St. Louis Public Schools says the magnet program strives for “area-wide desgregation” with a “goal of being racially integrated.” The reality is that the schools in the largely black areas are dominated by black students. The schools in white areas have higher percentages of white students. And the few schools with more diversity, all of which are in south St. Louis and the Central West End, have the highest performance scores.

According to the City Parents League of St. Louis, all three magnet high schools in north St. Louis were over 85% black. Based off of numbers collected by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch School Guide, the highest performing north St. Louis high school was Soldan, which in 2017-18, only 31.95% of whose students tested proficient or advanced in English, math and social studies. Students at Northwest Academy of Law, the lowest performing school, were only 15% proficient or advanced.

On the diversity scale, the City Parents League ranks schools as either lacking, somewhat or highly diverse. Only three magnet schools ranked as highly diverse, and all three had white student enrollment of 30% or more and are located in south St. Louis or the Central West End. Among those three schools, the lowest performing school was Collegiate, near St. Louis University, whose performance rating was 76.6% proficient. That is more than 40 percentage points higher than the top north St. Louis school.

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Integration

White teacher, black student trade blows in school district famous for integration

Here’s the short story: A teacher in Louisville, Kentucky asks a student to put his cell phone away. He angrily refuses. They face off. The teacher shoves him to the ground.

A rowdy cage match ensues.

The local teachers union says this incident is a result of taking police officers out of the schools. And, now, they need more resources. And, of course, there student trauma is an problem that produces superpredators.

But, most importantly, it’s all about having more cops in the classroom – again.

As a side note, labor unions in Louisville were literally at the front lines of opposition to racial integration.

See this description of local hostilities from a NBC Nightly News story in 1974:

In other parts of the school district where anti-busing sentiment is not so great, white attendance was somewhat better. Although, overall, half the white students were absent. Black students did not seem to be boycotting. At schools where they were bused in, they were most often greeted with curiosity, seldom with hostility. There were no attempts to keep them away. But at mid-morning, in defiance of the federal court order, several thousand anti-busing demonstrators marched through the downtown area, blocking traffic.

Most of the marchers belong to labor unions. They carry cards identifying themselves as pipe fitters and electrical workers. They say that they’re on strike today because they don’t believe forced busing is constitutional.

The wildcat strike was so large it caused three factories in Louisville to shut down for the day, and another to cut back production. The march was peaceful for almost an hour, but then police moved in to enforce the court-ordered ban on demonstrations. Nine people were arrested, most were charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly. There were no serious injuries. In contrast, at the schools where students were bused today, there were no incidents. Instruction began as usual and classes were dismissed routinely. The only problems today took place off school grounds. Mike Jackson, NBC News, Louisville.

Back to today. The teacher-student fight could be seen as a long-standing reality beneath the integration idealism. For me, it’s a sign that racial Rousseauism is dangerous. We should strive for peace among people but we’re mugged by history and outmatched by the vigor of its darkest inclinations. The teacher and student in conflict here are not merely individuals in a random dust-up, but bubble-ups from days past who will face off again (and again and again….).

Also, nowhere is that problem more predictable than common schooling delivered by your government even in the school district considered the most successful with racial integration programs..

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Belief Gap

A short note about Kamala Harris’s integration opportunism

No one should discount the possibility that a little black girl or boy might succeed in life without bathing in whiteness.

Earlier this summer Kamala Harris and Joe Biden had a terse exchange about integration and public school busing.

An article in The Atlantic described it this way:

There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” Harris told the former vice president, her voice quaking. “That little girl was me.” It was the defining line of the debate, inspiring the creation of a T-shirt Harris’s campaign is now selling for $29.99. The point Harris was highlighting was clear: When busing would have mattered most as a method of desegregating schools, in the 1970s, Biden didn’t enthusiastically support it.

Powerful stuff.

We love a good come-up story, especially when it invokes the morally superior virtues that define a beloved community.

I can almost feel the warmth of Harris’ torch for the power of white acceptance, and the disdain for Biden’s blue dog resistance.

And, I could tell you a very different story (that won’t sell T-shirts) about a little black boy who was once bussed three hours a day, away from neighborhood friends and familiar surroundings, to a white school in the hills where moneyed white students and their teachers dislike school busses and students invading “their” school.

That little boy was me.

I turned out ok. Even grew up to have children, who are multiracial like Harris, proving I ardently support integration.

But, I am here to constantly challenge the incessant and dangerous romantization of simple integration stories. While most people called the Harris/Biden tussle in favor of Harris, I still call her rehearsed passion play phony baloney.

Which is why I appreciate this Washington Post article that goes a long way to add context to the oversimplified “I was bussed therefore I am” claptrap that intoxicates the best of audiences.

Especially this part…

Kamala Harris wanted to go to a black school. That’s what black folks called Howard University in the early 1980s when Harris was a teenager considering her future.

Harris, she would say later, was seeking an experience wholly different from what she had long known. She’d attended majority-white schools her entire life — from elementary school in Berkeley, Calif., to high school in Montreal. Her parents’ professional lives and their personal story were bound up in majority-white institutions. Her father, an economist from Jamaica, was teaching at Stanford University. Her mother, a cancer researcher from India, had done her graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley, where the couple had met and fallen in love. And Harris’s younger sister would eventually enroll at Stanford.

Harris wanted to be surrounded by black students, black culture and black traditions at the crown jewel of historically black colleges and universities.

In this we see something curious, but not uncommon, which is how sending children of color off to majority white schools can cause dissonance in the face of microagressions and culture stripping.

Maybe Harris wouldn’t admit that, but she wouldn’t be the first to see an HBCU as cultural finishing school for proper black people.

Indeed, the stories of black integrationists who are celebrated by white media are often punctuated by the fact that they only discovered their blackness in college and now they overemphasize it as the false currency they use in minstrel fashion to Afrocentricize white progressive ideals.

I name no names. I just admit what I’ve seen.

No one should discount the possibility that a little black girl or boy might succeed in life without bathing in whiteness.

Maybe a bus saved Harris, the daughter of privileged middle-class professionals.

Or, maybe, it’s just a good story to gather votes from an electorate that loves simplicity.

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