Commentary by Richard P. Burton, Sr., Director of PROJECT R.E.A.C.H., Inc., a non-profit 501c3 re-enfranchisement organization
JACKSONVILLE, FL - Schools in the United States are more segregated today than they have been in more than over four decades. Millions of non-white students are locked into “dropout factory” high schools, where large percentages do not graduate, and few are well prepared for college or a future.
Schools in low-income communities remain highly unequal in terms of funding, qualified teachers, curriculum and infrastructure. While many cities came under desegregation court orders during the civil rights era, most suburbs, because they had few minority students at that time, did not.
When minority families began to move to the suburbs in large numbers, there was no plan in place to attain or maintain desegregation, appropriately train teachers and staff, or recruit non-white teachers to help deal with new groups of students. Over eighty-five percent of the nation’s teachers are white, and little progress is being made toward diversifying the nation’s teaching force.
I am not sure why a lawsuit similar to the 1954 Brown case has not occurred against state’s and local school districts as it relates to modern day segregation. For much of the ninety years preceding the Brown case, race relation in the U.S. had been dominated by racial segregation.
This policy had been endorsed in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment (“no State shall… deny to any person… the equal protection of the laws.”).
The plaintiffs in Brown asserted that this system of racial separation, while masquerading as providing separate but equal treatment of both white and black Americans, instead perpetuated inferior accommodations, services, and treatment for black Americans. Racial segregation in education varied widely from the 17 states that required racial segregation to the 16 that prohibited it.
I maintain that if we are to continue along a path of deepening separation and entrenched inequality it will only diminish our common potential, and continue to build/fill prisons and add to greater tax burdens.
“At no time do we condone wrongness on either side of the wall”.