Rev. Dr. Janette C. Wilson Esq.
“Separate Is Inherently Unequal” For 61 Years
Where Are We Today?
Chicago, Illinois, May 16, 2015 -- Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. -- The preeminent scholar of public school desegregation, UCLA’s Gary Orfield, concluded a year ago that six decades after Brown there has been “great progress, a long retreat and an uncertain future.” He said the “Brown decision set large changes and political conflicts in motion and those struggles continue today.”
His study concluded there has been “a vast transformation of the nation’s school population since the civil rights era,” including a dramatic drop in white students of nearly 30% and a quadrupling of Hispanic students. The nation’s two largest regions, the West and South, now constitute a majority of Hispanic and African American students with whites the second largest group in the West. “The South, always the home of most Black students, now has more Latinos than Blacks and is a profoundly tri-racial region.”
After Brown, in the South from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, substantial desegregation progress for African Americans was made and “contrary to many claims, the South has not gone back to the level of segregation before Brown.” However, “it has lost all of the additional progress made after l967 but is still the least segregated region for Black students.”
Segregation has soared and is most pronounced for Latino students in the West, negating previous progress in the 1960s. But “a clear pattern is developing of Black and Latino students sharing the same schools,” and it is this development that “deserves serious attention from educators and policymakers.”
Again Orfield’s study concluded that segregation is usually by both caste and class. “Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poor children,” while white and Asian students attend middle-class schools. School segregation is most pronounced in central city schools in large metropolitan areas, in central city schools of all sizes and in the suburbs of our largest cities (which are now half nonwhite). Latino segregation is greater than Black segregation in the suburbs.
The Supreme Court has dramatically weakened desegregation laws “and many major court orders have been dropped” with the result that segregation has “increased substantially after the plans were terminated in many large districts.”
Research since Brown “shows that many forms of unequal opportunity are linked to segregation” and it “also finds that desegregated education has substantial benefits for educational and later life outcomes for students from all backgrounds.” Thus the goal of a public education of equal high quality for all students is still an aspiration of the future.
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