This past week marked 65 years since the Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” public schools as anything but equal. The unanimous opinion delivered by Chief Justice Warren saying that, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The anniversary of this ruling also coincided this year with the release of the movie The Best of Enemies telling the story of the integrating of Durham Public Schools here in North Carolina. In the movie, they are talking about desegregating the schools in the 1970s, almost 20 years after the ruling.
While it was a good movie to watch, I was troubled and remained troubled by the lessons that those who are not aware of the current situation that we are faced with in the United States might draw from the movie.
Our schools are some of the most segregated SINCE integration. This is thanks to “school choice” (read – choosing to send your kids to school with more white kid) and opportunity scholarships to private schools.
Durham, the school system the movie is about 19.1% white. The people of Durham County as a whole (as of 2016) are approximately 50.3% white.
My school district, Lee, is approximately 40% white. The people of Lee County as a whole (as of 2015) are approximately 74.9% white. Looking the two private schools in Lee County and a dramatically different picture is painted. Lee Christian School has approximately 388 students in grades PK-12, 86% of which are white. Grace Christian School has approximately 452 students in grades PK-12, 84% of which are white. For the 2018-2019 school year, Lee County had its first charter school open and as it is the first year data based on demographics is not yet available. A second charter school is slated to open in 2020.
Switching back to Durham, Voyager Academy serves approximately 1,347 students in grade K-12, 68% are white. Excelsior Classical Academy serves approximately 576 students in grades K-5, 59% of those students are white. Immaculata Catholic School serves approximately 455 students in grades PK-8, 61% are white.
Think I’m crazy? Just look at a few of the many articles that have been published lately:
Studies have shown that the best way for us to combat ignorance and prejudice is to interact with people that are different from us. By not doing enough to speak out against school segregation, we are doing a grave injustice to not just our country, but our students.
The Brown v. Board of Education ruling has been broadly viewed to be the end of school segregation, when you dig into the numbers, it is striking how false that is. The promise of school integration is still widely unfulfilled, to a depressing degree.