Improve, Not Move!: The New “Separate but Equal”

Image: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/us/howard-county-school-redistricting.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share


A recent plan to desegregate schools in Columbia, Maryland, a suburb that prides itself on inclusion, has sparked heated debate and protests. 

This article from the New York Times gave a lot of space for those against using bussing to integrate schools in Columbia to discuss their reasoning. The article provided instances of racist hate-mail sent in response to the proposal to integrate, but the journalist who wrote it also gave those opposed to integration a lot of room to discuss and justify their stance on the issue.

Of course, the people quoted in this article do not say “I don’t want these schools to integrate because I am a racist.” 

Instead, they claimed that they were concerned about the wellbeing of the low-income children who would be bussed into wealthier areas. They mentioned that these longer commutes would give children less time to sleep and socialize, and that this would prevent their parents from engaging with their education. 

This paternalistic attitude, the notion that those in upper-class, predominantly white neighborhoods, know what’s best for the people in these lower-class neighborhoods (who, for the most part, want the schools to integrate), is no new phenomenon. Slaveowners once argued that black people were better off as slaves, because they were incapable of properly caring for themselves. Men opposed to women’s suffrage argued that preventing women from voting was for their own good, because “muddying” themselves in politics would impede on their moral purity. 

The article provides a perspective from a sixteen year old student who attends Wild Lake High School, which is a school that serves more students from lower-class families. The student mentions that she supports integration, but the article quotes her saying that she would not want to attend school anywhere else, which could be confusing if one was reading the article quickly. 

The article then provides the perspective of another Wild Lake High School student who does not want busing to occur because she doesn’t want a segment of students at her school looking down on the rest of the students. 

What this article shows is barely different from what this video clip from the 1974 Boston Busing Protests demonstrates:

Though those opposed to busing claim that they are not motivated by racism, actions show differently. 

It is disheartening to see that though it’s been almost half a century, the way this issue is covered hasn’t shifted to more accurately reflect the reality of the situation. 

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