On Choosing the Name “Integrated Schools”
“The name ’Integrated Schools’ just feels… too hard. It feels like work.” “It makes me think of all the ugly busing protests. Ugh.” “Why can’t you choose something nicer, more like a warm hug? Like togetherness-, multicultural-, or unity-something?”
There are many valid critiques of our name. For a few people, ‘Integrated Schools’ sounds like we are about technoclassrooms. Others recoil from the historical trauma of Civil Rights Era racism that our name summons. For most people who have suggested a rebranding, ‘Integrated Schools’ depicts too daunting a struggle, the confrontation of too-difficult things.
If our goal is to grab people, to gently welcome parents into the fold, choosing a less off-putting name makes perfect sense (“Opt IN” or “Let’s All Go to School Together!” or “Parents for Justice for All Students”?). As a few marketing folks have warned, the PR challenge of ‘Integrated Schools’ is colossal.
But we have come to the limits of what that can accomplish and our children still attend separate and unequal schools. It is time now to engage explicitly with integration, without fuzzy feel-goods, without whimsical euphemisms, without flinching. Integration for the sake of integration. Integration for the sake of equity and democracy.
We cannot shy away from the violence of integration’s historical roots: the busing and protests and federal troop deployments, the redlining of neighborhoods and secession of districts. This is part of our national story, and its lessons must anchor us. To build trust between communities that have for too long lived separately, we must be unequivocal in acknowledging our past. Indeed, we must be similarly resolute about the everyday and coded violence of our many contemporary forms of segregation.
We have now all but given up talking about integration. We may exalt the glory of programs whose primary mission is to promote integration (or, rather, desegregation) but whose rhetoric rarely mentions it. When we aren’t ignoring school integration altogether, we cowardly conceal it.
Integrating our schools IS demanding and thorny work. It isn’t for the spineless. Meaningful integration requires us to be fierce, to look inequity in the eye and demand better from our institutions and ourselves.
So after much deliberation, we have chosen clarity over comfort, justice over popularity. We have opted to lay bare our mission as parents and we hope you join us in our fight for Integrated Schools.