For the fourth episode in our Brown v. Board at 65: The Stories We Tell Ourselves series, we talk with Civil Rights attorney David Hinojosa. School segregation is too often painted as binary issue between black and white people; learning other histories shows that this is far from true. Complicating the picture of what preceded and came as a result of Brown v. Board, David shares a history lesson on the segregation of Latinx communities across the US since the late 1800s. We discuss the politics of race and language, the importance of shared experiences and the deep fights for educational justice that continue to this day.
–San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez
–The Lemon Grove Incident
–Mendez v. Westminster
–Hernandez v. Texas
–Santamaria v. Dallas ISD
–Patricia Gandara on the triple segregation of Latinx people
The Integrated Schools Podcast was created by Courtney Mykytyn and Andrew Lefkowits.
This episode was produced by Andrew Lefkowits.
Audio editing and mixing by Andrew Lefkowits.
Music by Kevin Casey.
Andrew: Welcome to the Integrated Schools Podcast. I'm Andrew, a White dad from Denver.
Courtney: And I’m Courtney, a White mom from L. A.
Andrew: Today's episode, “Beyond Black and White”. It's the fourth installment in our “Brown v. Board at 65: The Stories We Tell Ourselves” series. For any of you jumping in fresh, the series is our attempt to address some of the myths around Brown v. Board on the occasion of its 65th anniversary.
Courtney: Yeah, as we continue to learn in this work, we see how the stories we tell ourselves are just incredibly powerful, and they can be really dangerous. They can also be liberating. You know, I think the ways we understand the world and certainly this issue of school segregation affects the decisions we make as a society and as individual parents.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. And we're not trying to tell all the stories of Brown v. Board here. This isn't a sort of definitive or comprehensive guide, but we are talking about some of the stories we tell about Brown that have actually worked to keep us segregated despite Brown v. Board. You know, some of these stories have let us off the hook for doing more after Brown v. Board, and some continue to perpetuate real educational injustice today. So we're trying to take a fresh look at these stories, as well as bringing in other stories that maybe complicate the picture that we as a nation, or maybe I should say we as White folks, have really drawn for ourselves.
Courtney: Yeah. And so the story we’re going to tackle today a little bit is that school segregation is a Black and White issue, right? Like this super binary framing really erases the experiences of communities that are neither Black nor White, which we get into a little bit right, like the fluidity of the politics of race and categorizing, you know. But also, this binary frame erases the kind of hydra, right, the many heads of White supremacy.
Andrew: Yeah, and you know, this is not to say that the African American story of school segregation is not really foundational. It absolutely is. But, but it's not the full story, you know. So I think, I think complicating that picture is important.
Courtney: Yeah. So today we're talking with David Hinojosa has been a strong advocate for educational justice in general, and especially within Latinx contexts.
Andrew: So let's hear what David has to say.
Courtney: Welcome, David Hinojosa. Maybe we could start with an introduction of yourself.
David Hinojosa: Well, great. I appreciate the opportunity. I've been a practicing civil rights attorney for nineteen years. I actually am a graduate of Edgewood High School in San Antonio, which is in the Edgewood Independent School District, which is most famous for its 1968 walkout that lead to the U. S. Supreme Court case of Rodriguez v. San Antonio ISD, which was a precedent setting case, and unfortunately, on the, on the wrong side of school funding, for economically disadvantaged and property poor school districts back in 1973. But that's where I mainly grew up. And I've been a civil rights attorney like I said at MALDEF for over 11 years, where I was a staff attorney, then a senior litigator, and then the Regional Council for the Southwest office. And then from there I was at IDRA, Intercultural Development Research Association, which has been around for about forty-five years. And now I’m at Walsh Gallegos, my first foray into the private practice industry. And Walsh Gallegos for thirty-five years and counting has been doing excellent work in the education area.
Andrew: So like a whole whole career really focused around equity and inclusion and civil rights?
David Hinojosa: Absolutely.
Andrew: Can you sort of take us back a little bit? How did you get interested in that? Why do you care about that? What sort of in your past brought you to that?
David Hinojosa: Yeah. So I grew up the first ten years of my life as an Air Force brat. My dad was enlisted in the military, and so I mainly went to schools on Air Force bases and they were incredibly diverse. There was a bit of a caste discrimination between the officers’ kids and us enlisted kids. And sometimes you would have the officer kids try to pull rank on us. But, you know, I won't say that race was not an issue because it still was.
But when I moved from there to the Edgewood schools, I saw night and day differences in terms of equity in facilities, in curriculum, in teacher quality. You know, I went from a very mixed community, very probably middle class, even though we were lower middle class family of six. But when I, when I went into the Edgewood schools, you know, one: we were predominantly Mexican American. There was 98% that were Mexican American, 90% economically disadvantaged. You know, we didn't have sidewalks in the neighborhood back then. A lot of the windows didn't open. And, well, what about textbooks? Well, share with this person. You know, I had never been identified as gifted and talented and then when I got there, they were doing schoolwork that I remember doing either in the fourth grader or earlier in the fifth grade, and here we were at the end of the fifth grade.
And so it really opened my eyes, you know, as, as, as I went through the grade levels. It wasn't until high school where I started going to school again with African Americans. And in between there, there were a couple of African Americans who went to the junior high, and you know the treatment of them by the predominantly Mexican American students. Not all of them, but they would treat them with hate and disrespect. And, you know, I just saw that impact there.
And it wasn't until we went to high school where it was a little more integrated. There was about 10% African American kids there, still only one or two White children, White non-Hispanic. And I was just thinking, How or why do people think such bad things about, you know, kids of other races? Because they, they also thought bad things about White people, too. Uh, and it wasn't until, you know, we started playing sports together, attending classes together, where those who seemed to have great resentment towards African Americans and others started realizing, Hey, wait a second. They're no different than us in terms of aspirations, in terms of family. There weren't many differences, and I think that when we talk about, you know, school diversity and the importance of school integration, I mean, I experienced it. I experienced in those critical years, going from the fifth grade up to graduation, and it's really impactful.
Later on, when I started reading the research, Ross Mickelson and some others looking at some of the research briefs for the National Coalition on School Diversity, I started thinking about it and I was like, Yes, yes, you know, contact theory. You know that that does matter, you know, building trusting relationships with people of other races, reducing levels of racial and ethnic prejudice and breaking down stereotypes. You know, all of that is something that I experienced on a very personal level. Both in a positive way in the earlier grades and then in the middle grades, not so positive, right, a negative way. And then, in the latter years of high school, certainly seeing it much better,
Andrew: Broader level, we sort of think about these racial contexts often in a White versus non-White way, which I think is problematic. But your experience of, of the benefits of integration, even without involving White people at all were still there.
David Hinojosa: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And yeah, we do normally have a Black/White dynamic or a Brown/White dynamic. But you know, those potential negative impacts from a lack of contact, the lack of diversity in schools cut across races, it's incredibly important that we moved beyond that.
Courtney: As we're thinking about 65 years since Brown v. Board and thinking about the stories we tell ourselves around school segregation issues, et cetera, it is so incredibly tilted toward a Black/White narrative. So I know you have a lot of understanding around the history of how Latinx families have kind of fought for integration and educational justice and those sorts of things. So, tell us the whole history.
David Hinojosa: Well, yeah, it's not my own historical account, but definitely, you know what many of the historians have written about this. You know, you can jump back all the way to the mid 1800s, you know, after the Treaty of Guadalupe, which for those who aren't familiar, this was, you know, the end of the Mexican-American War and much of the property in Texas and Arizona and New Mexico and California was transferred to the U.S. with certain, certain requirements.
And, you know, at that immediate time, there wasn't a great deal of public schools, period. Public school was still, you know, being created largely across the country. But then as they started developing and communities started looking towards public education as a means to educate children, there were, of course, you know, limited resources. And despite the Treaty of Guadalupe, which said these Mexicans who live in these communities, that if they choose to live in the US, then you shall entitle them to the benefits of U. S. Citizenship. Well, they were still considered second-class citizens because they were not White, non-Hispanic, and they often times spoke a different language. They had different cultures, and so they were relegated to the second-class citizenship.
And then once they were, started creating, you know, more schools. They would create what were called Mexican schools. And many of these Mexican schools, you know, existed in the late 1800s. You know, you come forward into the early 1900s and, you know, some of these Mexican schools were created by the farming communities themselves. So the farm owners, their way of kind of segregating schools was, Okay, well, we're gonna build this one-house school for our Mexican kids, and they were largely Mexican, I will say. And so they would create these schools for those kids so they didn't have to go to the school with the other kids in the community.
There weren't very many laws that said, you can't integrate. So with African Americans, of course, there were laws that say that you have to have a separate school. Or that Black children could not go to school with White children or at White schools. There weren't very many laws around this time that said that about Mexican American or Latinx kids. So then you saw litigation as early as the late 1920s in Del Rio, Texas, there's another case of the San Diego area that's known as the Lemon Grove Incident, and they were challenging some of these exclusionary policies.
Andrew: The Lemon Grove Case. Can you tell us a little more about that one?
David Hinojosa: The Lemon Grove Case is documented as one of the first successful school integration cases, and there the parents were being told, Well, you know, for the Mexican kids here in the community, they had to go to a certain school that they nicknamed The Stable because it was, you know, one a small schoolhouse that they built specifically for these kids not of great quality. And they basically crammed all of these kids into the schoolhouse. So the parents challenge this saying, Well, wait a second. There's no local policy, no, no law that allows you to do this kind of segregation. And so they ended up prevailing. Now, it wasn't an equal protection case, so they didn't have the spillover effect into other communities.
Courtney: So while the Lemon Grove Case was successful in desegregating the kids at The Stable, it didn't really touch segregation elsewhere in the county, much less state or nation.
David Hinojosa: Yeah, and it wasn't until the mid-1940s with the Mendez v. Westminster case, which people are learning about this case now, but it is known as one of the precursors to the Brown v. Board case in many important regards.
So around this time, the way that historians write about this is that after the 1930s and after the Depression, there started to be a bit of and I won't say to a large degree, but there seemed to be a bit of a change in pop culture around the differences among communities and racial and national origins. And I say that because it was an important part of the Mendez v. Westminster case where parents had went to register their children at the school. One of them, her last name was Vidaurri, so it sounded very Italian-like, and she was very light complexion, and they basically told her, Okay, we can enroll your kids here, but those other kids, which were her nephew and nieces, they told her, No, we can't enroll them. And their last name was Mendez and they were darker complexion.
And so she went home and she told, I think it was her brother in law, Gonzalo, and said, Hey, they won't let me enroll your kids. And they ended up taking the school district, there were four school districts, to court around this issue of segregation and challenge in it, in federal court. And they ended up winning at the district court level. And, you know, ultimately they won because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said, Well, there is no law that allows this and without any law allowing this, you can't segregate the kids.
Andrew: Right. So if you want to segregate, you gotta have a law that says it's OK, which in this case helps these kids but doesn't do much to push back against the sort of national issue.
David Hinojosa: But importantly, you know, in the district court ruling, this was one of the first that looked at the evidence from social scientists about what the harm was done to these children by segregating them at such young ages. And in the district court ruling, you know, which was largely a social equality based ruling, he said the evidence clearly shows that Spanish speaking children are retarded in learning English by lack of exposure to its use because of segregation and that commingling of the entire student body instills and develops a common cultural attitude among the schoolchildren, which is imperative for the perpetuation of American institutions and ideals.
And this foundation for this ruling in which the NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers, including former Supreme Court Justice Marshall and Robert Carter, both who argued the Brown v. Board case in 1954, relied on similar testimony from social scientists talking about, you know, what are the impacts of segregating kids on these children? What are the harms that we're creating? And so it was an incredibly important case and because it was a federal case, it ended up having more of an effect. And, of course, like Brown v. Board, it didn't end school segregation.
Andrew: I thought we did it. I thought we were done. Didn’t we fix this?
David Hinojosa: Yeah, you know, unfortunately, it did not, right? And Brown v. Board, although it was applied to African Americans and the de jure segregation of Black schoolchildren, you know, across America, it wasn't just in the South, right? There were desegregation cases in New York, in San Francisco and Denver, you know, in Tucson, Arizona.
But for Mexican Americans, it could have been a little different had it not been for another case that was filed away around that time, which was called in Hernandez v. Texas, which was a incredibly important ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court that was argued the same day as Brown v. Board. And it was a jury case where a Mexican American, Mr. Hernandez was tried on a case before an all White, non-Hispanic jury, and they basically said, Well, you know, you're, you're White, you know? So this is a jury of your peers. And that was the first case to reach the U. S. Supreme Court where, what does it mean to be Mexican American? That was on trial, that it was at the center of the merits of that, of that argument in his equal protection laws.
And so they basically, with an education to the judges, who, according to some reports, you know, one of the justices asked, You know, these Mexicans, uh, they call them greasers down there, don't they? You know, that was an actual question that supposedly came from one of the justices to the attorney, arguing the Hernandez v. Texas case. But even with that Hernandez v. Texas ruling, which said, Yes, Mexican Americans are deserving of strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, we still had segregation of those students. And what some schools started doing, and this was in Corpus Christi, this was in Denver. They said, OK, well, we're gonna desegregate our schools and we're gonna put Black schoolchildren with Hispanic schoolchildren because they're White. So we're commingling the races that way.
Now for the White, non-Hispanic children they sort of continued going to their own separate schools. And so it wasn't until the early 1970s in a case that reached the U. S. Supreme Court, Keyes v. Denver Public Schools, that the Supreme Court said, Hey, wait a second. You can't play these games. You can't say you're integrating schools by putting Black schoolchildren with Brown schoolchildren. You know, you have to integrate them with White schoolchildren as well. And so it wasn't until those rulings came out where then we started seeing much more movement. Still did not lead to perfect equality and perfect access.
Andrew: Yeah, I'm just struck by how sort of cunning White supremacy can be Right? It's like Brown kids are definitely not White if it means we have to let them into our White schools. But if it means that we can say we are desegregating by sending them to school with Black kids, then OK…
Courtney: We’ll do that.
Andrew: Now we're willing to count them as White. I want to go back to, you sort of mentioned in passing that there had been sort of a shift in culture that maybe paved the way for the Mendez case.
David Hinojosa: Yes. So what the historians have read was that, you know, as people climbed out of the Depression and went from World War I to World War II, there was this understanding that people were suffering economically. They were suffering educationally. It was an experience that was shared among the different races and and especially, you know, once you started folding in the oncoming threat of World War II and the involvement of the United States, you were reliant on integrated communities coming together even though there were still many of the separate units, you know, the African American units, the Mexican American units that were in the military. At the end of the day, they ended up having to come together. You know, you don't win a war with individual units.
And, you know, that, those kind of experiences that people started seeing because they're, they’re now working together, right? They never lived together. They never went to school together. But now all of a sudden, they're working together. They're being forced to work together and they see, Oh, wait a second. You're not like all the Mexicans that I've read about. You're not like all the Puerto Ricans that I've read about. Oh, you're fighting for the freedoms of America just as equally as I am. And you know, having those kind of shared experiences started getting people to think, Well, wait a second. Maybe there's a lot more in common here.
And again, it's not like it had a rippling effect all across America, but it did try and change the narrative. And I think that's what was incredibly important. Along with the interest of researchers as well. You know, as these populations started growing, it was important for them to start taking a closer look because they were becoming a bigger part of the fabric of America. You know, it was almost like that perfect storm that was born out of the Depression and then going into, you know, World War II, that allowed for this bit of a change, you know, in how to look at these cases.
Courtney: Yeah, and it's really interesting to me, you know, how the geopolitical forces really kind of, like, help construct and reconstruct and reconstitute our understanding of race. I'm thinking back to Elizabeth McRae’s book, Mothers of Massive Resistance, that there's all these things that are shaping these ideas that we sort of come to think of as natural and really affecting our own experiences. But I'm also interested in hearing you talk a little bit about the effect of language in this storyline. And in how Spanish or the use of Spanish has influenced the work around educational justice and Latinx communities.
David Hinojosa: Yeah, and that's been an incredibly important part. I mean, even, even going back to the Del Rio ISD v. Salvatierra, you know, they won at the initial court level. And then when it went up on appeal, they basically said, Well, wait a second, you know, there might be language issues here, so we need to parse that out. Because if there is a sound pedagogical theory for separating these children out to help them with their language, then we're not going to stop that, you know, because it has a sound basis in education. And so, you know, basically a student's language one, was seen as a deficit. And even in the Mendez v. Westminster case, they're basically saying, Well, wait a second, you know, you can have these kids have their education and this is their language, you know, retarded by keeping them with each other because, you know, they're not gonna be able to learn English. They're not gonna be able to learn things because they're around other children who don't know English and maybe don't know better because they don't know English.
So that rationale was used in several cases, it was used to discipline kids. I mean, my, my parents experiences growing up in the border towns of Laredo, Texas, and Brownsville, Texas, where their mouths were washed out or their hands were slapped with the ruler whenever they spoke Spanish. And these are in predominantly Mexican American communities and these experiences have been well-documented by many others. It wasn't just my parents' experiences. But this is what was happening on a school-by-school basis. Now there were some state laws, you know, including in Texas, that said, you can't speak Spanish in schools. Those were later thrown out. But all of this, you know, revolved around this whole deficit mindset of how they were going to look at Latinx children, and especially those with strong roots still in their language and culture.
Courtney: Right. So this deficit model. We've talked about this in reference to language in our dual language episode with Dr. Sofia Chaparro, I think that was episode 13. Anyway, when we think of what kids don't have, English, or when we think of what kids aren't, like White, we make comparisons that are just intrinsically White-centered, right? And we don't learn to value or build on the resources, like a rich linguistic background in Spanish, that the kids do bring. And so, so this is leading David, like you're saying, to some really problematic consequences.
David Hinojosa: Yeah. And so the federal government finally responded by passing the Equal Educational Opportunity Act, which basically said, Well, you can't, you know, just simply sink and swim these kids. You have to have some kind of program. Whether it's a bilingual program and English as a Second Language program. You know, you have to have something to help them. But that, in turn, actually ended up leading to some segregated schooling again. Because they were basically saying, Okay, well, you're gonna go to the English Language Development school or the English Language Development classrooms within a school. And, and there were many of those kids who actually didn't even need that English language development. Either their tests were bad and were intended to discriminate against Mexican American children or they were just wrongly administered.
So you were over-identifying predominantly Latinx children for these English language schools for these English language classrooms. And so, you know, we needed more court action to help develop that area of law, to help develop the laws around the Equal Educational Opportunity Act that was finally passed in 1974 that had a language provision added into there. But we still see, you know, even, even today, we see new immigrant schools which in some respects is great because it provides incredible social services and we're talking about schools that aren't just for Latinx children, you know, many refugee children. But then how long are they kept there and how are they perceived? And are they still being integrated with other children in other classrooms?
Courtney: Yeah. Those reclassification processes can be problematic.
David Hinojosa: Yeah, and I can tell you, you know, having tried a case in 2006 against Dallas ISD, Santamaria v. Dallas ISD, and I'm writing a book about the case right now. This school was using language as a proxy to segregate kids within a school. So, you know, while we had, you know, Plyler v. Doe ruling, which said, No, you have to allow immigrant children into schools. While we had other rulings saying, No, you can't put them in, in separate schools, you know, just because they are Mexican American.
Here we had a school in North Dallas, in Preston Hollow neighborhood, which is infamous for its notorious wealth. And basically the principal was using language as a proxy to segregate children within a school, even though many of those kids actually we're not English learners, they were being put into ESL classrooms. So you had your general education classrooms that had up to 75% White children in there. In this school that had about 16% White children. Then you have these ESL classrooms, which should have been 100% English learners, right? If you're in a ESL class, then you must be an English learner. But some of them were about 10 or 15% English learner, but what they were was 100% Latino and African American.
And what we came to find out was that this was all a coordinated effort between the White dominated PTA and the school principal and the school leadership that just basically turned a blind eye and said, Well, you know, if we need to recruit White children and this is the way that they'll come to our school, who were actually educated in classrooms largely that were down their own hallways, too. So when they had brought in, you know, parents who were maybe a little scared about bringing their kids to this public school in Dallas ISD, they could say, Oh, no, well, look down this aisle. This is where your kids will go. And that this was in the year 2006. We had proven in a court of trial, which wasn't easy because the judge wasn't gonna give us a pass, hold that the principal had intentionally segregated students within a school in the 21st century.
Courtney: For the sake of White parents.
David Hinojosa: For the sake of White parents. To prevent White flight. To recruit White parents into public schools. You know, school integration is incredibly important. But when you're using unlawful means like that school, and that's not the only case like that that's been tried in recent years, but you know, that's another form of discrimination and segregation that occurs in the 21st century.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I think we see iit show up in all different ways throughout our history that, you know, as we sort of get some progress on the legal front, the White and privileged communities find some other way to push back. And so whether that's, Oh, you know, these kids really need their own space because they're refugees or because they're learning Spanish. As we slowly start taking away the outwardly racist justifications, we find that the system just bends to the will of sort of more subtly racist ways that we try to continue to segregate her kids.
David Hinojosa: Yeah, and you know, Latinx children are especially at risk in this era, right? When we have the president of the United States, we have the administration that is fear mongering, is trying to target immigrant children. But you can't separate immigrant children from Latinx children. I mean, frankly, you know, the public doesn't separate them, even though they're not one and of the same.
In some legal respects, I should say they are one and the same because they're all children, right? But, you know, they face what the researchers Julian Vasquez Hellig and Jennifer Holme from UT, wrote back in 2013 about the triple segregation of Latinos. You know, it's socioeconomics, it’s language, and it’s national origin. And these impacts of these three dynamics, you know, coming together, you know, sanctioned by policy makers, are sanctioned by the courts, and they’re sanctioned by the general public. They're driven largely by politics and it's largely still based on this deficit mindset about who Latinx children are, what their aspirations are.
A few years ago, I was sitting in the office of perhaps a rather famous now Lieutenant Governor in a Southern state, maybe the largest Southern state. I won't say which one, but I was sitting in his office. And we appreciated the, you know, the opportunity to talk to him about, you know, the experiences of immigrant children and Latinx children. And he basically said, Well, you know, wait a second. I mean, these kids are just happy to go to school, don't you think? Don't you think that they're just happy to get an education? I mean, if they get a high school diploma, I mean, that's got to be the biggest highlight of their lives. And we're looking at him like, Okay, did your thought bubble just bust, you’re not supposed to say them out loud.
We were like, Are you not familiar with the research that shows how, you know, immigrant children, you know, from Asian Americans to Hispanics, African families, as well, that shows, you know about what their aspirations are and what their achievements are also for their children?
Andrew: Despite our interventions, not because of our interventions
David Hinojosa: Yeah. This is overcoming all the systemic barriers that have been put in place, you know, from discipline to curriculum. You know, all these things that were going on in past history in the 1960s are still taking place today. Yet you still have this energy and this thriving of children who come from immigrant families. And here we have one of the top policymakers in a state thinking, Well, is this really so bad for these kids? If their biggest goal in life is to get a high school diploma?
You know, we're talking about Texas and Texas, the State Board of Education, which few years ago, was ready to throw out the window all the past experiences of the Latinx community, or at least you know, turned them around so they were very deficit oriented, was now allowing the adoption of Mexican American or Latinx history course as an elective. And I'm not saying that that's the greatest thing ever, but it's a step forward. You can now get a certificate of bilingualism in Texas, in New Mexico, in several other states as well, whereas before bilingualism, it was a great thing if you were non-Hispanic. But if you were Hispanic and you were bilingual, it’s like, well, how much English do you know? Or what sacrifice have you made to learning English and to become an America?
I was at a conference on 50 Years Later in Texas. They were looking at the civil rights hearings in 1968 and seeing how things had changed, and it was remarkable to see the testimony of children. So we talked about the advocacy of children today. These were children in 1968, high school students, asking critical questions to this panel from the Civil Rights Commission saying, Where am I in the curriculum? Where am I in these textbooks? I find out things from other people, incredibly important things related to economy, related to, you know, justice, related to history. And it's not here in our textbooks. I am still chastised for speaking with an accent, for speaking my own language and being told that it is dirty and lesser for me to speak that, and that if I ever want to advance in life, I can't speak that. This is student after student coming in and testifying about these same things. And this is 1968 but the same things that are occurring in 2018 and 2019 there is still, you know, some systemic barriers that need to be overcome to truly realize equal opportunity and the dream of integrated schooling for all children.
Andrew: Yeah, you know, speaking of that advocacy piece, you know, one of the things that we tell ourselves is that Brown v. Board ended the sort of racial nature of school assignment policies. That it was sort of finished then and and I think that prevents us from, especially prevents White people, from actually even acknowledging, much less addressing, the ways that race is still really active in how we segregate our schools, either externally or even once kids get inside the building, how we segregate internally. I wonder if you see that same thing showing up in the sort of Latinx experience.
David Hinojosa: It's definitely, I mean, we still have a living history authorizing segregation today, and you know, it's come about in so many different ways. And when you look at the whole promise of the integrated schooling experience for Latinx children, as well as other children, I think it's incredibly important to look at school-based supports. What is happening with the cultural experiences and how are the schools and how are the communities looking at those experiences of the marginalized or underserved populations, you know? Are they looking at them as culturally rich or are they looking at them through a very biased lens? And this bias that we have, that was never going to get rid of through the Brown v. Board decision, right? It's a societal issue.
Well, if we have educators who themselves struggle with their own implicit and explicit biases. And I've seen this. I mean, I've been in schools, I've talked to schoolchildren. I've talked to school teachers, and I have had very unique experiences as an education civil rights attorney. But you look at, you know, the curriculum and the professional supports that these teachers largely don't have, and they don't even know their children in their classrooms.
And I mentioned, you know, as part of the training that I do sometimes, is like, Let's talk about Latinx children here in your community. What do you know about them? There's not much they really know. And what they do think they know is largely based on what they've heard through the media, what they've read, you know, online, especially. And again, you know, it's very deficit based.
And so you know, I give an example. I say, Look, I'm not saying all the immigrant children that you may have in your classrooms have experienced this, but some of them come over and, and you look at them as though they don't have grit, as though they don't have drive. And here's some of these children. You don't let your child walk down the street to this corner store. And here these children have hopped on moving trains, have walked across deserts, have left their families. They're not gonna get to go home and see any weddings, any funerals. If their grandparents were living abroad, they're not gonna be able to have them come over and see them graduate kindergarten, much less high school or college. And they're risking all of that for what? For a better life. These people are moving from one country. They're abandoning the only country that they've known for better opportunity.
And once, you know, they all of a sudden start seeing this light come on, you know, it's, it's not a part of their experiences because they didn't go to integrated schools. It's not a part of their education once they do go to schools, because they don't learn about the experiences of others. It's not a part of their higher education unless they take, you know, some kind of ethnic-based course at the college level. If they're lucky, they maybe get three hours of a sensitivity-based or cultural competency-based course in their studies to become a teacher. And then we wonder how and why these teachers who, four out of five teachers, is still White in America, How or why are we not reaching them? You know those teachers become school leaders, those school leaders become superintendents, and that's how we have a systemic mindset that is defeating those opportunities. Even when we do have integrated schools, maybe we don't have integrated classrooms.
Courtney: That’s right.
David Hinojosa: And those problems are faced by Latinx children as well as many other children.
Andrew: I just want to touch on this, this sort of deficit thinking. It seems to me that the language we use is really important on this, that we have sort of euphemisms that allow us to ignore the underlying intent of, of what we're actually saying, which then, I think, doesn't drive us to actually address the sort of issues underlying. Can you talk about why the difference between integrated schools and integrated schooling? What is the power in the language that we use around these things in your mind?
David Hinojosa: Sure. The integrated schools versus the integrated schooling experience. You know, when we created it through the four Equity Assistance Centers, we created this equity-based framework for achieving integrated schooling. It's because we were going around doing trainings for schools where, you know, they were just looking at, Okay, how do we get the kids into the same school?
Courtney: Yeah, desegregation.
David Hinojosa: Not what matters about integrated schools in the first place and then integrated schooling experiences in the second. And so we wanted to look at it. Okay, well, let's say you wanted to build an ideal school. What should you look at? You know, one, you should look at an inclusive co-constructive planning approach that makes sure that you got authentic community engagement from diverse communities that are being served. You know, that you engage in this contextual analysis, you know, of the relevant data. That you establish diversity principle goals. You know, all these essential constructs, foundational principles to an integrated schooling experience. But again, that's largely with integrated schools that you should be looking at. But then what we looked at, especially, was the second component, which was school-based supports. And that was that positive, inclusive school culture about diverse, culturally competent leaders and educators, right? Not just cultural competence, but diverse leaders and educators as well. You know, the professional supports, the curriculum, that should be rigorous and culturally relevant. You know, those are all those critical supports that, you know, you might have a spattering of different policies and practices that are serving those interests, but not from a school integration, inclusive context or a diverse context. And then, Okay, well, how are you gonna measure this? So let's say you have all this going on. Are you gonna just look at test scores? Just gonna look at graduation rates? Certainly, you know those are, those are important you know, growth rates are important, but also, let's look at social climate. You know, what are school discipline referral rates looking like? And how are those disaggregated among gender and race and national origin? What are the equitable opportunities to learn that are actually being offered at your different schools. And then what are these integrated schooling experiences looking like, you know, and you could do those through, for example, climate surveys of students who can tell you the best about whether or not your approaches are working. And they're normally the last ones that are asked any questions. So trying to build, you know, this research-based, equity-based framework so that we could help schools achieve that integrated schooling experience.
Andrew: Our audience is largely White and privileged people…
Andrew: Parents. Mostly not in the realm of policy. We're sort of focused on the playground-level conversations, the way we talk about things. You sort of mentioned a few times the power of changes in society driving some of these changes towards better research, better policy. From your vantage point, what would be helpful for parents who care about this issue to be doing?
David Hinojosa: Sure. I mean, I definitely think while the grasstop organizations do, you know tremendous work and continue to do that, that, you know, the grassroots movement needs to be pushing these issues at the forefront. I mean, I met with an incredibly diverse group there in Texas not too long ago to talk about school finance issues, and there were probably at least, you know, 50% of the White community. And they were just thinking, Wow, we never knew things, you know, we, we hear that basically, those schools are throwing away money, and it's really only like one or two schools that they hear. But you know, they labeled, you know, all other schools, you know, in that same boat. And, and it's just that awareness. It's that experience that all of a sudden they say, Well, wait a second. We should take up the mantle, not alone, but together, you know, with other communities and come up with solutions ourselves, you know, community-driven solutions.
When those communities that are privileged, that have, you know much of the power and the control, but they're not utilizing it effectively? It's a ghostly absence of some crucial involvements and crucial engagement. And maybe there are parents who are like, You know what? That's, that's just too much for me. I just don't have the time. I have, you know, to take my kids to piano lessons and then, you know, I have swim lessons after that and, and, you know, it's you don't need to be all in necessarily. But to be a part of a movement is something that you can create a lasting mark on society, that will not only benefit your children and grandchildren, but the children and grandchildren of other families and communities. And that's, you know, definitely something that all parents should look to experience.
I mean, because if we continue to be educated separately, we're going to continue to think separately. We're gonna continue to live apart separately, continue to distrust one another and hate one another. And we're not gonna achieve. And maybe it's too idealistic, you know, after all these years of fighting. But we're not going to stop fighting to achieve that true equity and equalization and opportunity that we should be presenting to all children
Andrew: Can't thank you enough.
Courtney: David, thank you so much for coming and sharing and giving us an important history lesson here.
David Hinojosa: No, I appreciate it. I, I appreciate the opportunity.
Courtney: So I definitely learned some things from this conversation.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Me too. The Hernandez case that David was talking about is, I mean, it’s fascinating. It's like such a clear example of the fluidity of race. You know, I think we, we tend to think of races as a biological fact, but the people in power are constantly redefining race for largely political purposes, right? Like, you have this political impetus to convict a Mexican American with an all White jury. And so the system says, Okay, yeah, I know you're White. Look, this is a jury of your peers. You're White. And, you know, the courts say we have to desegregate our schools, and then we're willing to reclassify Latinx families as White so that by putting Black and Mexican American kids together, we count our schools desegregated and meanwhile, the White kids can stay sort of tucked away with other White kids.
Courtney: Yeah. And I think I was struck too by the fact that, in the day, that there weren't laws that said Latinx kids couldn't go to school with White kids, right? Like, we made those. I don't know. It makes me think a lot about the constant gardening that Elizabeth McRae talks about in Episode 11. The work that we, as White people, have done to police our boundaries. And you know, and we think that these were just, like, naturally growing horror flowers, right? That this is just how things are, but it isn't it, right? It takes a lot of work.
Andrew: Yeah, which means we could work in a different way too, right? Like, there is hope. David talks about the significance of this cultural shift that happened between World War I and World War II, and it made desegregation a little more palatable. People had a little more time working together. People had contact with other people that were different from them. And then they could start to see that maybe the other is not actually so bad after all.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's that having skin in the game, right? Like being in community every day, working towards some common purpose. It's critical to realizing any progress toward racial justice.
Andrew: Right, right. And not only does it shift the cultural narrative, but it was also one of the things that drove the social science research that then showed the benefits of integration, right? It's sort of this search cycle that, that feeds on itself. Shared experiences, shared humanity, like it all actually matters, right? And I think you know the piece of the military and we definitely have to come back to this in a future episode.
Courtney: Yeah, my brother. He’s a, he’s a Navy vet. He and I talk about this a lot. But as much as there's hope, the work is clearly far from over. The case that David was talking about with the PTA conspiring with the principal?
Andrew: Yeah, that his book is about, right? Like that was, what, 2006 he said?
Courtney: Using language as a proxy to segregate a school, I think he said, was a coordinated effort between the White PTA and the principal, and it was in order to recruit White families to the school.
Andrew: Yeah, I wish that was unbelievable, right? It’s totally, it’s totally believable, but it's, it's yeah, it's unacceptable for sure.
Courtney: Yeah, the lengths we’ll go to with, like what Dr. Rooks said, the lengths we’ll go to to protect Whiteness.
Andrew: Right. We'll call you White so that you can integrate with the Black kids and we can keep our other Whiteness swaddled away in some other school. Or we'll call it AP, or we’ll call it language proficiency or, you know, whatever we have to call it so that we don't have to call it race and so then we don't have to do anything about it.
Courtney: Yeah, yeah, it's a deep hole.
Andrew: One step towards getting out of that hole is trying to complicate these shared histories. You know, I think getting a glimpse into some of the Latinx struggles for educational justice leading up to and then after Brown v. Board is really helpful. And clearly we sort of just barely scratched the surface with this episode, right? Like there's, there's plenty more to discuss, and I know I have more to learn, but dipping our toes into this topic really highlights the ways that, that race is a political category. It's not a, not a biological fact, but it's, you know, culturally constructed, and it's constructed very carefully and has real consequences.
Courtney: Yeah, I think, too, that learning about Latinx experiences and other experiences really shines a light on this, you know, the hydra of White supremacy. The sneakiness of it. I think you called it cunning, Andrew, and I think as White people, we need to know these. We need to acknowledge these. I think we need to acknowledge them because we have to own up to our own histories, but also because we're really unaware and me too, right, of how this shows up in our lived lives as well. I think mapping these cunning ways helps us spot other cunning ways and so that we can intervene. It can be empowering as, as much as it is heartbreaking. Yeah, I mean, school segregation is so much a White problem.
Andrew: Right. Except that, you know, White people don't bear the worst of the effects of it, right? I think one of the ways that we avoid acknowledging this truth is, is in the language we use. The euphemisms, the coded or maybe sometimes not so coded ways, that we talk about good schools, we talk about bad schools, about parents, about kids, about communities. You know, this, this deficit language that David brought up, you know, it has a real impact. Not only does it allow us to ignore the ways that race is still so relevant in our education system, but, but it holds us back from addressing these issues. It makes it less likely that you know, social scientists will study these things, and it, it undermines the political will to change.
Courtney: Yeah, and keeping, keeping up those narratives and maintaining that system has taken work and isn't the natural state, so...
Andrew: Totally. But what would be natural, would be if all of you would go to the website and donate.
Courtney: Nicely done. Yeah. If you have found value in hearing these stories and would like to contribute to keeping them going, please head over to IntegratedSchools.org's and click on the Donate button.
Andrew: And, as always, we're very grateful for your feedback. So keep voice, memos, emails, coming. Comments, questions, thoughts for future episodes. Send them to [email protected]
Courtney: And we are happy to be in this with you as we try to know better and do better.
Andrew: See you next week.