In this final episode of the series Brown v. Board at 65: The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we take some time to grapple with the stories we have heard. Reflecting on what our guests have shared (Dr. Rucker Johnson, Dr. Noliwe Rooks, Dr. Amanda Lewis, David Hinojosa, Greg and Carol), we talk with Anna about what we have learned and where we go from here. For the path forward, why does it matter to distinguish between desegregation and integration, to decenter Whiteness, and to think about the interactions between policy and cultural shifts?
–Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works – Rucker Johnson
–Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education – Noliwe Rooks
– Despite The Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools – Amanda Lewis and John Diamond
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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 Los Angeles.
Andrew: This is the final episode of our series “Brown v. Board at 65: The Stories We Tell Ourselves”. And for this episode, “Grappling with the Stories of Brown v. Board” we're joined by friend of the podcast, Anna, to talk about what we learned, what stood out, and, I don't know, why any of this matters.
Courtney: Yeah, so if you haven't listened to the series yet, it'd probably be good to go back and do that. All of the episodes have “Brown v. Board at 65” in the title. But just to recap, the series started with Rucker Johnson, who through extensive longitudinal research kind of pushed back on this story that desegregation failed.
You know, in fact, his research shows quite the opposite, right? And it's wonderfully laid out in his new book, Children of the Dream, which we link to in the show notes, but desegregation has had really powerful benefits for all kids. We just, you know, gave up too soon.
Andrew: Then we heard from Dr. Noliwe Rooks, who really pushed back on the idea that the impetus for Brown was that Black schools were terrible and White schools were good.
Uh, you know, she points out clearly the resources were unequal, but the story that there was nothing of value in the Black schools is one of the things that led to the decimation of the Black teaching corps and really the continuation of a White-centered education system after Brown v. Board.
Courtney: Yeah. In the third episode we heard from Dr. Amanda Lewis, who pushed back on the idea that desegregation alone is enough, that creating buildings with a diverse student population without addressing how to create truly integrated schools was sufficient. And so her work along with her coauthor, Dr. John Diamond, looks at the very segregated and inequitable experiences that persist even in desegregated spaces.
Andrew: Yeah. And then we had civil rights attorney David Hinojosa, who pushed back on the narrative that school desegregation is, is solely about Black and White kids. Right? He shared some histories of Latinx advocates for integration and educational justice, really as a way to sort of complicate this Brown v. Board story we tell.
Courtney: Yeah. And then our last episode we heard from Greg and Carol, two Black parents whose kids attend largely White and privileged schools, and they shared their stories and pushed back on the idea that access to resources is enough, right? So they've both found ways to get into the quote unquote good schools, but struggle every day with the implications of that choice.
Andrew: Yeah, really super grateful to all of our guests for helping, certainly helping me, develop a much more nuanced understanding of Brown v. Board. And you know, of course this was in no way a comprehensive look at the history of Brown v. Board, but sort of a small attempt to highlight some of the myths that we tell ourselves about Brown and, and hopefully complicate the story a bit.
And I don't know, Courtney, I feel like, I feel like we did a pretty good job with that...
Courtney: Eh, sure.
Andrew: But I, you know, I think it's worth mentioning that, that certainly our original plan for this series had two other episodes that didn't quite work out.
Courtney: So yeah, while we never intended to offer any kind of complete history, there were other ways that we wanted to kind of complicate the story, especially some Native American and Indigenous histories and Asian American experiences and histories around desegregation and integration, more specifically.
Andrew: Yeah, that's right. I mean, you know, just as David Hinojosa highlighted some of the ways that, that maybe we're not as aware of that Latinx communities have fought for integration and helped us understand the ways that their struggle is in some ways similar to but also different from Black communities.
We wanted to do something similar with Native and Asian American communities. And we tried, we really, really tried.
Courtney: We really did. We had a really great conversation with historian Dr. Stephanie Hinnerschitz about some of the Asian American histories. And I think we'll be releasing that conversation at some point. We also reached out to a number of Native American and Indigenous scholars, but you know what, in the end, we just couldn't find the right voices to tell the stories in, in ways that would really connect the history to the current state of education.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, we recognize our sheer lack of really anything like expertise in any of this. Um, and, and, you know, as a podcast team of two volunteer members, um, it's just the two of us. So we just, we couldn't find the right people to, to tell really, really, either story in a way that felt sort of sufficiently complete.
Courtney: Yeah. But they are important stories to tell and, and we're going to continue working on that for a future season. So if you know someone we should talk to, please reach out to [email protected]
Andrew: Yeah. But now let's hear the episode.
Courtney: Anna, can you introduce yourself?
Anna: My name is Anna. I am a White mom from Los Angeles. I have two children. My oldest child is seven, in first grade at a global majority school in our neighborhood.
Andrew: Thanks for coming back, Anna.
Anna: Yeah. It's always a nerve wracking pleasure to be here.
Courtney: So this Brown v. Board at 65 series was our attempt to kind of hit at stories that generally don't make their way into Brown v. Board anniversary coverage. You know, we hear that our schools are resegregating, but we don't really talk about the impact of Brown v. Board in ways that kind of go beyond these statistical citywide maps and stuff like that.
Andrew: I think, right, we wanted to push back on some of the myths of Brown.
Andrew: And then also talk about the ways that those myths, the ways that those stories we tell about Brown still are relevant and have an impact on educational justice today.
Courtney: Right. Like positively and negatively, right?
Andrew: Right. So, yeah, we started out with Dr. Rucker Johnson, whose new book…
Courtney: Children of the Dream.
Andrew: Children of the Dream. Right. Which is a great book. Everybody should go buy it. Basically looked at the impacts of desegregation. We didn't desegregate willingly and we didn't desegregate for very long, but in the places that we did in the sort of maybe 15 years where we did it relatively effectively, there were really positive outcomes and positive outcomes for everybody who experienced it and not just for those kids, but also for their kids.
Andrew: And those positive benefits range from increased academic achievement, increased life earnings, better health outcomes, but also these other really important things, I think for the state of our country right now, which is decreased bias, increased likelihood to live in integrated spaces, increased civic engagement and involvement. And it relied on desegregation, but also, you know, early childhood investments and more equitable school funding, but it had actually really positive benefits and we sort of gave up on it too quickly.
Andrew: What did you think of Dr. Johnson, Anna?
Anna: You know, data is so valuable in many ways to sort of push back against, against these narratives, these stories we tell ourselves. I really value the statistical analysis that this is important and I know it's important. And even when the statistics bear it out, we also consistently create spaces that don't create a place for the growth of positive racial identity for kids. And I don't know, I feel like this is the episode I'm least able to really metabolize for myself because I feel really tense about it.
Yeah. Like it's really important, but the way we've done it, White people continue to undermine the work.
Anna: And so even though there were a lot of benefits, there was a lot of pain too.
Courtney: Yeah. I get that. Keeping the pain and like, you know, the impact of doing this work and the ways we've too often done it, like in the forefront of our minds is critical. And still, the data that Dr. Johnson shared is really, really helpful for giving us a starting point. But you know, the story that he's telling in our interview, and, you know, obviously his book is much more thorough than we could have been in a podcast episode, but, you know, he gives us a strong foundation, I think, for like, what is possible, right?
And the data alone certainly don't give us a prescription for how to be anti-racist, but, you know, yeah. I get what you're saying, Anna.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, right. Like the, you know, the Rucker Johnson episode is not intended to tell the entire story of Brown v. Board. For that matter, neither is our podcast series. But I think that it is, it's an important push back to this idea that desegregation never did anything. You cannot take it outside of the context of the damage it did, but you also can't ignore the benefits that it had.
Andrew: I mean, Linda Darling Hammond wrote that, that if the rate of progress that we achieved in the seventies and eighties had continued, that the achievement gap would be, would have been fully closed by the beginning of the 21st century.
Courtney: Yeah. And you know, the Why We Gave Up matters. Because we never bought in, we never bought into the mission that integration matters for all of us and for us as a nation. And it still remains, What can my kid get? And I think that kind of moves into a little bit, you know, what we learned from listening to Dr. Rooks, right? You know, she's talking a lot about how Brown v. Board, this was, this was supposed to be a story of justice. This wasn't about like, our schools are super terrible and this was in part about the equalization of resources, but mostly, this was about justice, like building an integrated community.
And I think that in a lot of ways that's become a conversation around resources only. And certainly like White schools and White districts have more resources, whether it's from, you know, funding mechanisms, to the ability for PTAs and booster clubs to raise just fat cash. But desegregation can't be just about resources. Although resources are a really critical piece to that.
Anna: Absolutely. And I think when I go back to the Dr. Rooks episode, one of the pieces that fell so heavily for me and something that I've been carrying around thinking about a lot is the story I told myself or was told, or a combination of both about Brown v. Board of education, really had those horrible underlying messages of White supremacy culture. Which is like the White savior complex, which is like, Oh, these poor students, you know, we've got to get them better things ‘cause they are just suffering. And the real story that Dr. Rooks tells is like, No, these schools, you know, the facilities were abysmal because they weren't given access to adequate facilities, but yet there were Black educators teaching Black children and they were doing an incredible job with the resources that they had been given, which were completely unjust and unfair, but that they were doing the work. When we talk about impact versus intent, you know, the intent of Brown v. Board was to create a situation of educational justice in a free democracy. But the impact was that we lost a whole generation of Black teachers because they were fired and that we lost any sense of what the Black American experience brings to education.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, not only did we get rid of a whole generation of Black teachers, but we also discarded all of their expertise as if their expertise was not actually valuable. And I think that, you know, that's a piece that we still haven't recovered from that, it's that sort of mindset that leads us to the third episode with Amanda Lewis, you know, looking at, so even if you get the desegregation piece, what, right? You take a school that is, you know, from the outside very well-balanced racially, socioeconomically, you still see this White supremacy culture rearing its head inside the building. And so then you see all of these sort of systemic issues within a school that we claim are colorblind, that we say are not based around race, but then disproportionately affect kids based on race.
And, you know, in some ways we look at the outcome of Brown and we say, you know, Well, we did away with the racial issues in schools, and then we can no longer address the, the ways that those things show up actually in schools.
Anna: Dr. Lewis’s book, Despite the Best Intentions, to me was really important because it was like, Okay, so here's how, even in integrating spaces, the oppressive nature of White supremacy culture comes out. And this is why White people talking to other White people about systemic racism and injustice and White people talking to their White children about these issues is important because we still are showing up in ways that hoard resources or that create sort of a White savior complex that don't foster community that don't, we don't know how to listen. And I think that is, it is an essential part of the conversation about Brown v. Board.
Andrew: Yeah. I think the other piece of it is the struggle of trying to figure out like the quote unquote right way to show up is that you are just one individual in a system. Even if you show up in the best possible way you can, you still benefit from the fact that the system is set up to accommodate you.
You know, even if you never, never call your teacher or demand more of your principal's time, the teacher is still likely to say, Well, that's the kind of parent who probably is going to bother me if I don't make sure their kid gets a good grade in this class, so I'm just going to go ahead and give them the good grade.
There's only so much that as an individual, we can do to push back against those systems.
Courtney: But I also think that those systems are made up of individuals, right? Like there's only so much that I can do, but, you know, just thinking back to the Civil Rights Movement, it was what, like 8% of people who, who really participated and a lot got done. Not enough, right? We still have more work to do for sure. But a lot got done. So, you know, my worry is that when we talk about the whole system and how we're such a small part of it and like, we're just an individual facing the monster. You know, there's a, the possible reaction of throwing your hands in the air, but that system is made up of all of us.
And so what if 8% of the people in the school was like, Hey, let's look at both the policies and the everyday practices. Let's look at the numbers on, you know, school discipline, or who's getting tracked into the honors courses in the high school or what's happening at the elementary school level, such that some kids are getting into gifted and talented programs, or what if 8% of, of the families at that school stood up?
Anna: When I read Dr. Lewis's book, my instinct was like to throw the book across the room and say, What do you want me to do? I'm doing my best. I mean, I'm showing up, I can't do anything right. You know, and that is my own White fragility.
Courtney: That's right. Yeah. I mean the fragility piece is huge and you know, something we have to take very seriously. And maybe part of the White supremacy culture pieces, these characteristics that we've sort of been talking about is, is this like this need for monumental impact, right? Like, I cured cancer! Having to have done something amazing, like kind of as a, as a personal credit resume piece or something.
Like, what does it mean to have shown up in an integrating or desegregated space, what is the impact you're expecting to have as an individual? And what is the impact that you would like to contribute or be a part of as a community? But I think we think about it as, as our individual impact versus our communal participation.
Andrew: Yeah. I think it's a, You're not going to cure racism by sending your kid to a different school.
Andrew: But these are systems that are built by people. And I think, you know, I think one of the other lessons of Brown v. Board is like, we think of it as a policy decision, but, and I think this is one of the things that David Hinojosa really highlighted. It grew out of the changing culture and changing the ways that we thought about things like difference and the ways that we thought about race that like, created the space for Brown v. Board to happen.
And, you know, then there was some, some serious pushback to that. And in a lot of the ways that. Brown v. Board has not sort of fully realized its promise was about the ways that we as a culture and a society pushed back against it. And so I guess, you know, maybe to sort of come back to, to this idea of the problem of Brown taking away our ability to talk about race, we had to confront the racist system of our schools to get to a place where there was the cultural support for Brown. You know, we had to have communities of color calling out the racist nature of our school policies. We had to have people like the Brown family saying this is unjust, separate cannot be equal. We needed the culture to create the space for that to allow the policy to follow.
And then we had this idea that we, that we did it.
Andrew: I feel like we, we spent a long time after Brown pretending that we were past race, you know, I mean, we certainly spent a good chunk of the Obama administration pretending that we had sort of fixed race.
Anna: Yeah, White people had.
Andrew: Absolutely. Right. But White people said like, Oh, look like we must have done it now. We have continued on the progression of becoming a more just society. We now even have a Black president. Anything is possible. We don't need to look at race anymore.
Anna: And that's very clear in our curriculums across the board as well.
Anna: That's what's being taught now.
Andrew: I mean, my kids have come home talking about racism as something that in the, in the past tense. The way that we talk about race, we talk about Rosa Parks, we talk about the Civil rights movement, we talk about it as, as something that is in the past.
Andrew: That it’s something we did. That we had Martin Luther King and so now we are good. He's got a statue, check.
Anna: We have a day for him.
Courtney: We know what, we know who Cesar Chavez was. We're done.
Andrew: So, I mean, you know, on one level there's like the, the sort of societal cultural, either create space or doesn't, and there's a certain portion of the population that is, I think, pretty solidly fixed on White supremacy and is probably not gonna move no matter how the conversation changes.
Andrew: But I think there's also real power in changing the conversation to the sort of squishy middle. There's no question that as technology has brought more voices to the forefront, as we've seen social media increase the visibility of ways that White supremacy rears its head in our culture, that is uncovering things that have always existed.
All of these things have been going on for a really long time. We are now much more aware of them, but I also think that there's a piece, certainly in the past couple of years, that is no longer sort of shunning those things, that allows them to grow more and changes the sort of cultural appetite for those things.
Courtney: Yeah. I think that that's fair. I think that there's definitely been, been shifts that have made the conversations that, you know, the three of us are having today much more possible. Going back a little bit to what you were saying regarding the kind of cultural support for Brown and Mendez v. Westminster and some of these other court cases. I think that they pushed policy in really important and meaningful ways, but that we kind of stopped there. Now we have this policy, now we're done with racism. And that kind of leaves it without getting enough sort of buy-in and that's such a gross way to even talk about it. But I think we've been left with this, like, Oh yeah? Make me, kind of way of doing desegregation. And when it's like, Oh yeah, make me, then we end up with Greg and Carol stories. Then we end up with what Amanda Lewis is talking about. There was a really, just grueling article that I read maybe a month or so ago. And it's a White dad saying like, I believe in this, you know, this school integration stuff, future blah, blah, blah, democracy, all of this, like he's on our team, right?
And then he was like, but Yeah, like you need to back off about where I send my kids.
Courtney: Because policy has made it possible for me to get what I, you know, get the best for my kids. And so I'm doing it. So we need to fix policy. You know, I'm reading this just ready to scream. Like you're actually policy, like where you're choosing to send your kids, you're impacting policy to make sure that we get enough kids in the Dallas ISD elementary school that David Hinojosa was talking about, we had to make sure that you weren't, your kid wasn't in that dangerous room with the kids that we could say were Spanish speaking, and maybe didn't actually need, you know, English language support.
Courtney: Right? Like, like we are policy. And, and so, so when we stop with desegregation policies, like stop the work at these desegregation policies, we stopped the work at Brown because we're, now we just leave it up to the legislators and the boundary makers. I think we leave ourselves in an utterly failing position.
Because we can do the Dallas elementary school thing. We can, there's lots of ways that we can get around policy. That's what White, White supremacy allows for us to create a, you know, a PTA that raises $500,000 and insulates us from all the pain of budget cuts.
Andrew: Yep. That's exactly it. And this is maybe, sort of gets to the heart of the mission of Integrated Schools, right? Is like the policy, you cannot fix it with policy.
Courtney: I mean, you have to try, right? Like you have to do...
Andrew: You have to do policy, but you can never write policy that will account for all of the various ways that White people will try to get around that, right?
Courtney: That’s right.
Andrew: Like you can never come up with a policy that is, that is so well-written that White supremacy can't find the loophole.
Courtney: Right. And talk about fox in the henhouse, right? Like, who's writing that, right?
Andrew: Right, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so you have to do, you have to do the culture piece of it and you have to do the, the understanding piece of it. And so we, we did some, you know, there was some meaningful cultural shifts brought about by World War II, as David Hinojosa was talking about that started to say like, Okay, created a little bit of space for it.
And then when we did the policy piece, we said, Okay, we're done now. And that, I guess that's the piece that I keep coming back to. That's the piece, that's why this was so powerful to me is because when the policy piece is all of it, and then we, we pretend we don't still have to do the cultural work and we pretend that the policy solved the problem when, when really the policy was just a first step. That we then needed to follow up with more meaningful culture work.
Anna: Not to mention the fact that with every policy focused on desegregation or integration as the goal, and every cultural shift like David Hinojosa was talking about, there were also policies, you know, like the G.I. Bill, that were incredibly racist and inequitable and allowed to further cement this White supremacy culture and these norms and values of college education and home ownership that were not available to people of color. And so what a great irony that we passed Brown v. Board of education in 1954, but there was a whole generation of wealth building beginning at that point, essentially, that was not available.
And, you know, things like redlining and the access to resources was not across the board, equitable in any way, shape or form.
Courtney: Can we take a minute to, can we kind of talk about what we mean with desegregation and integration? Like can, can we just give some definitions?
Andrew: So, I mean, I think in my mind, desegregation is, is a purely numbers based question of enrollment.
Courtney: An issue with like the movement of bodies and percentages, percentages of skin tones and language backgrounds and...
Andrew: Right. Yeah. And socioeconomic status and all these various things that are all the various ways that we are all different, a desegregated space is a space that has a whole bunch of those. And then, you know, I think there's various ways you could measure how, how effectively desegregated a space is based on the neighborhood, based on the school district, based on the country, how much does it look like the demographics of the broader space that it's occupying? I think it says nothing about the ways that power is shared in that space.
Courtney: When we try, when we try to make laws without committing to the values behind those, I think desegregation is the best we could possibly do. Policy to me is desegregation.
But people do integration. I mean, I think, I think that's not totally fair because you could write policies around culturally affirming curriculum. You could write policies around the five RS that IntegrateNYC, their platform stands for, including like hiring teachers who represent the student body and the school culture.
There are policies that we can put in place, but I think that integration is sort of the manifestation of, of people's values in showing up. So to me, really having clarity around the difference between what desegregation is and what integration is, is one of the most important pieces of this work.
Anna: And desegregation being like a very two dimensional thing and integration being a very 128 dimensional thing where like, it's so much more than just showing up to a space. It's, there's so much sort of self-reflection and education and listening and learning. I mean, desegregation is a two dimensional policy piece. In the end, frankly, I would argue a piece that if that's all we have does measurable harm to communities of color.
Courtney: And as Dr. Rucker Johnson says, also provides benefit, even with that harm.
Andrew: That to me is the difference between desegregation and integration, that integration is truly about creating a space that shares power between the people who are in that space, a diverse space that is sharing power in a meaningful way.
Courtney: So I have been thinking a lot about the concept of shared power and there's something about it that has, I don't know, I've been sitting uneasily with me. Okay. So we hear it a lot, right? Like as a kind of corrective action or goal, right?
Maybe my issue is that it's one of those things that's so easy to say, like too easy to say, that I don't really trust it. Right? I don't know enough of the research or contemporary thought on this, but it just feels like when we say power sharing, I don't know. We're not kind of taking seriously power creation.
Anna: Yeah. ‘Cause is shared, is shared power like who's participating in the PTA, who has a voice in the parent group, who has the ear of the principal, right? Like...
Courtney: Right. That's how we generally talk about power sharing, but I guess this is, this is about sharing only that power, which has already been made within the mechanisms we have in place.
And also, you know, that we are sharing what is ours feels pretty saviory, you know, I'm so nice to share my stuff. I don't know, power sharing feels to me, like it's kind of an acceptance of how things are, but if we're, if we're talking about something else, like a radical reimagination of, of how all of this could work if we're serious, I think we have to come in and take it apart a bit. So, you know, I guess, yeah. To your earlier point, White people will have to give up things.
Anna: Maybe power as a noun is the tricky part of the semantics of this. ‘Cause I know, I know what disempowerment is and I know what empowerment is.
It's a collective experience that people are having where they feel empowered by the participation or whatever, however, they define that in their community.
Courtney: Yeah. And I mean, is this even the right way to frame this? Right? Like the concept of decentering Whiteness or deprioritizing the license that we talked about with David Kirkland. And when I say we talked about with David Kirkland, I mean, David Kirkland talked about it and we tried to listen.
Andrew: Tried desperately to keep up.
Courtney: Right. But you know, that feels more whole, I guess, more grounding to me, maybe and yeah, maybe I am saying that decentering Whiteness feels more meaningful because it's like, decentering the ways that we have created and used and hoarded and abused power.
So, so maybe that's my recoiling, my recoiled power sharing, that feels like, like Whiteness sharing. And that's, that's not what I think this is about. Right? Like, so I think we, the ways we exert power now that we're supposed to share? That power is itself tainted.
Andrew: It's like the difference between the ways that we exert power and the ways that, you know, we create power.
So we're talking about power sharing in terms of, in terms of actually creating power, creating the structures that exist to allow us to exert power. That is the power sharing that's important. But if we just say power sharing, we can ignore the sort of deeper, fundamental ways that we share power and only focus on sort of giving up a little bit of access to the structures that already exist to share power or to exert power. And I think that's the, that's the issue is that, is that we're not looking to just let, uh, you know, a few more voices into our White-centered mechanisms of exerting power. We need to actually get to the root of how do we create power jointly.
Courtney: That's right. That’s right. I'm just going to let that rest then, like I was struggling with like the leveraging your privilege for, for the whole first season. I'm just going to say I'm struggling with power sharing as a concept.
Courtney: I'm working on that one.
Anna: Like that, and I think the, the idea of focusing on decentering Whiteness versus leveraging our privilege to empower communities and individuals that have been oppressed by White supremacy culture and systemic racism. That feels way more human and humane. ‘Cause I don't get to define power.
Andrew: I think, I think a truly integrated school is something that I think one of our inclusion advisors said maybe, but this idea of like creating spaces that all people can navigate while keeping their full humanity intact.
Anna: That's great.
Andrew: That's the type of space that a truly integrated space is. Is that there is room for everybody's humanity. And that's the piece that I think we left behind with Brown v. Board.
Courtney: And that feels more powerful than power.
Andrew: Yeah, the desegregation versus integration policy, versus culture pieces, is the meat of it to me.
I think you need policy to push the people at the margins. You have to have the policies in place to a, try to push back against some of the systemic injustices. You have to at least start by removing the policy tools that allow for further hoarding of resources.
Courtney: I just don't think you're ever going to be able to remove enough of those.
Courtney: Megan is so much more nimble...
Andrew: No question.
Courtney: ...than your policy.
Andrew: I mean, right. You can't ignore the policy piece of it. The policy has to, you know, you have to start pushing on the policy to create the space to do better. But the policy is not going to get you to meaningful integration. And there, there are policies that will work towards more meaningful integration, but they won't work towards it unless there's a sort of cultural appetite for it.
And the cultural space created for those policies in the first place. And that that comes out of a value that the culture begins to put place on integration, on meaningful integration, on true integration. And to me, the biggest way that Brown in the way it was implemented, missed that, which I think has to do with the fact that it was a policy prescription that had some cultural support, but probably not enough cultural support when it was implemented is, is that it did not seek to decenter Whiteness.
Courtney: That's right.
Andrew: And I think until there is the cultural willingness and the cultural demand to decenter Whiteness, which I think communities of color have been asking for a long time and has not happened, um, and, you know, this is why I think there is value in speaking to a largely White and privileged audience, is that that's where it has to start, is we have to be willing to decenter Whiteness.
And had we done integration the way that the Black teachers in the South wanted starting with teachers, In a way that was as, um, you know, Greg was shouting out Vanessa Siddle Walker, right? Like an additive model where we take the sort of best things that we have in both of these things and combine them. That would be a way that Whiteness was decentered, but we didn't do it that way.
Courtney: On purpose.
Andrew: Intentionally. Right. Right. We said, Fine, you're going to make us desegregate, fine. But we are not going to decenter Whiteness. And I think that's, that is the limits of policy.
Anna: And that is also something that crosses the political spectrum. Going back to the fabulous Chris Stewart and saying, you know, at least if you're in the KKK, I know where I stand with you.
Anna: But like this idea of centering Whiteness is really a bipartisan thing.
Anna: And this is not like the more liberal you are, the less you’re centering your Whiteness. Like I think it's something that's really pervasive in across the political spectrum. And there have been people that have been talking about this for a long time. Angela Davis, Kimberlé Crenshaw, leaders in this space that are not 2019 new to the game. And that's humbling.
Andrew: Like no question there is something that White people have to give up in, in decentering Whiteness.
But like, if we can actually do that in a meaningful way, everybody gains. Our society will be more just, it will be more equitable and everybody will thrive because of that. Like you, you can have a selfish drive to, to do this. Like the world will be a better place for it. Not just for people for whom the world has not been a great place, but for everybody.
Courtney: Yeah. That's a great way to articulate that. I agree the world would be better for it. But I also know that we as White parents aren't, you know, reliable as real partners for justice. So, you know, another truth here is that as beautiful as we want to envision the results of this work, we have a lot of work to do.
And, you know, yeah. Like, so what I mean is that there is a good amount of resistance to the idea that school integration will get us anywhere.
Andrew: I think there is a, an understandable pushback to integration as a goal due to the ways that we mostly did desegregation and not integration. And I think that, that a big piece of the puzzle is resources.
And the argument that, you know, the only thing that has ever actually successfully redistributed resources is desegregation, is both true and also, easily pushed back against by saying, then we need to try harder to more equitably distribute resources. I think there is a real cost, Anna you've mentioned this a number of times, like a real cost to desegregation without integration in terms of undermining spaces that built political and social capital in communities of color.
And I think that anything that tries to undermine that is not helpful. And so, so the Chris Stewarts of the world who are fighting for spaces that are more equitably resourced, that are culturally affirming, that are not White-centered should be supported.
Andrew: Yes. As Chris Stewart says, he's got a Monday morning problem. You know, what do I do with my kid on Monday? And I think that work that counteracts that is not helpful because that's real. And because there has been for too long, a hoarding of resources, that pushing back against that as important. I think imagining a world in which that is successful on a grand scale, in which we can create a whole bunch of Black schools and a whole bunch of Brown schools, you know, that we have a whole series of separate schools that are actually equal, how do we get to a more just society? Because the goal is, at least in my mind, the goal is not to create really just equitable schools for the sake of it. I think, I think we focus on the schools because that is a place where there is the most potential to drive change in our society. And the big goal is a society that is actually just and equitable.
Courtney: One of the things that I kind of want to say about this is we're talking about public school, right? And we're talking about building a public. That's what one of the things that public school does, and if we want a just society, and if we want a society that actually cares about one another in some sort of meta way, we, we, we have to start with that. We have to value that and we have to begin there and we have to have skin in the, in the game. If, on the way to getting there, there are people who are building HBCU-esque kinds of spaces? Absolutely. I think that we are talking fundamentally about what public means in public school.
Courtney: And, and, and if we are not in it together, then there will be nothing but continuing silos.
And when some have the power and others don't, that will just continue to magnify, right? Like there's no way until we come together to build anything about togetherness that will lead to anything about justice.
Andrew: And, and, and I think this is where, you know, it was to sort of come back to the policy versus culture piece, right?
Like you can't build the policies that will actually lead to greater justice without knowing each other, without having skin in the game, without having shared experiences, without finding each other shared humanity.
Anna: And Nikole Hannah-Jones has a beautiful article called “Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?” And it’s fabulous. And I hope everyone presses pause and goes and reads it right now. But you know, what I think about is like, okay, so public schools are a foundation of democracy. The foundation of democracy is that everybody gets one vote, not just land owning White men, but everybody gets one vote. I only get one vote. Everybody gets one vote. When I can use my vote to opportunity hoard and to only focus on myself and my needs and my kids, there's a public cost to that.
Anna: And unless we are talking about ways to do this, that increase our understanding of collective responsibility and this idea that like I am one part of a community and so all of my actions have an impact. Whether I choose to recycle or not, right, like the second the trash man comes up and takes my stuff it doesn't affect me anymore, but it affects everybody and ultimately like affects the planet, you know, like exiting the system has a cost.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, this is why I'm so glad we had Greg and Carol, right? I mean I feel like their story really highlights the, the personal cost of an education system that continues to center Whiteness. I think it highlights the, the bad options that we have left parents of color in this system. You know, I mean, I think Greg talking about feeling some kind of way about, about leaving his neighborhood and leaving the kids there and going to this fancy White neighborhood for the schools and all the issues that come along with being in that space.
But then also looking back at the school that he left and seeing the ways that it's, you know, also suffering from racism and White supremacy. Just a few days ago, he met Nikole Hannah-Jones and asked her, and, you know, she said there, there aren't great options for Black parents there. There isn't, uh, an easy way to get around this.
Courtney: And, and I think that that episode for me also really highlighted what happens when you're just talking about resources. When desegregation is about resource, resource equity. And when we're not talking about integration, when, when resources are the, the fulcrum, you know, this is two of the potential results, right?
And they, and, and, and Greg and Carol were in two different places, certainly in the country, but also private school versus largely White segregated school district. And they're also making different choices next year with their kids. Right? Carol's pulling her kid out of this, you know, largely White private school and Greg’s staying. And boy, did they have the grace to allow each other to have different opinions, even… I thought that was really poignant. If we could learn a lesson as a nation.
Anna: And really support, like support each other.
Courtney: Yeah. When we're defining this work on the back only of resources, the experiences like the ones that Greg and Carol had, that's what you get.
Andrew: Right. Greg and Carol have found a way to sort of, despite all of the obstacles in their way, they found a way to get the resources.
Anna: And there's still a cost.
Andrew: And there's a huge cost, right? I mean, Carol said, like, I feel like I have done a disservice to my kid.
Courtney: Greg feels it every single day, he says. When he reached out to us, that was what he said in his first email, Like every day, every single day, I struggle with the choice I've made.
Andrew: He was in a constant state of contradiction.
Anna: I think the value of really hearing those experiences and the experiences of, of people of color in this way, I don't want to ever forget that because to me that just further cements, like the work I have to do to decenter my Whiteness in an integrating space, because that collective cultural narrative is so strong. And so a part of the, you know, the smog that we breathe. I think that's what makes integration meaningful, is that we're trying to raise a generation of kids that value each other as equals, that see each other as equals because they are, and they're in community with each other. And hopefully that raises a generation so that incrementally we're moving towards a society where people of color don't have to protect themselves from, you know, White supremacy culture.
Andrew: It's almost like it's generational work.
Anna: At some point. Is that, is that a cop out?
Courtney: Yeah, sure.
Andrew: That it’s generational work?
Anna: I'm not saying, I mean, like, I don't know what else the work can be. But...
Courtney: Will we look back in horror at this, at this podcast and this work? Yes! This is faulted all over the place. We just can't see it. This is the first step. And if, and frankly, if I'm not smarter tomorrow than I am today...
Andrew: It's a problem.
Courtney: Then it's a damn problem. Yeah. We will look back and think about the dumb, horrible ways that we were doing this. Yes.
Andrew: But I don't think, It's generational work, is a cop out. Because I think it is generational work.
I think that, I think that just because it's going to take generations to undo, doesn't mean we can't. That we can like throw up our hands and say, We'll never get there? It's only generational work if each generation does their share.
Anna: Yep. And being in a position where we understand the importance of like being wrong, like, okay, so we tried this, we thought this was what was right at the time. It's not, it wasn't, so now we're going to own it.
Courtney: Yeah. And, but I, but I also want to say that that doesn't give you cover for being an idiot or lazy or not trying. Yes. I definitely want to be smarter tomorrow, but that doesn't excuse me from not like doing my homework today.
Andrew: Being as smart as you can be today.
Anna: Absolutely. And doing the work today.
Andrew: So that conversation is definitely a bit all over the place. Maybe we didn't really...
Courtney: I mean…
Andrew: Yeah, we didn't, we didn't really like tie a neat bow on Brown v. Board, but certainly we are, we're grappling with what it meant and what it continues to mean today.
Courtney: Yeah, I'm definitely thinking a lot and we'll continue thinking about desegregation versus integration and you know, and how the stories that we tell about Brown v. Board and about race and education and parenting continue to impact the ways we think about race and Brown v. Board and education and parenting.
Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. Big, thanks to Anna for helping us think through all of this and, and to all of our amazing guests who certainly helped us complicate the story a bit.
Courtney: I'm super, super, super grateful to our guests for sharing time and expertise. And we've gained a lot and hopefully have inched our thinking ever so much closer to the promise of this work.
So what's next, Andrew?
Andrew: So first of all, we're going to take a break. This has been, this has been a really great project, but a big time investment. So I'm definitely looking forward to maybe, I don't know, watching some TV or something.
Courtney: I'm going to get some laundry done.
Andrew: Your, your kids will appreciate that. But never fear. We are planning a few things over the summer, so make sure you hit that subscribe button and then we're going to come back in the fall with some more regularity.
Courtney: Yeah, there's plenty still to talk about. We want to dig into more of the experiences that groups and individuals have had within Asian-American and Indigenous communities.
We need to talk about middle and high school, the ways we parent and White parenting. We're going to talk about how we work with our kids around race and privilege as they inhabit these largely Black and Brown spaces. Tracking, gentrification. There's a lot.
Andrew: Yeah, lots more to talk about, but listeners, what do you want to hear about? Send us a voice memo or an email. Let us know what questions are you struggling with? What parts of this podcast really resonate for you? What parts drive you nuts? We're always, always very grateful for your feedback. So shoot us an email [email protected], send us a voice memo. And this is the spot of the show where we usually ask for your support and because Courtney hates to do it, we've got a special treat.
Anna: So, raise your hand if the podcast is something that has brought thoughtfulness to your parenting, to your work, whether you're a parent, a teacher, someone thinking about having kids, someone in policy. If you have gotten something out of what has been shared, please donate, go to the website, click the link.
Thank you. You can put your hand down now.
Andrew: Thank you, Anna.
Courtney: Thanks, Anna. We’re, as always, happy to be in this with you as we try to know better and do better.
Andrew: See you soon.