The Thomas B. Fordham Institute interviewed Dr. Howard Fuller the other day. You may remember Dr. Fuller from a recent debate hosted by The Century Foundation. During the TCF debate on whether school segregation is one of the most pressing educational issues, Dr. Fuller was standing in for the negative, for why segregation isn’t where he chooses to spend his efforts.
Dr. Fuller’s position is that for our black and brown urban poor, we have URGENT needs. RIGHT NOW these children need good schools. In other words, whether this means charters, traditional, or private schools,we don’t have time to wait around for integration for these students who are in school today.
This makes sense, terrible and awful sense, and we can hardly disagree that the situation on the ground for our most vulnerable kids is dire.
(If you want to read more about ‘segrenomics’, the big money in segregation, we strongly urge you to read Noliwe Rook’s new book Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Pubic Education)
On the other hand, we strongly believe that scalable and true equity is very near impossible without dealing with our apartheid schools caste system. We can keep ‘putting out the fires’ for some kids (and we should!!!), but it is our segregation that lights them. Over and over and over. Parent choice after parent choice after parent choice.
Perhaps you have read the pair of written recently by Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, the author of the recently released book Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and ‘the Politics of White Supremacy? Gillespie McRae’s research reveals the powerful force that white women have been in creating and reinforcing segregation in our nation’s schools.
White women. Not policy makers, not a political party, not the grand machinations of forces beyond all control. White women.
“What white women teach us is that white-supremacist politics is sustained at a much more grass-roots level by our neighbors, school boards and even friends. White women have made white supremacy a much more formidable and long-lasting force in American society, sustaining it at both the local and national levels…
While men debated in legislative chambers and listened to challenges on the bench, women headed to school cafeterias, playgrounds and PTA meetings, doing the bulk of the behind-the-scenes work of supporting the politics of segregation… It was also women who shaped the way segregation, white supremacy and ideas about racial identity were knitted into the fabric of their communities.“
If it has been the historic “daily work… the mundane and the persistent” that has supported segregation, then perhaps it is also possible for it to be the daily work of those of us deliberately choosing integration that can right this wrong?
Because, as Dr. Fuller asks, of those people “who are shouting at us about integration, the question is: where do your kids go to school? What kinds of decisions are you making for your children?”