Whatever Happened to the “Melting Pot” in Schools?

Lafe Tolliver

By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
Guest Column

This past week marked the 70th anniversary of the famed Brown v. Board Of Education ruling which declared separate educational facilities for Black and white kids, unequal and a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

It was a mixed bag because although it was a unanimous decision of an all-white Supreme Court, it was deficient insofar as it only encouraged the affected states to proceed with all “due and deliberate speed” to end forced racial segregation in our nation’s schools.

The decision was a whammy blow to Southern states who believed that sitting a Black Demarcus and a Black La’vendadonna with a white Chris and a white Heather, would portend the end of civilization as they knew it and cherished it.

In the cultural calculations of many white people, having integrated schools would devalue their property and lower the educational standards for their white children who would have to occupy a desk close to someone with a nappy head.

America in the Fifties was not remotely close to the idea of “race-mixing” and for them, to integrate the schools would invariably mean that somehow their daughters would be targets for flirtations from the Black boys.

The progeny of the Brown case generated legal fights and battles and caused an outpouring of white-hot racism for those families who dared to send their kids to a neighborhood school composed mainly of white kids.

The racial topography of America spoke in the language of existing residential segregation and when it was propagated that those “others” could or would move in and attend their schools, pure mayhem brook out!

Private schools and religious charter schools sprang up like mushrooms after a spring rain when frantic white parents sought to avoid the scourge of Black kids eating in the same cafeteria as their kids or using the same bathrooms or sports equipment as their kids.

If you did not know better, you would have thought that the Black kids were bringing typhoid and malaria to the schools in their brown paper lunch bags.

The KKK and the White Citizens Council and any other right wing wacko group recruited members and told the lie that after the schools, they are coming for your neighborhood homes and then your jobs and then your daughters!

Brave Black kids with the support of local NAACP chapters faced daunting picket lines at the white schools and faced intense ostracism for the mere fact and right of trying to learn their A B C’s.

America was having none of it and it has taken decades and decades for any semblance of racial integration to be palatable to some white folks.

And yet a recent report indicated what many knew to be true then and now that school segregation has surged in the past 70 years, not dissipated.

A report in AXIOS indicates jarring statistics that evidence America has profoundly regressed to a society that school segregation is nearly as solidified as ever.

The AXIOS reported racial segregation across the country has dramatically increased over the last three decades with fewer and fewer students of different

ethnic backgrounds being bound together in a local school.

One of the main driving forces behind this seemingly return of separate but unequal schools is residential housing segregation. If parents engage in “white flight” and go to the suburbs, they have a good chance of having their kids attend a school in which their peer group all look alike.

With the differential in wages and salaries between white and Black workers growing large and widening, that is the main factor as to what determine who lives where.

If white society can maintain a gulf of a ratio of 12:1 regarding wealth and income between the “races”, it is no wonder that suburbia remains practically all vanilla and “inner cities” are chocolate.

The racial friction in this country since 1619 and onward does not lend itself to racial harmony because of the artifices used by white society to project Black people as those who do not value green lawns and having a junk car parked in the back yard.

If after 70 years, America cannot lower the draw bridge of reconciliation, fair pay and equal protection, schools and colleges will give perfunctory lip service to equality but knowing fully well that when it is time for graduation ceremonies at their kid’s school, they are quite satisfied with seeing only themselves and not worrying whether their civil rights caps are in place.


Contact Lafe Tolliver at tolliver@juno.com