Press "Enter" to skip to content

An era of new-age segregation

Fifty years ago, Oliver Brown went to the NAACP when his
daughter, Linda, was denied admission to her local elementary
school. Instead of being allowed access to the white elementary
school seven blocks away, she had to walk one mile through a
railroad switchyard to get to her black elementary school. The
NAACP gladly took the case and in 1951, when other black parents
joined Brown, the NAACP requested an injunction that would forbid
the segregation of Topeka’s public schools.

The NAACP argued that segregated schools sent a message to the
black children that they were inferior to whites; therefore, the
schools were inherently unequal. Expert witness Dr. Hugh W. Speer
testified that “if the colored children are denied the experience
in school of associating with white children, who represent 90
percent of our national society in which these colored children
must live, then the colored child’s curriculum is being greatly
curtailed. The Topeka curriculum or any school curriculum cannot be
equal under segregation.” The case was argued and re-argued from
1951 until May 17, 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of
the plaintiffs in the Brown vs. Board of Education case and
required desegregation of schools across America.

Racial segregation still continues in our public schools but
there is a new type of segregation today: Financial segregation.
After all, the intention was not that black children be allowed to
sit next to white children but instead that they be afforded the
same resources. With the recent closing of five predominately black
Oakland public schools, it begs the question, “Was desegregation
the way to go?” If the purpose of desegregation was to provide all
children an equal educational opportunity then we have all been
failed. Over the past 50 years, public schools in predominately
black/urban communities across America have consistently been
labeled with the “lowest test scores,” “highest dropout rates,” or
“lacking books and computer technology resources.” Desegregation
was intended to provide black children with the same education as
their white counterparts, however far too often the black children
are singled out and told how “articulate” and “well-spoken” they
are. Did we not all learn from the same English books? Are there
different verbs, nouns and prepositional phrases taught to black
children versus white? Why is the concept of educated black people
such a phenomenon?

Now as Black History Month comes to a close, and we look back on
the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, we must recognize and
applaud the black children who have successfully made it through
our American public school system. The strong, determined black
children who have grown up and gone on to become upstanding and
outstanding members of our society. We must recognize our challenge
is to become more involved in politics and urge our schools to
teach a more diverse curriculum, with the same resources
nationwide, to include the history of all cultures: blacks, whites,
Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and others. It is not merely
education that separates us but more specifically our cultural
differences that continue to widen the racial gap.

Are we still in the mind-set of our ancestors or have we
evolved? Do we find ourselves cringing or talking over a black
student who may be discussing a race-related issue? Do we think
that because we have one black friend at any point in our life, we
therefore have an understanding of what it means to be black? Do we
feel black people are unnecessarily too sensitive or angry when it
comes to racial issues? If the answer was yes to any of these
questions then we are still living with our ancestor’s preconceived
notions about black people. Think, for a moment, how could the
color of a person’s skin influence the activity of their brain

As George W. Bush once asked, “Is our children learning?”