Monday Reading List: Ending Segregation, Changing White Behavior, and Privilege Hoarding

The weekend was bookended with violence, beginning with a coup in Turkey, and ending with the murders in Baton Rouge. Violence begets violence, but peaceful protest does not. I mourn the loss of lives in Baton Rouge, but don't let anyone tell you that the movement is murder's accomplice.

Jeanne Theoharis at The Root sees the parallels between how the media discusses the movement for Black lives, and how the Civil Rights movement of last century was viewed by its contemporaries:

On Saturday, as protests mounted across the country following the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed explained the large police presence at downtown protests to reporters: “Dr. King would never take a freeway.” Reed’s claim was historically absurd. Martin Luther King Jr. took many a highway—most famously, perhaps, in the Selma-to-Montgomery march. Reed is not the only one trafficking in dangerous and distorted ideas of the civil rights movement ... Such historical revisionism is both dangerous and comfortable—dangerous because it grossly distorts how the civil rights movement actually proceeded, and comfortable because it allows many Americans to keep today’s movement at arm’s length. This repeated comparison has become one of the ways that many justify hand-wringing on the sidelines—as if they would act, given a righteous movement like King’s, but today’s activists are simply too excessive, too disruptive and too unrespectable.

When progress happens, there always is a coterie of naysayers on the sidelines screaming "too fast, not now!" Josh Michtom wants White folks to take more personal actions in supporting Black lives:

The movement of white people away from majority-minority neighborhoods and schools over the last fifty years — even when couched in the race-neutral language of doing the best for one’s children — is the movement of white families into separate communities from which they can project fear and the policing tactics that fear inspires onto communities of color. Moving to the suburbs so your white kid won’t be the social justice experiment is making someone else’s black kid the oppression experiment. Except, of course, it’s not an oppression experiment, because to call something an experiment is to suppose that it tests an uncertain hypothesis. So let’s call things what they are. White people’s openness and protest and allyship are valuable and necessary, but they are not sufficient. White people who want to fight racist policing need to fight segregation with our voices, our votes, and most of all, our personal choices.

Because of the patterns Michtom discusses, it takes active work to live an integrated life. I would love to hear from more folks who have embraced that work. Patrick Wall is in The Atlantic examining how segregation becomes even worse in New York City's middle schools. In one part of Brooklyn, there are three sought after middle schools, whose admissions policies reinforce segregation:

In the whiter, wealthier northern half of District 15, competition is fierce for a seat at a Big Three school. “You have to battle for your so-called ‘choice,’” said Antonia Martinelli, a Gowanus parent and blogger who put M.S. 51 and 447 at the top of her son’s application. Otherwise, “there’s a fear that your child won’t get into a good enough high school.” Some parents pay a private consultant $400 for a two-hour consultation about the district’s admission process ... And then there are the “screens”—the criteria that selective schools use to rank applicants.The Big Three release the factors they consider—class grades, test scores, attendance, behavior marks, interviews, or auditions, depending on the school—but not the cutoff levels for any of those categories. Advocates say an even greater problem than their lack of transparency is how the system allows a handful of schools to cream the highest-performing students—which then floods the remaining schools with the neediest ones.

This piece is a great example of how both personal choices and policy reinforce the status quo of segregated schooling. The issue almost always is exacerbated by the fact that the wealthier, Whiter families, who have by far the most political power in the system, hoard their privilege. 

Live footage from my new show, "Privilege Hoarders"

Live footage from my new show, "Privilege Hoarders"

Along similar lines, Dana Goldstein was in Slate last week looking at research on the schooling preferences of parents:

The researchers tested a broad range of factors that could explain why parents choose a school: its proximity to a family’s home, test scores, after-school activities, uniform policies, class size, the crime and income levels of the surrounding neighborhood, and the racial and socio-economic makeup of the school’s student body. Only three of these factors significantly drove parental choice. Parents preferred high test scores, schools closer to home, and schools where their own child would be alongside more peers of his or her same race and class.

Fortunately, the "race" preference is not as dramatic as the headline suggests. Parents seem to prefer, "what the journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has termed 'carefully curated integration,' the kind that exposes white children to some poor peers of color." Still, policymakers will struggle to find algorithms that trump personal preferences. See also: Boston in the 1970s.

Finally, speaking of Massachusetts, Richard Whitmire took a long look at the political fight over the statutory cap on public charter schools in Massachusetts, which will be on the ballot in November:

Ironically, the fate of the referendum will probably come down to a unique set of swing voters: the suburban centers along the I-495 ring outside Boston that have no dog in this fight. Their schools are unaffected by charters. To put the question bluntly: Will the well-off white residents of Wellesley, Lexington, Newton, and Hopkinton vote to open up more charter school seats for low-income black and brown students from Roxbury, Dorchester, East Boston, and Mattapan? It’s unclear ... The “elite” leaders are under challenge. Here, though, it’s not clear which side will be seen as the elite. It could be the financiers funding TV ads or it could be the union bosses. In theory, the wealthy white suburbs will vote to expand charters to help minority kids in Boston. But an aggressive campaign by the unions ... could conceivably give these voters second thoughts.

Whitmire has the substance and the politics right here, some of which I covered a couple of months ago. It's still stunning to me that a public sector union is going to spend over ten million dollars preventing great public schools from expanding.