Throughout this semester, a main focus of ours has been discussing the desegregation of schools across the United States. The Brown v. Board of Education decision was made on May 17, 1954, stating that separate is inherently equal, and that schools must desegregate at a “deliberate speed.” Many residents in communities took the initiative to start desegregating schools as soon as possible, with certain stipulations such as enrolling African American students one year at a time. Most cities though, especially in the Deep South, worked to appear “deliberate” with their desegregation, but in actuality were creating more ways around racially mixing schools.
We discussed that one way around desegregation was to zone schools according to neighborhoods. City officials would decide which students went to which schools-- grouping then according to the part of town they lived in. This turned out to be an extremely effective way of remaining segregated because of the ways in which members of society most likely live in proximity to people of similar backgrounds.
It has been over 66 years since The Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board ruling. Until I started tutoring in Memphis and taking this class this semester, I had never bothered to think about what has changed in the American school system. Has our educational system become desegregated, or are we really just as segregated of a society as we were half a century ago?
I never paid much attention before, but now the issue has become something that I’m noticing more, and it seems as though we have made very little progress in desegregating schools, especially those that are urban. I tutored reading for 5th graders last year at Cypress Elementary just down the street and I realized that nearly every student in that school is African American. I determined that this is most likely a result of the zoning done by the district. It is sad that so many years have gone by since that landmark court case, but so few changes have been made. In the suburb that I grew up in, it was the opposite—many students in my school were white. I never paid much attention because I grew up in an accepting family, so it didn’t make a difference to me when I went to a more diverse high school. But I wonder what this type of homogenous climate does for other students who are not as fortunate to grow up learning about diversity of race, religion and sexual orientation and tolerance of differences.
Students who go to schools with just students of their own race may grow up missing key lessons about acceptance and tolerance. I don’t know exactly what can be done, but I believe cities need to find better ways to integrate their school systems.