Re-Segregation in Alabama

It’s become almost a cliche that the Bush Administration and the radical GOP are trying to bring back the days of the Robber Barons when unions barely existed, there was no dreaded income tax, the rich ran everything, and corporations didn’t have to worry about stuff like the environment, worker health & safety, or lawsuits over shoddy, dangerous products that were killing people. What’s been less noticed is their effort to turn back the clock on integration. Well, it’s in the open now, in Alabama anyway.

After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black — and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Black parents have been battling the rezoning for weeks, calling it resegregation. And in a new twist for an integration fight, they are wielding an unusual weapon: the federal No Child Left Behind law, which gives students in schools deemed failing the right to move to better ones.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

***

When the racially polarized, eight-member Board of Education approved the rezoning plan in May, however, its two black members voted against it. “All the issues we dealt with in the ’60s, we’re having to deal with again in 2007,” said Earnestine Tucker, one of the black members. “We’re back to separate but equal — but separate isn’t equal.”

The Tuscaloosa school superintendent and the School Board president are both claiming race had nothing to do with the outcome and that the plan “was a color-blind effort to reorganize the 10,000-student district around community schools and relieve overcrowding.”

Uh-huh. And it just so happened, coincidentally, that only black kids turned out to be the ones who had to change schools. Sure.

The superintendent and the school board pres are both white, and what’s clearly going on here is a fear of further “white flight” if schools are integrated. White flight has already drained the city’s school system – though 54% of the city is white, only 25% of the students in the school system are. The other half are bused to suburban schools or attend private schools. The system’s leaders are clearly afraid that any attempt to balance the system racially will spark another exodus of whites from the schools. The rest is desperate PR.

Everywhere you look, it seems, the social and economic gains begun in the 60’s have been or are being reversed and shoved back into the Dark Ages of intolerance, authoritarianism, and even segregation.

Bush and the Republicans have a LOT to answer for.

3 Responses to “Re-Segregation in Alabama”

  1. Looks like I should have held off a little bit before I did my Get The Hint post.

  2. mick says:

    Well, I don’t know if this is a Republican thing or not. I’m not even sure it’s racism on the part of the superintendent and school board. One can sort of assume that, Alabama being as Red a state as it is, the deciders are probably Pubs but I don’t know that for sure.

    Seems to me the school board was in a bind and wasn’t willing to risk more white flight. It could have been, from their POV, a very practical decision rather than a racist one. But….

    My point was – is – that the plan came from a fear of and therefore a kowtowing to a racist sensibility that still exists, and not just in Alabama. I live in Democratic New England and my local cities – Boston, Worcester, Providence – have all experienced white flight from and overcrowding in their school systems. They have not chosen to deal with the problem by shifting only black students, but then the racial percentages in our systems are nearly the reverse of Tuscaloosa’s. Some of the systems are still under court order, and that has something to do with it, too. (Desegregation orders in Tuscaloosa were removed by Republican judges in 2001.)

    What I’m arguing against is the totally erroneous view that because Jim Crow laws were struck down, racism no longer exists and that we can ignore all the safeguards we’ve put in place over the last 40 years and go back to the laissez-faire we used to have, like, after the Civil War.

    And for spreading that argument, an argument that comes exclusively from Republicans and has for at least 25 yrs, the GOP is responsible for supporting and encouraging racism instead of fighting it.

  3. A says:

    Just to point out, the one thing that is helping these people switch back into better schools is the No Child Left Behind Law that the Bush Administration put into place, without that law it would be a lot harder for the children who had been transfered to get back to the better schools

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