Jim Crow is back.
The notion of a post-racial society after President Barack Obama was elected as the nation’s first black president has just been blown up: America’s public schools are re-segregating at an alarming rate.
Decades of racial progress in public schools is now being erased, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released this week.
The GAO gathered data from the U.S. Department of Education and found that inequities in public schools are the result of race, poverty and housing segregation patterns.
That’s a damning declaration on race and education– and it isn’t the America I envisioned after Obama took office.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, (D-NC) Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it took years of resistance and federal action to integrate schools.
“But now, six decades later, we have seen public schools seemingly regress back to the segregated state we saw during the Jim Crow era,” Butterfield said. “Overt racism has now turned to institutional racism creating structural barriers that have countered the positive impact of the Brown v. Board decision.”
The report comes during the 62nd anniversary of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in the United States and declared state laws establishing separate public schools for Black and white students to be unconstitutional.
Butterfield said racial and socioeconomic segregation in public schools has nearly doubled since 2000 and has occurred primarily in schools where more than 75 percent of the students are Black or Hispanic and eligible for free or reduced lunch.
“What’s more alarming is that three out of five high-poverty schools have high concentrations of students of color,” he said.
The GAO report is very troubling for young students, Black and white, who are learning to appreciate cultural diversity. We are living in racially turbulent times.
The report also comes as resistance to racial progress is becoming more apparent with the candidacy of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Trump appeals to Americans who don’t value multiculturalism and who oppose racial diversity. Hate groups like the KKK are proudly backing Trump.
If elected president, Trump says he would call for 11 million undocumented immigrants to be deported and huge crowds cheer him during rallies across America. Sadly, researchers for the study found Hispanic students tended to be “triple segregated” by race, economics and language.
This week, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) told reporters that the GAO report “confirmed that not only are our schools largely segregated by race and class, they are also re-segregating at an alarming and obvious rate.”
“The percentage of schools in which 75 percent of students are both low-income and Hispanic or African-American has increased from 9 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2014,” Conyers, the top ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol.
“Charter schools have seen similarly alarming trends, growing from 3 percent to 13 percent segregated by low-income and racial ethnicity,” he added.
The notion that America’s public schools are regressing back to the Jim Crow era, as Congressman Butterfield suggests, is deeply concerning. Students, Black and white, deserve better.
“There is a problem with our education system and we need to take immediate action to restore our promise to provide equal access to educational opportunity,” said Butterfield. “I call on my colleagues in the House and Senate to join us in our efforts to create better schools for our youth.”
I commend Rep. Butterfield for his commitment and passion, but how do you take immediate action when a Republican-controlled Congress has made it clear that racial diversity is not at the top of its legislative to-do list?
What do you think?