The Elephant in the Room: Will the deBlasio/Carranza School Integration Initiatives Result in White Flight?

Do you have friends of another race? Do you know their spouse and childrens’ names? Have you visited their home and have they visited your home?

Have we entered a post racial world? Is the concept of post-racialism a mirage?

With the election of Barack Obama commentators across the nation announced we were entering a post racial world,

Many commentators, both conservative and liberal, have celebrated the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, claiming the election signified America has truly become a “post-racial” society … This view is consistent with beliefs the majority of White Americans [and] this view is consistent with opinions found in the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and elsewhere

Ten days before leaving office Obama gave an upbeat speech; however, rejecting the post-racial trope,  .

There’s a … threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

 The last two years have shown us that the ugliness of racism has been seething below the surface, and our president has allowed these feeling to percolate and spread across the nation.

We are far, far away from post racialism, if that term has any meaning at all.

As the cold war faded a social scientist predicted, “The End of History.” (1989) and prophesized a new emerging world,

Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher, entered the global imagination at the end of the Cold War when he prophesied the “end of history” — a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.”

 With the emergence of fascist-leaning governments in Poland and Hungary, with the Russian annexation of Crimea, rising ultra nationalist movements in Sweden and Germany, Fukuyama responded,

 “Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward … And I think they clearly can.”

 Are the current plans to integrate middle schools viable plans to move school integration forward? Or, are we still rooted in a racially-conflicted world?

A little history:

 In the 1950’s the migration of Afro-American families to Northern cities accelerated, one of the results: what has come to be known as “white flight,” white families left traditional white neighborhoods and moved to the suburbs creating racially segregated inner city communities. As the flight continued city after city became majority minority cities.  One of the outcomes in addition to segregated neighborhoods was segregated schools. White families who remained often opted to move their kids to parochial and private schools.

Over the last twenty years a reverse migration, the movement of white families back to cities, called gentrification has moved lower income families of color into smaller and smaller areas of the city and created hyper-segregated schools. Today only 15% of the 1.1 million students in New York City schools are white.

In 2014, one of the most progressive cities in the nation was shocked as the UCLA Civil Rights Project report was released,

A report released today by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project finds that public school students in New York continue to be severely segregated. Public school students in the state are increasingly isolated by race and class as the proportion of minority and poor students continues to grow, according to the CRP report, “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future.”

The City responded by issuing a School Diversity Policy Statement  that included establishing a 50-member blue ribbon advisory task force on School Integration and Equity whose report is due in December.

Districts on the Lower East Side (1), the Upper West Side (3) and Brownstone Brooklyn (15) spent months meeting and eventually created plans that were approved by the chancellor.

The  100-plus page District 15 Diversity Plan Executive Summary,

  • Remove all screens. (These screens include: lateness, attendance, student behavior, admissions exams/tests, standardized test scores, report card grades, & auditions. Maintain the current system of school choice
  • Create an admissions priority for students who qualify as low-income, are English Language Learners (ELLs) and/or are Students in Temporary Housing for 52% of all seats at all District 15 middle schools.

The District 3 Middle School Integration Plan is similar,

Under the plan approved in District 3, students who are poor, struggle on state tests, and earn low report card grades will be given admissions priority for a quarter of seats at the district’s middle schools. Of those seats, 10 percent would go to students who struggle the most, and 15 percent would go to the next-neediest group.

David Kirkland, the Director of the NYU Metro Center explains why a transformation to integrated schools is essential,

The research suggests, over and again, that people who are exposed to differences are more open-minded and more tolerant. They’re more compassionate. They think more complexly. They’re capable of working out difficult problems.

Forget college and career readiness. Here we have civic readiness, the ability to participate in a multicultural democracy with people who are different than you are, in ways that inspire not tension but community and collaboration.

What this is, is an idea of democracy of access, democracy of opportunity. If my friends’ parents are doctors, the dream of becoming a doctor becomes tangible. It becomes far more legible, as opposed to when I live in communities where nobody gets to be a doctor, or nobody gets to be a lawyer, or judge. The seedling of that imagination becomes within reach.

 The Mayor, the Chancellor, the teachers union, scholars, progressive parents, editorial boards (perhaps with the exception of the NY Post) are hailing the plans and urging the city to move forward at a quicker pace.

The elephant in the room: will white parents accept/welcome the integration plans, or, seek other segregated by race and/or perceived ability options?

The plans have not been universally accepted, white parents have asked: Will the high academic standards (whatever that means) be maintained? Will classes be homogeneous by test scores or heterogeneous? and, we don’t know how the almost all white staffs will respond?

There have been highly successful integration plans in the past, I blogged about a district-created New York City plan last month.

Families are beginning to apply for placements and the districts will inform families of their placements in the spring.

Will the families, white and black, collaborate to make the plans work for all children?

James Madison High School was integrated in the early sixties and considered a successfully integrated high school. In December, 1973 “racial incidents” broke out, and, Fran Schumer, a recent graduate from Madison (and one of my students) wrote an article for the Harvard Crimson, “Prisoners of Class ,”

IN A QUIET, residential area of Brooklyn, N.Y., a crowd of angry white teen-agers surrounded the main doors of James Madison High School chanting “We want the Niggers, we want the Niggers.” Armed with sticks, rocks and fragments of glass, they waited for the black students in the school to leave the building. The police, who were called to the school earlier that morning when fist fights between black and white students erupted in the halls, forced the crowd to move on down the block so that the black students could leave the building safely. After the white crowd moved out of sight, the black students quickly headed for the local trains on which they would make the one-and-one-half hour trip homeward …

 It is possible that people at James Madison High School will never know the pieces add up to their own victimization. As long as the prisoners of class and the prisoners of race must make self-destructive choices, they will continue to fight each other for the breadcrumbs. But after all, they choose to act this way and this kind of free choice is as American as apple pie, Watts, Hough, Bedford-Stuyvesant and in a few years, Flatbush.

Integrating a school is more than moving chips on a chess board; too often the “integrated” school becomes a microcosm of the outside world, segregation within the “integrated” school.

How far have we moved since the “racial incidents” at a “successfully” integrated high school almost fifty years ago?  BTW, it took a decade, Madison reclaimed it’s prestige in the community and today is a thriving fully integrated high achieving high school.

Will school districts participate in #black lives matter in schools?  Will teachers, parent and students of all races work together to create inclusive schools and inclusive communities?

As I write my twitter feed buzzes with reports of a “multiple casualties” shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and the rabid Trump supporter bombing suspect. Trump rallies that appear to be re-creations of Leni Riefenstahl’s, “Triumph of Will” rally in 1934 Germany.  Diane Ravitch expresses her frustration in a blog post (“Hatred Breeds Hatred), I totally agree with Diane and hope that New Yorkers can set a model for the nation.

5 responses to “The Elephant in the Room: Will the deBlasio/Carranza School Integration Initiatives Result in White Flight?

  1. Let’s return to planet earth. Do you really think that the 11% of city students who are white will grow under the deBlasio plan? That schools will magically become integrated? Do you think that the growing Asian community will even remotely tolerate the reverse discrimination disasters that will forever drive them to the Republican Party? As a journalist in my Riverdale community i spearheaded a fight for a local high school. My competitor newspaper called us racist. Where did they send their kids to school? Fieldston, which then had a minority population so small that it made Stuyvesant look look like a ghetto school!
    Andy Wolf


  2. Paradoxically, LaGuardia High School, while still probably the most diverse school in the city, is less diverse now than it was five years ago. Efforts to diversify an already diverse school never looked at the starting point or the reasons that the school had always been integrated. LaGuardia has done one better. Not only do students from different backgrounds share the same classrooms, they share the same lunch tables.


  3. Pingback: What Happened? Why Are the New York City Specialized High Schools (and Schools in General) So Segregated? Some History and Suggestions | Ed In The Apple

  4. Pingback: “If I Want to Go to a Good School Why Do I Have to Go to a White School?” | Ed In The Apple

  5. Pingback: School Integration is More Than Counting Kids by Race … | Ed In The Apple

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