Difficult Discussion: The Failure of School Integration in America

Last week, I came across an article on Slate about the failure of American schools to integrate in the 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education. This is a hard conversation to have, but the author of the Slate article argues that busing was not the answer to segregated schools, and integration was doomed from the beginning since it depended on busing. He also argues that the black middle class was (almost) just as against busing as the white middle class — they wanted the end of segregation to be high-quality education for their children, like white middle-class children were getting, not busing to schools with average education and average students who just happened to be white.

My quick summary is definitely not doing justice to the original, thoughtful essay, and you should definitely read the whole thing.

Please share in the comments your experience of the American school system, and its segregation, integration, or something else entirely as you have experienced it.


50 Years Ago Today: “I Have a Dream”

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. Español: Dr. Martin Luther King dando su discurso “Yo tengo un sueño” durante la Marcha sobre Washington por el trabajo y la libertad en Washington, D.C., 28 de agosto de 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I remember the first time I saw a recording of his speech in school. It blew me away. He was amazing in the grainy recording, I cannot imagine how moving and impressive it would have been to be there on the Mall that day.

Many things have changed since that day 50 years ago, but we still struggle with racism in this country, mostly in more insidious and hidden ways, but occasionally overt. I hope and pray that the next 50 years will see even more change than the preceding ones, and my grandchildren won’t even know what racism is, because it won’t exist.

Let us all work together to create a truly equal society, one that utterly fulfills Dr. King’s vision.

Something to Think About: Minority Students at Elite Schools in New York

I know that New York City is a world away from Idaho Falls, but I found this article (from the New York Times) about the experience of minority students at elite schools in New York City to be very thought provoking. Read the comments on the article, too, they are equally thought provoking.

Share your thoughts on the article in the comments, please.

More on The New Jim Crow

Cover of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcer...

Cover via Amazon

As I mentioned last week, I have been reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander for a discussion group. This week we were supposed to have read up to chapter 3, and unlike last week, all of the group had at least started the book, some had read more than the requirement, and most of us were at least close to where we were supposed to be. (Speaking for myself, I had not quite finished chapter 2. Oops.) This led to a good discussion, mostly focused on how scary the criminal justice system has become, especially for those in our society without many resources, particularly monetary.

One point that we only briefly touched on was the forfeiture laws. Basically, if illegal drugs have ever been on a property, it can be seized. There is a provision for ‘innocent owner’, but it is very difficult to use this provision. For example, a woman with an abusive husband or boyfriend can lose her house and car just because he used drugs there — she ought to have known and stopped him, even if he was abusive or she never saw the drugs being used.

Courts have not been forgiving of women in these circumstances, frequently concluding that “the nature and circumstances of the marital relationship may give rise to an inference of knowledge by the spouse claiming innocent ownership.” (quoting United States v. One Parcel of Real Estate Located at 9818 S.W. 94 Terrace) p. 82, The New Jim Crow

I find this truly shocking.

Doctrine of Discovery

Have you heard of the Doctrine of Discovery? It is an ancient legal understanding from Western Europe, that when the ships sent out from Western Europe encountered new lands with non-Christian, non-white inhabitants, then those lands had been ‘discovered’ by the white, Christian men on the ships, and they could claim them for their European country.

I had certainly heard it, but what I did not realize until recently was that the Doctrine of Discovery has never been repudiated and is still the basis for laws in the United States and elsewhere.

Learn more about working as a UU to abolish the Doctrine of Discovery.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Orthographic map of the Americas

Orthographic map of the Americas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day, originally known as Columbus Day. There is a movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, to honor the people who were invaded and marginalized by Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, as well as indigenous peoples around the world, hidden in the shadows of colonialism. Learn more about Indigeous Peoples Day and ways you can work to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day at the Unitarian Universalist Association website.

Racism and Children

Do you have children? Particularly small children? Are they racist? No? Are you sure? New studies coming out say that small children often exhibit racism even when their parents are not overtly racist. Read more on Change.org.

What can parents do? Talk to their children openly about skin color, racism, how skin color does not change how smart or pretty someone is, and don’t praise lighter-skinned individuals to the exclusion of darker-skinned individuals.

These are hard conversations to have. I was raised to believe that it was enough just not to mention the color of someone’s skin, and but I now realize that it is not true. We need to talk about it. Racism will not go away as long as skin color is the elephant in the room.

It’s a difficult balance, one I’m not sure I always strike. But I think it’s better to talk about it than not, better to raise the ideas, than to ignore it and hope racism just goes away. As long as we aren’t talking, racist people can believe that everyone thinks as they do.

Please, share your perspective in the comments. They are moderated, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t show up right away, it hasn’t gone away.

Rhode Island Infected with Arizona’s Resentments

As you know, Idaho narrowly escaped passing some bills similar to Arizona’s illegal immigrant bill this past legislative session. Now, Rhode Island is the latest state to be infected. Read about it here:


The only logical way for laws like this to not involve racial profiling is to make everyone show identification, which I seriously doubt is going to happen (and I hope not, too).

Talking about Race

Race is one of the hardest things, I find, to talk about. There is such a fear of saying the wrong thing, saying the right thing in the wrong way, or not saying it the right way. There is an occasional workshop series ongoing at UUCIF, on anti-racism and becoming an anti-racist congregation. If you haven’t attended, I highly recommend it. In the meantime, I want to link to a couple sites I have found recently, to help start a discussion about race and anti-racism.

Racialicious: A blog about the intersection of race and pop culture.

Testing the Ice on The Bottom of Heaven: Blogging Postmodern Blackness

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