6 July 2010 10:00AM
Contact: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137
Mrs. Amina J. Turner, Exec Dir, 919-682-4700
Al McSurely, Esq., Communications, 919-389-2905
Irving Joyner, Esq., Legal Redress
Why We Must Mass Mobilize
Against Resegregation In Wake County NC-A Local, State,
And National Issue
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Over the weekend I have spent some time reflecting on the moral philosophy contained in so much of our nations written ideals. Beautiful Words like “We The People….” Strong Commitments like, ‘indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Righteous hope for change, found in the words to our second national anthem, America the Beautiful, “America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law”.
I spent a moment with Justice Marshall’s writings. All last week, I watched the right wing Senators malign him during Ms. Kagan’s confirmation hearings. And I reflected on what Justice Marshall said at the U.S. Constitution’s 200th birth day, in 1987:
“The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 could not have envisioned these changes. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendant of an African slave. “We the People" no longer enslave. But the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of "liberty," "justice," and "equality," and who strived to better them”.
I considered how my own mother, who still works in the public education system and my father who is now deceased were apart of those who refused to acquiesce who worked to end segregation in this state.
And then I thought about the great call of my faith tradition in regards to community, as found in the King James Bible Galatians chapter 3: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
After this time of reflection, I felt a fresh sense of urgency as to why we must stand in unity and Mass Mobilize against what the anti- diversity, right-wing, tea-party sympathizing, resegregationist caucus is doing in Wake County. In the face of overwhelming opposition, these five people—I don’t care where they are from . . .I care about how they are hurting our children—are marching forward to the ideology of their right-wing sponsors. Tearing us apart; using our children as pawns in their cynical aim to destroy public education and socio-economic diversity. Our children are being used as tools of division.
We must see this as a state and national issue. They are trying to create a false dichotomy by suggesting, without an ounce of empirical research. . . without a drop of moral underpinnings. . . that Wake County’s commitment to socio-economic diversity is the enemy of school excellence. The truth, and the research both say the opposite: socio-economic diversity is the friend of school excellence.
Their concept of ‘Neighborhood’ is too narrow. They want private schools with public dollars for those who can afford to move to rich neighborhoods in the suburbs. And they want pools of misery in high-poverty, racially-identifiable schools for the poor, who have been jammed into certain sections of Raleigh by red-lining, discriminatory lending and zoning policies and practices, and other legacies which had their genesis in the profane rational for slavery and not-so-long ago racist practices in our society.
Diversity is the law. Diversity is a tool of racial justice.
When the NAACP was litigating the famous 1954 case we call Brown vs Board of Education, The Topeka Kansas Board of Education told the Supreme Court that segregated schools were not unconstitutional “because”–AND I QUOTE—
”segregation in Topeka and elsewhere pervaded many other aspects of life, segregated schools simply prepared black children for the segregation they would face during adulthood.” The Topeka Board went onto argue that segregated schools were not necessarily harmful to black children because great African Americans such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and George Washington Carver had overcome more than just segregated schools to achieve what they achieved.” Edward W. Knappman, ed., Great American Trials (Detroit: Visible Ink, 1994) 467
But the Nine Justices in 1954–all white men—rejected this flawed logic. Instead, the Court unanimously declared:
"We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does….
We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
In 2003 a comprehensive study conducted by Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project, found,
“a pervasive pattern of racial separation in public schools. Although minority enrollment now approaches 40 percent nationwide, the average white student attends a public school that is 80 percent white. At the same time, one-sixth of black students — the figure is one-quarter in the Northeast and Midwest — attend schools that are nearly 100 percent non-white.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the nation waged an imperfect battle against segregated education. Courts struck down de jure, or legal, racial segregation in the schools….
Today, however, the trend lines are going the other way—the wrong way. In the 1990’s, the proportion of blacks attending majority-white schools declined 13 percentage points, reaching the lowest level since 1968. In the same decade, the 1990’s, white enrollment fell substantially in schools attended by substantial numbers of black students. The average black student now attends a school that is only one-third white. Public schools, the Harvard report concludes, have been undergoing a "process of continuous resegregation…."
…….School resegregation hurts minority students by condemning them to separate, and unequal, education. It leads to schools with higher concentrations of poverty, less-qualified teachers, weaker academic challenges, and lower test scores. Students who attend these schools are less likely to go on to college; less likely to work in racially-integrated workplaces, and less likely to live in racially integrated neighborhoods.”
We know that diversity of our schools makes our schools stronger. We already know that. We have better things to talk about than where this crowd would take us. We have many challenges to educating our kids and all poor kids. We have many challenges to clog up the school to prison pipeline. We have better things to put our minds to than deal with this crowd.
But, my brothers and sisters, my neighbors, my growing family—all children of God– we have to stand up to them!
If we don’t stand, if we sit back and let them take us down this driveway to division, we allow them to undermine the sweat and tears and creative human efforts our parents and grandparents fought so hard for—just the modest first stepping stones to a truly integrated and human society. We can’t turn back now!
Let us not get sucked into the trap of juxtaposing diversity and excellence. They are two sides of the same coin. We know what makes excellent schools. They try to divert the debate about diversity with his nonsense about wiping out the achievement gap—as if that will be easier with high-poverty schools and less qualified teachers. If this school board were serious about student achievement, the five would leave diversity alone.
It’s a false dichotomy to suggest one negates the other. What this crowd should be focusing on, and every other school board in North Carolina should be focusing on, is stopping resegregation, improving diversity in our classrooms for all children, achieving equity in funding, high-quality teachers, smaller classrooms, strong support for math, science, parental involvement, reducing disproportionate dropouts and suspensions of minority, and increasing graduation rates. This is where we need to be focused. Instead, this crowd is trying to make a U-turn in settled public policy in Wake and set an even more regressive model for the state and nation. This crowd wants to insert a backwards policy, putting poor children into Neighborhood Schools in areas where the legacy of race discrimination is self-evident, thus condemning our poor children to the most under-funded, most segregated, poorest schools.
If we allow resegregation it undermines all of the other things we need to do to secure our children’s future. That’s dangerous! That’s wrong! That’s Immoral! And, we believe, it’s unconstitutional!
This is why, along with our legislative strategy, legal strategy, voter registration strategy, we are calling for mass non-violent mobilization on July 20, 2010 at 10:00AM here in downtown Raleigh on Fayetteville St. beginning at the Convention Center area proceeding down Fayetteville Street toward the Capitol Building where we will have a street assembly and after the mobilization many of us will go where the school board meets and continue to raise our protest to their actions.
The theme of our mobilization is —
NO to Resegregation!!!
YES to School Diversity and School Excellence!
Forward Ever — Backwards Never!
Wake County Public Schools