#201: It Was Never About Busing
Hi again, loyal readers! I’m back after a week-long vacation, which involved advanced rest and relaxation, deep conversation with good friends, and newfound respect for paddle boarding. Did you handle last Thursday’s newsletter-less morning with skill and grace, or did you experience frustration and anxiety? If the latter, don’t fret: My next break will be in late-December. 😀
This week’s issue begins with a powerful one-two punch on school desegregation, likely the most-followed topic at The Highlighter. If you can spare 19 minutes and want to learn most everything there is to know about busing, why integration failed, and how “it is unlikely that we will ever again see an effort to deconstruct our system of caste schools,” please (re-)read today’s lead article, “It Was Never About Busing,” by the brilliant Nikole Hannah-Jones. If that’s not enough for you, I’ve got 336 additional pages of goodness that will leave you with no doubt that desegregation works, plain and simple.
Also in this week’s issue, read about how a group of white boys in Maryland explained away their hate crime — and about how a visit to your local water park will urge you to reconsider the Books of Genesis and Revelation. Have a great week!
At the presidential debate three weeks ago, Kamala Harris challenged Joe Biden on why he opposed busing as a means to achieve school desegregation. This prompted tons of half-baked articles that failed to explain the nuance of the issue. Enter Nikole Hannah-Jones to save the day.
In this outstanding article, one of my favorites this year, Ms. Hannah-Jones unpacks how busing became coded language among white people who opposed school integration. Instead of saying they didn’t want their kids to attend school with Black children, they said they preferred “neighborhood schools,” when decades of discrimination protected separate and unequal educational opportunities for their families.
This piece is remarkable; there’s so much in it. Every sentence will inform or anger you. Toward the end, Ms. Hannah-Jones addresses her opponents, who call her a white apologist, and who argue that we can build strong schools in communities of color without the contributions of white people.
No, black kids should not have to leave their neighborhoods to attend a quality school, or sit next to white students to get a quality education. But we cannot be naïve about how this country works. In a country that does not value black children the same as white ones, black children will never get what white children get unless they sit where white children sit.
On this point, I struggle. On the one hand, I’ve worked in non-integrated schools that serve their students well. But those success stories are too few and too far between. At the systemic level, Ms. Hannah-Jones is correct. Integration works. The problem is, We, as a country, don’t have the interest or the will to do what’s right and just. (19 min)
+ Check out an image of this article in print, with my highlights and notes. (This is totally normal, and you do this, too, right?)
+ Listen to Ms. Hannah-Jones on this morning’s episode of The Daily.
+ Read more on school resegregation in Boston, Charlotte, and Seattle.
Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works, by Rucker Johnson
If you’re like me, and long articles alone won’t satiate your desire to learn more about school integration, you may need to read some books as well. Good thing loyal reader Bora has recommended Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works, by UC Berkeley Prof. Rucker Johnson. Here’s my quick review of his outstanding book, which inspired me to believe, despite our society’s current limited interest in justice, that people can join together in their smaller communities to do what’s right for young people. (5 min)
Here’s the kind and thoughtful Tony enjoying his bounty of VIP perks, a smörgåsbord of Highlighter merchandise. It‘s never too late to become an esteemed VIP. hltr.co/membership
Yes, I Spray Painted Swastikas All Over The School, But I’m Not a Racist Kid
Here’s a story about four white students whose senior prank at a high school in Maryland involved spray painting racist slurs, Nazi symbols, homophobic epithets, and personal attacks at their African American principal. But when they were charged with a hate crime, they said, No way, I’m not racist, my school didn’t teach me about the Holocaust, and “it was just spray paint. It just happened. It is all a blur.” (Their parents and many community members agreed.) (27 min)
+ Read this article with my highlights and notes. Then tell me what you think!
For Whom Is the Water Park Fun?
Need a break? No summer is complete without a visit to the local water park. Don’t concern yourself about potential dangers or tragedies. Turn a blind eye to the 2 million gallons of water they waste every day. Instead, simulate the effects of climate change at the Big Kahuna Wave Pool, with mammoth rogue waves and parents exhorting their children to save themselves. If fear or excess overwhelms you, distract yourself with a large funnel cake. (12 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Issue #200 elicited many kind words from loyal readers, including Beth, who wrote, “Thank you for your work, warmth, and unwavering will to include others in the written word” (I appreciate the alliteration), and Kati, who wrote, “If it’s Thursday morning, it’s Highlighter time! I look forward to The Highlighter’s thoughtfully curated articles that encourage me to think about an issue from another perspective, or learn about an issue I was woefully uninformed about.” Thank you!
Also, let’s hear it for loyal reader Nicki, who consistently offers thoughtful responses to her favorite articles. Here’s what she shared about “The New White Flight” (#198), which focused on the proliferation of white charter schools:
As someone who only has experience working with charter schools and strongly believes in school choice, the article challenged some of the beliefs. For one, I did not realize that white charter school enclaves existed and how white parents may be using the concept of school choice to further segregate their children from students of color. Second, while I still believe that parents and students of color should have school choice, maybe what I really mean is that families and students of color have a right to quality school options. What the article affirmed for me is that I do agree that heterogeneous schools are better for everyone — students who identify as white and those who identify as people of color alike. Diversity, I think, is one way people develop empathy for each other despite lines of difference; this is more likely to happen when we have schools that are diverse and less hyper-segregated (whether through indirect or direct choice).
Loyal readers, let’s keep this conversation going. If an article moves you, please feel free to share your thoughts.
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