Thursday, April 7, 2011

School Integration-What's in it for you???

People moving out/People moving in
Why/Because of the color of their skin
Run,Run,Run but you sure can't hide
Ball of Confusion-The Temptations

As you may have heard, Detroit has lost a lot of people.
The census report states that Detroit is currently home to about 713,000 people.  This means that Detroit stands to lose revenue sharing funds from the State of Michigan as well as from the Federal government. Detroit will also (unless the state legislature rewrites the laws) lose the ability to levy an income tax on non-Detroit workers or add fees to utilities bills or several other Detroit-specific actions. The reasons for the increasing population decline are myriad but are mostly centered on such issues as 1) crime 2) poor public schools 3) high taxes and high insurance costs 4) lack of job opportunity 5) older housing stock.
Of course the local political establishment demanded a recount but it’s rather unlikely to get one or reach the magic ceiling of 750,000 residents, which allow it access to all the items mentioned in the above paragraph. That’s all neither here nor there. Anyone paying attention locally would have seen this coming a long time ago. What IS interesting though is that unlike the initial wave of departures in the fifties or the accelerated exodus in the sixties or seventies, those leaving Detroit in waves now are mostly Black people. In fact proportionately so many Black people left the city that Detroit’s proportion of citizens who are white may have increased.  Again, there are still more reports to be released.
This Black hegira has had some positive and negative results. South East Michigan (Metro Detroit) is no longer the most segregated area in the nation.
We’re number 4. Whoopie. Believe it or not, 3 of the 10 most segregated census tracts are found in Michigan.

Not Mississippi. Not Alabama.
That’s the positive side (the slight decline in segregation) -if you consider integration to automatically be a good thing. This also might mean that in the suburbs at least both major political parties might have to start competing for black swing voters, which could mean a slight decline in race-baiting or in being taken for granted.
The negative side though is that the arrival of large numbers of Black students in suburban public schools has led to increased white parental removal of their students from those schools.  Some white parents are sending their children to public schools further away; some are choosing private schools, charter schools or home schooling.  Although most people are too polite to say why openly, bottom line is that when they have any sort of choice, many whites simply do not want their children attending primary schools with large or even noticeable numbers of blacks.  There is a tipping point and it seems to be somewhere between 5-10% Black enrollment.
Because the housing market is so depressed it gave many Black Detroiters who were so inclined the ability to move to the inner ring of suburbs around Detroit. Many whites can not afford to move out yet but if past events are any predictor of future ones, in roughly a decade or two some of these formerly majority white suburbs will be majority black. With a few notable and laudable exceptions the public schools in Detroit are to the point where one local columnist mused that one way to fix the public schools would be to outlaw private schools, on the assumption that if the better off were forced to attend, then something more would be done.

The trend is particularly notable in Macomb County, which led the state in increase in black population, and where one in 10 students takes advantage of schools of choice, often to study in classrooms that are whiter than their neighborhoods.
The result for many of the more than 13,000 Macomb County students now taking advantage of schools of choice programs is daytime segregation and nighttime integration, said Jason Booza, a demographer at Wayne State University who has studied the racial and spatial dynamics of Metro Detroit for a decade.
"It's the continuing self-segregation of groups," said Booza, an assistant professor of family medicine at Wayne State University. "It's a pattern we've seen in Detroit for 100 years."
The connection between race and schools of choice is a hot potato among educators, who maintain that parents make choices based on quality of education, not the color of their children's classmates.
Kurt Metzger isn't so sure. "This is totally about race," said Metzger, a demographer and director of Data Driven Detroit. "There is a tipping point. When schools reach a certain percentage of African-American (students), whites start looking elsewhere."

Metzger, who has studied the racial makeup of schools, believes schools are not comfortable talking about the racial component of schools of choice.
"I believe the white population is much more willing to stay in schools with an increasing Asian population or a Latino population (than an African-American population)," Metzger said. "You hear code words: It's getting rougher, or the quality has gone down."
In the past, white residents uncomfortable with black neighbors sold their homes, Metzger said. Because of declining home prices, many can't move now — but they can move their children.
The impact is an increasing disparity between rich white districts and poor black districts. As students pull out of increasingly minority districts and take their state aid with them, the schools are forced to cut more programs, making more students decide to leave.
"It's institutional racism, and we need to talk about it," Metzger said. "We can't keep closing our eyes." 

Full Article
Again, with the exception of comment boards or when they are among an entirely same-race group, many whites are not willing to speak candidly about WHY they don't want their children going to school with Black children. This is something that needs to be addressed honestly. The other thing that needs to be discussed is how long can this game of musical chairs continue. One can not force someone else to like you but de facto segregation also has larger costs for everyone.
So what do you think? What does integration mean to you? Is integration automatically a good thing? Is it important to you?  Do you respect someone who tells you upfront that they don't like you or would you rather people hid their feelings behind politeness or passive aggressive behavior? How do you manage the inherent conflict between freedom and equality? What is the solution to the achievement gap in schools?
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