A few years ago, I wrote an article about a school district in Mississippi that was under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department’s division of civil rights for having unacceptable race ratios.
Walthall County is a rural community of about 15,000 people – 54% of whom are white, 45% of whom are black. The school district services a total of 2,500 students. At issue are Tylertown, which sits in a predominately black community and has a black enrollment of 75%, and Salem Attendance Academy the “racially identifiable white school.” that is 66% white and 35% black
Over the years the school district has allowed hundreds of white students to transfer out of Tylertown and into Salem resulting in race ratios the U.S. Justice Department finds unacceptable. In a written statement, Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general in charge of the civil rights division, said, “It is unacceptable for school districts to act in a way that encourages or tolerates the resegregation of public schools…” (It should be noted that the school district also allowed many black students to transfer from Tylertown to Salem and, while the media accounts do not say, the numbers seem to suggest that a large number of black students also transferred from Salem to Tylertown.)
I have always found it curious that the Federal interest in race ratios and school segregation only extends to places like Mississippi. When the Justice Department hears of anything having to do with race in the old south, they are quick to respond and accuse parents in these locals of scheming to put on white sheets and burn crosses on every lawn in the neighborhood. The media is also quick to paint parents in these communities as being little more than old school red necks, eager to bring back the good old days of tap dancing and Jim Crow. When similar race ratios are discovered in other locales, like, say New York City, and other parents are openly choosing to segregate their schools, the media is very quiet and the Justice Department says nothing.
A community in Brooklyn, NY, aptly named Dumbo, is currently suffering the pangs of racism and Liberal hypocrisy and chances are, you have heard nothing about it. You see, these racists are upper middle-class New York Liberals and not working class southerners.
Dumbo is wedged between wealthy Brooklyn Heights and a community of housing projects in urban Forest Greene. Two elementary schools service these neighborhoods, PS 8, which is predominately white, upper middle class, and bursting at the seams and PS 307, which is more than 90% black and has available seats. Notice right off that here in Liberal NYC there is a school that is 90% black and a few blocks away another school that is 70% white. Hey Thomas Perez, what about THESE race ratios?
In response to the overcrowding of PS 8, the the Department of Education has decided to rezone the area so that more students living in the Dumbo area will attend PS 307. Of course, just like a bunch of Mississippi red necks, the Dumbo parents showed up en masse to protest the proposed rezoning.
How badly do these white liberal parents NOT want to send their children to school with black children? This badly: PS 8 is so overcrowded that all the students in the school must share ONE art class room. PS 8 is so over crowded that there is NO language program. PS 8 is so overcrowded that there is NO music program. And still parents would rather put their names on a waiting list for PS 8 than send their children down the block to study with black children who have violin classes, plenty of space for art classes, and classes in Mandarin for Kindergartners.
But as I pointed out in my column about Walthall, race and education is never as simple as it seems. Of course, in spite of all of those great extras, students at PS 307 score very poorly on the core subjects. Students at PS 307 had a pass rate on state tests of 16% versus a pass rate at PS 8 of 86%. And to make matters even muddier, one reason PS 307 has all of that great extra stuff is that they receive title 1 funding because more than 60% of the students receive free lunch. Once the zoning goes through and PS 307 is only 55% black, what happens to all of that title 1 money? So, in the game of race and education, it seems that segregation has its benefits. I mean, unless you live in Mississippi, in which case attempting to send your child to better school makes you a racist redneck and the justice department will be paying you a visit shortly.