The “R” Word

The word is “resegregation,” and we’ve been seeing it more and more, often in bold headlines. It has most recently surfaced in the run up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s eventual decision on the merits of suits filed on behalf of parents challenging efforts to keep schools racially balanced in the school districts of Louisville and Seattle.

“Resegregation” is front and center because — absent racial “guidelines” — serious integration just can’t happen in many school districts.

And that’s cause for alarm in some circles – ranging from liberal media to civil rights’ careerists. To them, “resegregation” is an affront to the desegregation legacy of Brown v. Board of Education. That historic 1954 decision is mocked, goes the reasoning, by all the school districts, including Hillsborough County’s, that no longer — in this post court-order era — have race ratios for their schools.

And, as a result, there are lots of schools, including a number in Hillsborough County, with predominantly minority enrollments. This, of course, is considered very bad in the aforementioned circles.

And not even gimmick magnet and “choice” programs have been able to dent, much less deter, this ostensibly insidious pattern of “resegregation.”

If ever a non-N-word needed context, it’s “resegregation.”

The very evil that was “segregation” was premised on legally codified racial inferiority. We’re talking about the morally indefensible here – and the malevolent Jim Crow extension of the Plessy v. Ferguson legacy.

No one’s re-upping for that any more than they’re waxing nostalgic for the auction block. But the knee-jerk acceptance of “resegregation” as an implicit, racist return to segregated schools circa 1950s is out of synch with reality circa 2006. Tampa’s Leto High, for example, is not Little Rock’s Central High – any more than color-blind decisions are the same as color-coded laws.

If anything, the post court-order era is an opportunity.

An opportunity to transcend quotas, social engineering and unwieldy, cost-inefficient logistics. An opportunity to halt the blatantly insulting racism that says, in effect, that quality education is incompatible with schools sporting predominantly minority enrollments. It’s still a truism that no one can make you feel inferior without your cooperation.

And an opportunity to return to meaningful neighborhood schools, where a community rallies around its own and parents are able to be more involved.

How ironic that Brown v. Board involved a black student who couldn’t go to her preferred school – one that was actually closest – because she was the wrong color.

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