Wake County: Books, Busing and Bigots
My first brush with racism occurred when I was five years old. I was playing with a little white girl at a beach in White Lake, NC when her grandmother motioned for her to get out of the water. "Sally" came back a few minutes later to inform me that she was not allowed to play with (insert "N word" here), as the old hag sat mean muggin' me under her beach umbrella. In retrospect, at least Granny was honest about her feelings, which is more than I can be say about the folks in Wake County.
There has been a big brouhaha brewing in Wake County over the last year. Seems like some folks (mostly white) are fighting for "community schools", while other folks (mostly black) are condemning it as an attempt at re-segregation. The conflict came to a boiling point last week when school board chairman, Ron Margiotta , made a statement about "animals let out of cages," allegedly referring to the anti-segregation protesters.
Of course, most of the good hearted Wake County citizens are saying that there is nothing racist about the anti-busing efforts, they are merely trying to protect the ecosystem by conserving gas. Also, even though Margiotta's statement is committed to the Youtube viral universe, what he really said was " the way those Tar Heels are playing is outrageous."
I'm not sure what ticks me off the most, the Wake County School Board's racial insensitivity or their attempts to insult my intelligence.
I'm sure that Margiotta and the rest of his homies on the school board know that "community schools" is the modern day PC translation of "no Blacks allowed."
Then again, I bet ol' Ron has never been dissed at the beach by an old lady while wearing swimming trunks decorated with dolphins and starfish.
Let's keep it real. For many of the community schools folks in Wake County, it's not really about Lil' Molly sitting next to Tyrone Jackson in homeroom but the idea of her bringing him home for cookies and milk; the age old fear of miscegenation. So, the whole argument is not really about education but the fear of contracting "colored cooties."
Desegregation of public schools has been a controversial issue in this country since the end of the Civil War.
According to Harold Cruse in his book, "Plural but Equal," during the 1880's there was an unsuccessful attempt to pass a bill by Senator Henry Blair that would have required the government to provide $77 million dollars to be spent "equally for the education of all children, without distinction of race or color, " making "separate but equal" a reality.
In 1954, the Supreme Court rendered its Brown vs the Board of Education decision that put in motion the process of integrating school systems across the United States.
It can be argued that if the Blair Bill would have passed, desegregation would not have even been necessary. However, during that period, some black folks believed that integration was some sort of magic elixir to cure all of the black community''s ills. As if, by some sort of telekinetic osmosis black kids would become smarter by simply being in the same classroom with white kids.
It must be noted that not all African Americans have favored integration. According to Dr. Noliwe Rooks in her book, "White Money, Black Power," in 1968, African Americans in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville section of Brooklyn attempted their own version of community control of schools courtesy of a $59,000 grant from the Ford foundation.
Also, black leaders such as Haki Madhubuti have long championed the cause of the creation of independent black educational institutions.
All of these efforts have one thing in common; better educational opportunities for black children.
It must be understood that even within an integrated school system, there still can be educational segregation in the classroom. As the late black psychologist, Dr. Bobby Wright wrote in his essay, "The Black Child: A Destination in Jeopardy," "even sitting in the same classroom, white children will be 'educated' and black children will be 'trained.' "
Many in the black community would have no problem with community schools if it meant that they would be funded, equally. Unfortunately, there is a well founded concern that the lion's share of the resources would go to the more affluent, predominately white schools.
As the controversy rages on, we must be careful not to give black children the false impression that the ultimate goal of desegregation is to earn the love and respect of the white parents of Wake County. It is about securing the necessary resources to insure that they obtain a first class education so they won't be treated as second class citizens; nothing more, nothing less.
Our ultimate goal must be to teach black children how to love and respect themselves and to instill in them the self confidence to know that their self worth does not have to be validated by white America.
No child should feel the way I did on that hot summer day back in 1972.
A boy and his beach ball, standing in the middle of a lake wondering what was wrong with him.
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