Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why The Supreme Court Was Wrong

After having read all the reasons why the recent decision of the Supreme Court concerning school desegregation was wrong, I have come to the conclusion that we have all missed the boat. The purpose of integration was not to make black kids smarter by sitting them next to white kids. If you judge the process based on that criteria, it has been a failure. If you talk to the people who were on the front lines of bringing this issue to the forefront or read their stories, it was never for that reason.

The purpose of integrating the two separate systems was two-fold. First of all, it would bring badly needed funding to the black schools which were in such bad shape; it was a wonder anyone could learn how to tie their shoe, let alone reading, writing, and arithmetic. And the second was to give each child a chance to actually see and meet someone from a different place, diversity. An opportunity to talk, play and argue with someone who was not like themselves. It put a face and a life to “those people” that we didn’t talk about or for that matter even see. It made the invisible, visible. It allowed kids that were willing to see, that we were not so different after all, that a lot of those stories and stereotypes were just not true. If gauged in that light it was a great success.

Some will wonder how I can say it was a great success, I mean after all most of the white kids that went through it were those few whose parents believed in it or those too poor to go elsewhere. Why I say it was a success is in how the majority of young people today interact with each other. Think about what it was like before the Brown decision, how young people interacted across racial lines. Kids prior to this Brown would be amazed at how young people today can interact with relative ease. That didn’t come from television or church; it came from sitting next to each other day in and day out feeling the same way about school and being a kid. For that reason alone it should be mandatory that everyone attend a desegregated school.

I have always maintained and truly believed that the reason everyone should be allowed to attend college is not because of the great education that college provides in the classroom, but the great education it provides outside the classroom. The education one receives interacting with the many diverse races and nationalities in the dorms, in the dining halls, and at the parties is far more valuable. For those who are brave enough college can provide an opportunity get to learn about so many different cultures and people. It always troubled me to see kids come to college and be willing to interact with all this diversity only to go back home and pretend it never happened. To get back to their old friends and go back to their old ways, but I believe that internally they will forever be changed. They will know things that their friends will never know. Walls of prejudice will no longer be there even if they try to pretend they are.

I remember when I first went to college. I came from an all-black high school experience. Growing up I had known whites, but after we moved into the neighborhood most of them left. I learned more about how to be successful from the experience of being around all those different people than anything I learned in class. The truth is that success in life is about relationships, how we interact with each other. Those who choose not to participate in this experience will miss out on more than an opportunity for career advancement; they miss out on an opportunity at life advancement; to grow as a human being. We spend so much of our time trying to separate from each other. We build walls to separate ourselves both physically and emotionally, afraid to lower our guards. We take the easy way out believing the stereotypes and the worst about one another.

The Supreme Court was wrong because they were looking at the wrong measuring stick. In America we must constantly reinforce our unity, if we are to survive. It is too easy to forget that we are all Americans stuck in this insanity together. We need to have our walls broken down or we will just be a bunch of tribes struggling against each other when it would be so much easier if we pulled together. This Court chose fear and isolation over inclusion and diversity. In this place we call America, it is the government’s job to bring us together, even if that sometimes means against our will. Our ultimate survival depends on it. Will we someday have a colorblind society? I doubt it, but we can have a color tolerant society and that begins with coming together and learning together as little children.

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