I deserve not to worry
August 4, 2015 2:44 PM   Subscribe

 
I'm not sure I've cried harder this year than listening to an eighth-grade child try to describe how she felt about white adults in a neighboring school district holding a town hall meeting to try and keep her and her classmates out of "their" school. Fuck those grown adults using their spawn to play out their dirty prejudice. I hope they feel good about making a bright, happy, hardworking kid feel unwelcome in a public school.
posted by sallybrown at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2015 [59 favorites]


Here's a link to the FanFare discussion of the TAL episode.
posted by joan cusack the second at 2:57 PM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Listening to white people jubilantly applauding the outright racism of other white people at a public event in the second decade of the 21st century is one of the worst and ugliest things I've heard on This American Life (and I've listened to every episode so far!).

It's a really well done episode, but god damn, it is tough as hell to listen to. In some ways, it hit me worse than my own personal experiences with even physical racism; there's just something about that amassed glee that scares the shit out of me.

The connection of this systemic issue to Michael Brown reminds me of the connection of lead poisoning, another systemic issue, to Freddie Gray.
posted by Ouverture at 3:00 PM on August 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


Nikole Hannah-Jones did an outstanding job. I'm looking forward to next week, despite how painful this week's episode was.
posted by sallybrown at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think it was the fact that the voices in that Francis Howell meeting weren't Southern, or Southie Boston, or some other identifiable regional classification, and the fact that I have young children and I'm shopping for a school district but that part of this really cemented something for me: If you're a white person in America, you are exactly like these racist parents, it's just that you've never been tested. You get to just live where you want and interact with whoever you want and send your kids to school with the people you want and ignore the "other...um...others...across the...um...borders" like that one woman said. Eventually we're going to have to actually do something to end racism, we can't just sit around and wait for someone else to fix it for us, and no matter what the thing we do will terrify us. I just hope I'm strong enough.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:09 PM on August 4, 2015 [47 favorites]


Nikole Hannah-Jones did an outstanding job.

Yes. She brought in some excellent reporting skills.
posted by Miko at 3:19 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I briefly attended schools in Mississippi during my early years (grades 5-7 in Ocean Springs, grades 8-10 in Columbus). Columbus was more deeply and outwardly racist than the Gulf Coast. I was in public schools until after my first year in high school and then spent sophomore year in a private school as the public high school really was pretty crazy. I recall my parents railing about "bussing" and how unfair that was (to us, white kids). My whole life since I lived in Mississippi, I have thought about what it was to live there. What it is to be living in a racist country. What it is to be living in a country with so much educational disparity. Income disparity. Opportunity disparity. I recently had a conversation with my mom about this. I'm a parent now and I now see with fresh eyes how hard it must have been for my parents (military) to continually try to get a good education for their kids with a new move to a new town every three years. I went to a different school from Grade 3-11 every year due to how the various systems were in each place. She mentioned the bussing again and I said to her, "yeah. That must have felt terrible. But, I'll tell you what, I've never seem such open racism towards children anywhere else in my life. I don't know how any of them had a chance." She was quiet after that.

And I listened to this episode so closely. It made me cry.
posted by amanda at 3:20 PM on August 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


[Deleted a couple of comments. Please refresh before you reply! Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:23 PM on August 4, 2015


Nikole Hannah-Jones talks about not realizing that she was bussing when she was bussing. She just rode the bus to school because that's what her parents told her to do.

I had a similar experience, where I'd bus an hour and change to school each day, and I remember asking my parents why I couldn't go to the school that was only a couple blocks away? I could ride my bike there and it would be so much closer! But my parents told me that I couldn't go to that school, because it was a "bad school." There were dangerous kids there, they said, and lazy, stupid teachers, and if I went to school there I wouldn't learn anything. And elementary school me accepted what they said. I didn't understand until much later.

My parents worked their asses off to make sure that I was at the bus stop every day, and that I got good enough grades to stay in the catholic school. It wasn't "easy" for them, which is the fucked up part. They worked really hard so that their kids could go to a school like the one they went to. And it was possible! My parent's pre-integration schools had been successfully reconstructed through private school white flight and the gutting of public school funding. I bet that they'd still insist it none of it had anything to do with race, that I just rode the bus out to "the good school" for entirely color-blind reasons. As if color-blind reasons have ever existed in america.
posted by DGStieber at 3:29 PM on August 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Actual adults would show up to protest children getting a better education. The mind boggles.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:36 PM on August 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Man that woman talking about the MetroLink vote makes me sick. The same thing happened again and again in Atlanta, making MARTA practically useless. Every time an extension into the more prosperous counties and townships was put to a vote, the vote was no and the reason was clear: "we don't want those people coming into our communities." (Don't even get me started on the Braves moving to Cobb county). What's so insane about it is that poor black people are still going to come into your communities to do the menial work and labor you won't do, only now they drive in with their beater cars or spend 3 hours on the bus. It's madness. It's so sickening. Listening to that school meeting was even more upsetting than seeing the Eric Garner video. I guarantee not one of those people even think of themselves as racist in their most introspective moments. Fucking white people.
posted by dis_integration at 3:48 PM on August 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


I'm a fan of This American Life, but I wish they put more effort into checking out stories.
At this point I don't know if this piece is accurate or if they will have to retract it

Everyone knows about their anti-Apple show that they had to retract because the author had fabricated a lot of the information.

What's worse, they recently did a show "The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind" which is mostly devoted to a paper with unlikely experiment results, proving that people's minds could be reliably changed by a short conversation with a researcher. Shortly after the show aired, it emerged out that the data behind the study had been falsified by a grad student and that one got retracted too.
posted by w0mbat at 3:55 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I'm a fan of This American Life, but I wish they put more effort into checking out stories.

The reporter of this piece is an staff writer with the NYT magazine. The last link in the fpp is to an article in the STL Post-Dispatch, covering the same issues. Do you have particular things you're concerned might have been fabricated? The recording of the parents meeting? Something else?
posted by rtha at 4:05 PM on August 4, 2015 [35 favorites]


At this point I don't know if this piece is accurate or if they will have to retract it

Are you just trying to spread random FUD about this piece or do you have any actual reason to doubt it? The central issue, the integration of schools in St Louis county, is documented already, for example, in the third link from the FPP.
posted by dis_integration at 4:06 PM on August 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


pretty sure that's just a non-sequitur look-at-me attack on TAL. But then again how deep does the rabbit hole go?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:08 PM on August 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


At this point I don't know if this piece is accurate or if they will have to retract it

I grew up in Spanish Lake, one North County neighborhood over from Ferguson and two from Normandy. My high school best friend (who is half black) lived in Normandy. Everything in that episode rings exactly true to me. Down to the crowd shouting affirmatively while people say ludicrously racist things. When I was listening I felt that they'd probably edited out the really racist stuff.

Believe it or not, I moved from there to Baltimore and felt such relief at how much less racially charged everyone and everything was. It actually felt somewhat utopian to me. I had to leave St Louis to figure out everyone wasn't like that.

There's a reason I never go back to North County.
posted by overhauser at 4:10 PM on August 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


Actual adults would show up to protest children getting a better education. The mind boggles.

Actual adults would show up, protest children getting a better education, and call those children trash who don't deserve to be educated anyway. I just... I mean, how? How do you harbor those thoughts about a CHILD and still consider yourself a good person?
posted by palomar at 4:22 PM on August 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


It's simple: they didn't use the n-word, therefore they aren't racist.
posted by dilaudid at 4:32 PM on August 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


The mind simply boggles at the fact that the parents at the school board knew that they were dealing with parents who were willing to put their children on the bus at 5am (for proof, see the one dude who's like "Let's make it harder and move up start times"), and somehow, those parents and their children don't care about education/are just going to come to cause trouble. I mean, really.
posted by damayanti at 4:33 PM on August 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


This episode was horrifying. I went to high school at a large (5000+ students) urban racially integrated high school, and it was such a positive experience for me and everyone I know that went there.
posted by Arbac at 4:34 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


"this is not a race issue," says white woman urging massive resistance to black kids' admission to her kids' school
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:38 PM on August 4, 2015 [37 favorites]


[under the deafening cheers of a crowd of white parents for yet another feverish monologue about stabbings, metal detectors, and lower average test scores] I dunno guys, what if they have to retract this one
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:09 PM on August 4, 2015 [31 favorites]


I went to high school at a large (5000+ students) urban racially integrated high school, and it was such a positive experience for me and everyone I know that went there.

I went to high school at a medium-size (~1800 students) suburban high school in an extremely diverse community. I had classmates and friends of all sorts of races and ethnic groups from the start of grade school. We all did. It was something I took for granted growing up, and it wasn't until I went to college that I realized how unusual this was. Everyone I know who went to my high school is pretty much in agreement that the diversity was one of the best things about going to school there.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:14 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


They'll have to retract it because we elected a black president so we're in post-racial America, obviously.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:18 PM on August 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have become more vocal about this in the circuitous dating ritual that involves talking about hypothetical children. Most of the guys I go on second or third dates with manage to get it into conversation that they're ready and able to pay for their kids to go to a "good school" and I reply that I am ready and able to make sure my kids spend their time in whatever public school is closest to where I live. I usually go on to explain it in a way that is kinda gross and makes my privilege the topic of the conversation. I haven't found a way to talk about this that doesn't look like "using my privilege to even the playing field." I have a lot to learn.

Oddly enough, those guys don't usually want another date with me after an "outburst" like that.

Which is fine. I don't need to battle such overt racism in my own damn home. I've got enough of my own racism to deal with. It's unpleasant enough facing my own prejudices and working on them. I don't have any interest in standing beside someone who insists he hasn't got any and just is "providing for his family."
posted by bilabial at 5:20 PM on August 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think anti-racism, though, is not just saying your kids should go to whatever school is nearest to your home, but that if it becomes necessary to bus them to a further school district for the sake of diversity, that's okay, too.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:27 PM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only solution for this is redistribution of school funding beyond school districts where it is entirely tied to property values within those districts. Ideally this should occur at the state or national level.


Of course, this will never happen, because you'd have just as many people protesting about their property taxes going to support "those people."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:50 PM on August 4, 2015 [32 favorites]


I went to high school at a large (5000+ students) urban racially integrated high school, and it was such a positive experience for me and everyone I know that went there.

This is one of those YMMV things. I too attended an integrated urban high school and it was not a positive experience. Ditto for my wife (actually it was so bad for her she dropped out and got her diploma from the local technical college). Under no circumstances would I allow a child of mine to attend MPS.
posted by MikeMc at 5:54 PM on August 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I haven't listened to the entire episode, but I want to share a memory of being a kid when segregation was finally mandated and busing instituted (71-72), and what it was like, as a frightened, 2 foot tall, 50 pound little little kid, to see the hate that people were willing to spit at children going into "other" neighborhoods. About skin color.

I vividly remember holding hands with my new best friend in the playground, and grown men shouting things like "Nigger Lover!" and worse. So much worse. I didn't know what the words meant, but she did. And I asked her what a nigger was, and she said "What white people say I am." And she cried. Cried like someone died, cried. I'd never seen pain so raw; to this day, I'm in tears thinking about how much pain she felt, and how little I understood. I tried to comfort her, but she turn and ran. I followed her, but she wouldn't talk to me. And later, her parents came to my parents house to ask me to stop calling because cross-town friendships weren't practical, and the elementary school segregated itself into the white kids and the black kids, and almost never did they interact with each other. My new best friend was never my friend again.

Forty-three years ago. That happened 43 years ago. There is no excuse for it to still be happening.
posted by dejah420 at 6:13 PM on August 4, 2015 [56 favorites]


TAL has retracted things. Twice. They've had 561 audio episodes. When they've had to retract things, they've been super apologetic and promised to do better.

Which, you know, I'm okay with, unlike other radio shows that are completely okay with mealy-mouthed non-apologies after displaying blatant racism.

But, you know. If you're going to slam one show for a 0.3% retraction rate, I hope you're not placing faith in any other form of news media.

Meanwhile, everyone else will be discussing the actual matter at hand, which is that racism is fucked up, and people lie to themselves about it so they feel better. Sometimes that includes saying that the media is biased.
posted by qcubed at 6:25 PM on August 4, 2015 [35 favorites]


As far as schools go, I still have somewhat fond memories of my high school, which was integrated, even if students did sort of self-segregate.

It only existed because of the Magnet program. Which itself only existed because of the busing directives given out by the Federal government.

Which is why after I left, after my brother left, some enterprising assholes decided they didn't want to spend money on it, and one of the best schools in Georgia became a has-been.
posted by qcubed at 6:27 PM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


> "this is not a race issue," says white woman urging massive resistance to black kids' admission to her kids' school

Are you using the term "massive resistance" intentionally or is that a coincidence?
posted by gingerbeer at 6:41 PM on August 4, 2015


> This is one of those YMMV things. I too attended an integrated urban high school and it was not a positive experience.

It may be worth reflecting on why it wasn't a positive experience... I attended an integrated middle school that I thought of as being a very negative experience at the time. There was a lot of violence in my middle school, and it's also where I saw my first pistol. I was thrown against lockers and held up by my neck simply for being white in the wrong place at the same time. This was a suburban school, though - which is a detail that will become shortly relevant.

Looking back with some perspective, I think I can understand the anger and the horrible situation that these kids were in. The busing situation was brand new when I went there. These kids were placed into a school where they were unable to succeed. While the school itself was integrated, there were several tracks that most definitely weren't. The advanced program? Overwhelmingly white. The "basic" program or whatever name they gave it? Well, that's where they put the bussed kids... The selection criteria for the advanced program was incredibly biased towards the suburbs. I remember maybe two kids in the advanced classes that were bussed in... They were, of course, treated like "bad kids" no matter what they did.

All of the administrative employees and teachers treated the students like utter garbage -- They were clearly "other." It's worth noting that these employees were all from around the surrounding area - a very well off area.

The division between the two tracks was beyond offensive - They prided themselves on their advanced program, but the basic program was hardly even remedial level. The higher caliber teachers were in the advanced program, of course. The classes were small in the advanced program, they were overpacked in the basic program, and run in a much more disciplinary style -- to give you an idea, they used temporary time in the "basic" program as a punitive method for the kids in the advanced program who misbehaved.

The lunch area was run as a small prison - everyone was incredibly closely monitored, and you were screamed at for looking the wrong way while you were waiting in line, often to be spirited away to some holding area. This was disproportionately done to the kids who were bussed in - if you were white, and you threw food, you got a warning. Otherwise, you'd definitely get some form of detention.

So imagine growing up in an inner city, and having the "privilege" of attending a well-off suburban school - A school that has already tracked and judged you for your skin color, a school that has taken all opportunity away from you and set it aside for a privileged class - One explicitly stated to be more advanced than you, one that is predominately white and wealthy. You are packed into rooms where you are treated as being of sub-human intelligence, and assumed to be a troublemaker. Any attempt to challenge authority is punished - swiftly, and disproportionately. Every authority figure is already treating you with contempt - and are all white and privileged. In summary - It's a concentrated microcosm of the institutionalized racism that pervades the country. It's absolutely no surprise that the students subjected to this were furious and lashing out.

I can't say I remember every little detail, but so much of this stuck with me very clearly. I wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but I knew it was an injustice -- In reality, I hadn't even scratched the surface. Thankfully, I associated the violence and bad experiences with the institution, and not with race. I can't say everyone else had the same perspective.
posted by MysticMCJ at 6:57 PM on August 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


I haven't been able to bring myself to listen to the episode yet because I could tell from the description it was going to feature more white people being gross and black kids' lives being made infinitely harder for no good reason. TAL has spent a lot of time on how community battles play out in America's schools. It's an important and necessary conversation, but fuck it's depressing.
posted by dry white toast at 7:08 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, re TAL starting their own media company, with the success of Serial, it makes a lot of sense. It's also really fascinating timing given that TAL alum Alex Blumberg is getting his own podcast media company, Gimlet, off the ground over the last year.
posted by dry white toast at 7:10 PM on August 4, 2015


I want to second what TheWhiteskull said: The only solution for this is redistribution of school funding beyond school districts where it is entirely tied to property values within those districts. Ideally this should occur at the state or national level.

It's like local funding of police forces: it inevitably causes conflict between people with money and people without; people with children and those without; racists and their victims.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:33 PM on August 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


I want to second what TheWhiteskull said: The only solution for this is redistribution of school funding beyond school districts where it is entirely tied to property values within those districts. Ideally this should occur at the state or national level.

Yeah, if you're any kind of elected official, and you want to remain one, you might want to leave out the "R" word. Communism and what not.
posted by MikeMc at 8:12 PM on August 4, 2015


I always have to take a breath before I read something about racism in St. Louis, especially as it relates to education. It's a somewhat personal subject for me.

I started my first day of kindergarten in Clayton, Missouri - the first suburb in St. Louis County immediately outside the City of St. Louis on the edge of Forest Park - on the very first day of desegregation bussing. Clayton was something of a progressive enclave, and the school board voted to accept busses in advance of a pending court case winding its way through the courts which was clearly going to result in bussing orders anyway. In an effort to signal support for the changing times, Clayton voluntarily coordinated with the City of St. Louis to organize the first inner city kids to be bussed to our neighborhood. They went out of their way to make it as much of a non-event as possible, but the first months were pretty tense, and even a kindergartener could sense it.

That was September 8th, 1980.

1980, y'all. 1980. To save you from looking it up, Brown v Board was 1954.

The court-approved bussing plan didn't go into effect until 1983. Actually 1983 was a pretty cool year, because since we were on the forefront of desegregation, we got to join a few experiments. In one, we were actually bussed to an inner city school a day a week for a whole year, and our teachers team-taught the science curriculum with their teachers at that school. We did a bunch of field trips together, and it was a lot of fun. Kids were really disappointed when it didn't happen the next year (or ever again, as far as I know).

St. Louis in the 1970s and 1980s was considered by many to be the most racist city in America. I'd say it's still pretty close to being the most racist city in America. Surely it's in the top three. But a lot of people don't know why... so I'll tell you briefly so you have the background:

Missouri, owing to the Missouri Compromise, was a slave state. It was the northernmost state south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The infamous Dred Scott case originated at the Old Courthouse near the waterfront in St. Louis which was, at the time, the gateway to the west. It was the 4th-largest city in America then, and (I believe) the 26th largest city in the world. It was a big deal.

When the Confederate States tried to secede, the sizable German immigrant population, recently arrived from failing to establish liberal democracy in the Fatherland and not at all interested in changing sides in their new home, chased Governor Jackson from Jefferson City and declared his office vacant. As a result of this, a substantial part of Missouri entered the Civil War on the side of the Union.

Thus, when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it did not apply to Missouri - only to rebel states. And, oddly, because of the Dred Scott case (in which the Supreme Court said that the Constitution limited the federal government's ability to regulate slavery in slave states), slavery was still legal in Missouri at the end of the war.

It wouldn't be till Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment in December of 1865 that slavery was outlawed in Missouri. And owing to the fact that Missouri wasn't a rebel state, it was not subject to Reconstruction, so unlike the rebel states, there was not a surge of imposed societal change. Of course, after the Civil War ended, pro-slavery Democrats regained control of the government, and with no checks in place against them, Missouri went further in promoting racism after the Civil War than any other state.

So when I see people say, "This is the way it is everywhere! America is horribly racist!" certainly I love the energy they put behind their fervent opposition to racism. However, I have to take issue with their position. Nowhere else is quite like Missouri. They were the last to abolish slavery and the last to desegregate.

A lot of healing that's happened in other places in America has never reached Missouri.
posted by kochbeck at 8:17 PM on August 4, 2015 [55 favorites]


kochbeck, a lot of that is new information to me. I don't know why, perhaps because of James Thurber's stories of his childhood, and the mythology of Mark Twain, I've always slotted MO as a sleepy place full of secret intellectuals. I hadn't ever thought about their role in the Civil War, and so hadn't realized any of the history you shared. Now, I have to go read more history of that region. Thanks for the jumping off point!
posted by dejah420 at 9:29 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know why, perhaps because of James Thurber's stories of his childhood, and the mythology of Mark Twain, I've always slotted MO as a sleepy place full of secret intellectuals.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaas a ahl ha hahaha lol haoh hohahaha
posted by invitapriore at 10:07 PM on August 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I went to high school at a large (5000+ students) urban racially integrated high school, and it was such a positive experience for me and everyone I know that went there."

i went to a small prep school in vermont that had a few 'scholarship kids' from the inner city. i'm sure it was done for tax reasons or whatnot but it didn't make any difference to us students. we all learned how to chop wood and party together.
posted by lester at 10:12 PM on August 4, 2015


redistribution of school funding

I think that's a positive reform that has been achieved in part in some states. But the point of this show is sort of the opposite of that or, at least, not at all that. Racial integration achieves gains that are cannot be replicated with other reforms, including funding reforms.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:25 AM on August 5, 2015


I think the funding reforms are at least close to the heart of the matter. We have segregation of race and segregation of class, and these largely coincide. Communities stay segregated in part because people want to live in good school districts, which means lots of funding, which means lots of wealthy people, away from the lower classes. Redistribute the school funding and you remove one of the biggest barriers to integration at the neighborhood level, while ensuring that resources actually make it to the poorer communities.

I was wondering after listening to this episode if there might be a way to do this through the courts, and decide based on Brown that the school funding needs to go into a state pool for distribution. There's certainly plenty of people harmed by the current system...
posted by kaibutsu at 1:23 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I can even listen to this episode.

I went to a 3000 person high school that was laughably diverse - racially, economically, socially. It took me a long time to realize the rest of the world was not like that. I also grew up a minority in a suburb born of white flight, and attended an elite college in a "bad" neighborhood. Now I live in Hawaii, where even though the majority of the population is not only brown but varying closely related shades of pacific basin brown, people are *still* able to self-segregate to amazing degrees. As in, we might all be Japanese, might even be literal blood relations - but y'all went to that high school and I went to this one. Thirty years ago. And it still matters a lot. And this is a small island with comparatively narrow racial, economic, and social strata.

That's a long way of saying I don't know what the fuck to do about any of this. This is especially true in the context of being a father and what lessons need to be conveyed to all the kids I run into - not just mine.

Regardless - kudos to TAL for injecting this issue back into the conversation. Discomfort is a forcing function and the search of comfort is probably not far from root cause in why stuff like this happens in the first place.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:30 AM on August 5, 2015


Thurber is from Columbus, Ohio, thankyouverymuch

I think the funding reforms are at least close to the heart of the matter. We have segregation of race and segregation of class, and these largely coincide.

Hannah-Jones makes it pretty clear that she doesn't think it's a class, or (entirely) a funding issue. Poor white kids are much more likely to go to a school with middle class white kids; poor black kids go to schools with poor black kids. And in the episode, it's clear that the parents objections aren't "How are going to pay for this?" because the pupils are bringing their funding with them.

New Jersey's a good illustration of this-- Newark has some of the highest per-pupil spending in the state, at around $24,000, and some of the worst outcomes. Millburn, which includes the Short Hills area, one of the richest in the country, is at $18,000, and is usually in the top 10 or 20 schools in the state. The money is there in Newark; there's something else wrong going on there. Here's an article in the New Yorker talking about the most recent attempt to reform Newark's schools with an influx of cash, which failed.
posted by damayanti at 4:51 AM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Actual adults would show up to protest children getting a better education. The mind boggles.

I doubt they looked at it like that. They probably thought they turned up to represent the interests of their kids, which they felt were at risk for "valid" reasons.

Like, I doubt these people are any more racist than most large groups of soft-living white folks, I think they're probably like most of America these days, scared of their own shadow and desperate to defend what they think is theirs in a world that changes every day.

Sadly in this instance it meant that they, like everyone else at the time, overlooked the truth of the matter and casually tried to disenfranchise thousands of children of their right to a decent education.

But just remember, everything's easy when you have NPR to explain it to you slowly.
posted by rudhraigh at 6:01 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's also easy when you have people there to explain that these people aren't REALLY racist, just looking after their own interests. Which, y'know, when it comes at the expense of people of color, is racist.

And that's why desegregation is dead and we will permanently have an American apartheid- white alleged liberals are willng to give a pass to the racism of their own class when it's in their interests.
posted by happyroach at 7:22 AM on August 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


white alleged liberals are willng to give a pass to the racism of their own class when it's in their interests.

Is there any indication the people in this story think of themselves as liberals?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:01 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes there is.

Kudos for the title pull quote btw.
posted by bq at 8:27 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I went to private schools for my entire elementary and high school education. My parents were leftist radicals, they moved back into Dorchester in the late 70's, as a counter-white flight action. Until we moved out 9 years later (when I was 7), I lived in a very diverse neighborhood, had friends on the street who were white and black, did not think much of it.

I went to a private school in Brookline. If you don't know the Boston area, Brookline is one of the wealthier suburbs. The private school was overwhelmingly white. Most of my friends there were not allowed to come to my house because of the neighborhood I lived in (I did not know this at the time, found out afterwards).

I am glad I ended up at a private school because I would have ended up in a great deal of trouble (my performance was great, my behavior abysmal). However, that's not why I was at a private school. My parents were open about this later, when I asked: I would have been the sole white kid at the elementary school in Dorchester near our house. Apparently the other white kids in my neighborhood were at Catholic schools.

My parents were incredible activists. My mom was effectively under surveillance at here college because she was the only white woman with a black roommate. My dad did great legal work for a variety of causes, including the American Indian Movement and working as a defender for many poor people (his clients included prostitutes and drug users, I think he was payed through the courts, but he was not a public defender). When his clients came out of jail, they could stay at my parent's house for a bit while they got back on their feet.

Despite this, despite walking the walk as much as any white person in the 70's could, my parents still freaked out at the idea of me being the only white kid at an elementary school. I'd like to think that if it had been black kids being bused in, they would have supported it, but I think that every white person in the US after a certain age has a fear of minorities (I know I have some built in biases that I do my best to fight, but that is no excuse for their existence). The question of "if they are in the majority, will they do to us what we did to them?" haunts the back of the mind.

So I'm not surprised to see good "liberal" parents saying racist shit (I'm at work, could only read the articles, not listen to the story). The only way this gets fixed is a.) people see that it works and does not hurt the schools (which it did and which they saw, but) b.) racist fuckwits don't get elected to office and then stop the successful programs.

I suppose another way to do it would be to make each metropolitan area (city and all surrounding suburbs) a single school district, with kids able to go to any school within an hour of their home.
posted by Hactar at 8:42 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


The experience of the children switching school districts then being forced back to the original district with the name change was infuriating. The school meeting was predictably horrible.

I’m living a similar experience. My children attend a local public school that has a very good reputation. A few years ago, before my children were in school, boundaries for local schools were being shifted because of population changes. “Our” school was slotted to receive students from a nearby social housing development. There was a similar outcry at a parents’ meeting, and in the end those students were sent to a neighboring school. The government ranks public schools in this province from least to most disadvantaged, 1 being least disadvantaged, 10 being most disadvantaged. To get the calculation they look at census data including family revenue, mother’s level of education, and employment rates. They allocate extra resources to the most disadvantaged schools. Our local school is a 3, whereas the school the other children were sent to instead was a 7.

In Quebec private schools are very popular. Large government subsidies mean that parents often end up shouldering only about 30% of the actual cost of private school. Consequently, where I live, in Montreal, about 30% of high school students go to private school. Another option for students with excellent grades is to attend one of the very competitive schools with international programs. These schools are generally public and have merit-based entry. Once the high achieving students go to international schools and any remaining middle class and upper middle class kids and any other children whose (often immigrant) parents can scrape together $4000/year for tuition have been sent off to private schools, the rest go to the local public high schools. The result is predictable. In our neighborhood the local public high school has a terrible reputation. It is a 9 on the scale of 1-10. The local international high school and the local private school are in the top 10 for the province. Middle class, white, politically liberal me knows that I should send my kids to the local public high school. But I also have one child with very specific needs that will not be met at the public school. The faculty and staff are too overworked, cuts in education funding are constant, everyone is stretched thin and there are a lot of kids who need more intervention than my kid. At best my child will likely be mostly ignored. The dropout rate for male students in French school in Quebec is about 50%. I don’t want my son to be one of them.

Had I been at our parent meeting I think I would have pushed for the kids living in social housing to join my children at our excellent school. At the same time though I’m saving as much money as possible so that if my kids don’t get into the international school I can send them to private school and keep them out of the local public high school. Did I mention that the local public high school has a much higher percentage of Black kids than the local private or international school? It does. Much. I’m one of the many white parents effectively segregating our school system. I’m the bad guy in this story.
posted by Cuke at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm in the middle of the episode. Started listening to it last night, lay in bed shaking with anger, turned it off because I was getting too worked up to sleep.

I was a bused kid. The way our school cluster was set up, the inner-city kids were bused to the suburbs for elementary school and junior high and the suburban kids were bussed into the city for middle school. When the middle school added a Paideia magnet program and expanded to seventh and eighth grades, my parents elected to keep me there rather than have me go to my zoned junior high school. So I was part of the first graduating eighth-grade class at the school, and one of six white kids in our class of twenty-four.

I hated the long bus ride, which had more to do with my tendency toward anxiety than anything else, but other than that the experience was a good one, and absolutely foundational to who I am today. It would have been easy for me to grow up to be one of those parents at that school board meeting. I know this because despite four years in a majority-African American school and another four years in a high school that was majority white but still decently diverse—and coming out of all that as a well-intentioned, see-no-color liberal Christian—my own life has been resegregated. I went to a heavily white college, work for a heavily white company, live in a majority-white suburb. I have no close friends of other races or ethnicities. It's an embarrassment, and it's been on my heart to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. So I feel like it's critical to put people in diverse settings when they're young and have no choice in the matter, because they won't seek it out for themselves.

In college, when the local school distract was redrawing its clusters, I wrote a paper arguing that the school board's proposed changes would ultimately resegregate the various clusters. I was a twenty-year-old English major, with no other experience other than personal interest—if I could see it, why couldn't the experts? Years later, I read Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation and shook my head. How could people still not see, and if they did see, why didn't they act?

And yet.

I have a one-year-old, and I'm totally in knots over what to do about her education. I always thought we'd choose public or public magnet schools for her, but the requirements for testing, the decimation of recess and the arts, the general inability of teachers to teach effectively because of being hamstrung by regulations that change every five minutes—that's not what I want for her or for any kid. So—in the vein of wanting to walk the walk—how do I balance what's best for my daughter with the knowledge that pulling her out of public schools is exacerbating resegregation?

This whole summer has been an awakening of sorts for me. I've spent a lot of time reading and listening to people's stories and soul-searching about how to exercise my privilege for good. I want to be a good ally. I want people to call me out when I screw up so I can learn from my mistakes. But I'm kind of scared that, when push comes to shove, I'll be no better than those parents at that meeting—I'll look out for my kid and turn a blind eye to the consequences.
posted by timestep at 10:34 AM on August 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


re: "zip code is the anchor that traps you" (19:55)

"Amendment 66 is predicated on the belief that a child's zip code shouldn't determine the quality of his or her education."
posted by kliuless at 12:48 PM on August 5, 2015


I wanted to see a higher resolution image of "The Problem We All Live With" and when I googled it I found out it was displayed at the white house for a while 4 years ago.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2015


I think it's important to note in discussions of race in America that minority has a very specific legal and sociological meaning, apart from anything to do with math or numbers.

From racism.org

And from wikipedia.

My point is that being "under represented" within a school is not enough to make a student a member of a minority.

I say this because it is really easy to think "I understand what it's like to be a minority, I was/am treated poorly in school because I was/am white."

I can't speak to the experience of people of color, but please understand, your whiteness (and my whiteness) allows you to have more options when you leave that school. Even if you graduated in the bottom of your class and went on to get a felony conviction, you as a white person would have a (statistically) easier time finding gainful employment than a person of color who excelled in school and was never arrested. Your whiteness practically guarantees that if you make "stupid, childish" decisions in high school, you will not be killed by the police for them. Your whiteness means that if you disrupt a classroom, you are less likely to be suspended or arrested for it.

Education helps to combat these issues in a number of ways. But even if it didn't, improving the education experience of children of color is a human rights issue. Notice that I did not say "improving the education experience of all children."
posted by bilabial at 2:08 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


There was an answer on Ask a while back that cited a study that seems to complicate the peer effect issues:
Considering the more nuanced results of the nonlinear models, the policy recommendations are not clear cut. For example, while low-ability students appear to benefit significantly from having top-quality peers, those peers will experience reductions in achievement gains from mixing with students of very low ability, reductions that may fully offset the weaker students’ gains.
I don't think this is a defense of resegregation or the parents in this story. But it does help us understand the impulse: the study suggests that in aggregate, gains and losses are about even. Low-ability students make gains, and high ability students lose about the same amount.

Of course race doesn't fully correlate with ability, it's just that tested ability tends to correlate with income, parents education and involvement, and factors like incarceration that disproportionately hurt Black children. Another study of peer effects that isolated race found that the benefits of integration for black students had only very small peer costs on white students. But because the results are nonlinear, it starts to give us a good idea of what sort of demographics are optimal, and that too is odd and I don't know quite how to feel about it: it looks like it's always unfair to have classrooms that are more than 33% Black, and that Hispanic students will do better if they are in the super-majority. And ideal classroom would then be 70/30 Black/White or Hispanic/White, or 100% Hispanic.

Should we let these kinds of statistics guide us? I've never felt particularly comfortable with the way that these studies are written, since they say things like "A 10% increase in Black students will hurt each Black student about X amount in reading and math." Segregation was and is a massive injustice perpetrated by white people so I'm not really comfortable with this "Black people are bad for each other" motif; it stinks of other rhetoric like "black-on-black violence."

And I also wonder: are peer effects and potential costs to white students totally irrelevant? At the political level they ought to be, but for individual parents I think it's hard to hear that your child's school is costing her potential learning. I'd argue that the harms to white students are small enough to be ignored, but they're still significant and negative... and what if they weren't so small? New evidence is always coming in, and it could be that we'll have to revise these claims, or that I'm improperly giving more weight to the second, low effect study, than to the first, high effect study.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:08 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was bussed in this school district for a time, but only found out about what I think can only rightfully be called an assassination in the last few years:
http://murderpedia.org/male.L/l/long-neal-bradley.htm

they don't sugar coat the racism in this short description, but I think it shameful to label him a "serial killer" given the usual use of that term for someone whose motivations are much more obscure, uncommon, and apolitical.

posted by one weird trick at 5:45 PM on August 5, 2015


And I also wonder: are peer effects and potential costs to white students totally irrelevant? At the political level they ought to be, but for individual parents I think it's hard to hear that your child's school is costing her potential learning. I'd argue that the harms to white students are small enough to be ignored, but they're still significant and negative... and what if they weren't so small? New evidence is always coming in, and it could be that we'll have to revise these claims, or that I'm improperly giving more weight to the second, low effect study, than to the first, high effect study.

Exactly. In some abstract sense, most individual parents want things to be fair and the world to be just.

But when the rubber meets the road - and within the unequal system that we have now - no parent wants to hear that his kid is going to have dilution of resources and learning opportunities because the low-income district down the road blew up and sent a thousand kids his way.

This is especially true when those parents have made significant efforts and sacrifices to purchase a house in a district with top public schools. And this kind of tension is going to exist as long as primary and secondary government schools are funded out of property taxes at the local level.

A big challenge is that a lot of this stuff is locked-in and intimately connected to community, neighborhood, and property ownership. These things don't change overnight, and are resistant to government intervention.
posted by theorique at 9:27 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just getting around to listening to this now, and I have to say that while it is totally horrifying and depressing, the word choices used by the white people in the County to defend their racist bullshit are not unfamiliar to me. I live (for 3 more days, but still) in one of the most if not the most integrated neighborhood in St. Louis city proper -- of which there are very few -- and the neighborhood facebook page is full of CONSTANT micro fights over the neighborhood, crime, gentrification, "those people," etc. Greg tweeted about one of the more egregious posts recently, in which a neighborhood woman was afraid 7-10 year old black boys asking if she wanted her lawn mowed were casing her house, and then proceeded to call 911 on them. And at neighborhood association meetings, folks are encouraged to participate in a "community" program whose sole purpose is to draft and deliver statements at juvenile proceedings, in hopes of securing harsher sentences for the children and teens arrested for petty crimes in the neighborhood. It is completely disgusting, and often very obvious and unabashed.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:53 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


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