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What the hell, America?

Opponents of integration — or, at least, parents whose support for integration is tempered by NIMBYism — are winning, and they’ve been winning for a very long time. The percentage of African American students attending majority white schools has been in decline since 1988, and it is now at its lowest point in almost half-a-century.

Sigh. So what went wrong? According to Ian Millhiser, part of the problem was that the courts were ambivalent about pushing integration, part of it was an inability to do anything unless black families filed public lawsuits (which the Klan took full advantage of), and part of it was politicians who learned to hide their bigotry better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this line invoked, even though it’s forty years stale:

“The encouragement of disrespect for the law through mass demonstrations, boycotts, and violation of property rights,” according to Nixon, “harms rather than helps the cause of civil rights.” Such tactics, the future president claimed “destroy the will of the people to obey” the laws civil rights activists supported.

Or how about a “I’m colourblind”/”affirmative action is racist” combo, in the key of Chief Justice John Roberts.

… to Roberts, there is no difference between Jim Crow school assignments enacted for the purpose of fostering white supremacy and the Seattle and Louisville programs, which were enacted to foster integration. “Before Brown,” Roberts wrote, “schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again—even for very different reasons.”

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” Roberts concluded his opinion, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

The article mentions one more factor in this: segregated neighborhoods. It doesn’t go into detail, but other articles fill in those blanks.

When the Kerner Commission blamed “white society” and “white institutions,” it employed euphemisms to avoid naming the culprits everyone knew at the time. It was not a vague white society that created ghettos but government—federal, state, and local—that employed explicitly racial laws, policies, and regulations to ensure that black Americans would live impoverished, and separately from whites. Baltimore’s ghetto was not created by private discrimination, income differences, personal preferences, or demographic trends, but by purposeful action of government in violation of the Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. These constitutional violations have never been remedied, and we are paying the price in the violence we saw this week.

And since children tend to go to school in the neighborhoods they grew up in, that too reinforces segregation. But because it’s all done by euphemism and indirect racism, few people notice.

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