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Clarence Thomas’s Radical Vision of Race | The New Yorker
"In making sincerity the litmus test of American racism, Thomas took a strand of the black nationalism that influenced his early development and wove it into an entire philosophy of race. In the nineteen-twenties, at an especially acute moment of racist reaction in the United States, Marcus Garvey also found comfort in the promise of candor. “They are better friends to my race for telling us what they are, and what they mean, than all the hypocrites put together,” Garvey said, of the Ku Klux Klan. “I like honesty and fair play.”

For Thomas, dishonesty was not only about race; it was also about class. However well intentioned white liberals were about remedying racial inequality, their élitism was steadfast. At Yale, some of Thomas’s classmates would query the absence of class rankings and grades. “You do not separate cream from cream,” a professor responded. “It is your fate as a Yale Law School student to become one of the leaders in the legal profession. It will happen, not because of you personally, but because you are here. That is what happens to Yale Law School students.” But Yale’s black students were separated from the cream; indeed, the absence of rankings was used to effect that separation. As he approached graduation, Thomas tried to secure a position at an élite law firm in Atlanta, which had no black associates. One of the marks against him was that he had no grades. Even if he came from Yale, how could his prospective employers know how good he was?

Thomas came to believe that, for the white liberal, offering help to black people was a way to express the combined privileges of race and class. This is a running theme of Wright’s “Native Son,” in which Bigger Thomas, a poor black man from the slums of Chicago, is given an opportunity to rise when a wealthy white family hires him as a chauffeur. The idea that black people can advance only with the help of whites is anathema to Clarence Thomas, who has identified with Wright’s protagonist throughout his life. For him, white benevolence denies black people the pride of achievement. By contrast, if one is black and overcomes the barriers of Jim Crow, one can be assured that the accomplishment is real. Thomas often invokes the example of his grandparents, who, despite segregation, managed to acquire property and support their family. Though they “had to work twice as hard to get half as far,” they knew, however far they got, that the distance was theirs. When black people succeed in the shadow of white benefactors, that certainty is lost.

This is the loss that Thomas has suffered since his youth: not of the color line but of its clarity. It’s a loss that he associates with liberalism, the North, and, above all, integration. “I never worshiped at the altar” of integration, he declared, five years after joining the Court. As he told Juan Williams, who wrote a profile of Thomas in The Atlantic, “The whole push to assimilate simply does not make sense to me.” It is a loss that Thomas has set out—from his early years as a young black nationalist on the left to his tenure as a conservative on the Court—to reverse.

Thomas’s rightward drift, which began in the seventies, was inflected by the very ethos that once put him on the left: namely, disaffection with black liberalism and the mainstream civil-rights movement. In his memoir, Thomas notes that part of the appeal of black nationalism was tied to his sense, in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, that “no one was going to take care of me or any other black person in America.” Eventually, this notion extended to the left. “I marched. I protested. I asked the government to help black people,” Thomas told the Washington Post, in 1980. “I did all those things. But it hasn’t worked.” The whole repertoire of black politics—from mainstream activism to Black Power radicalism and beyond—now seemed pointless. By the eighties, Thomas, a member of the Reagan Administration, believed that state action could do nothing for African-Americans. Problems of racial inequality “cannot be solved by the law—even civil-rights laws,” he told an audience at Clark College, a historically black school in Atlanta, in the nineteen-eighties.

And yet it was on the bench that Thomas began to pursue his own particular vision of racial justice. In his first decade on the Court, Thomas often met with high-achieving black students from Washington’s poorer neighborhoods. One meeting—with a high-school student named Cedric Jennings—was immortalized in a 1998 Esquire piece. After several hours of warm conversation, Thomas asked Jennings what his plans were for college. “I’m off to Brown,” Jennings replied. Thomas frowned. Finally, he said, “Well, that’s fine, but I’m not sure I would have selected an Ivy League school. You’re going to be up there with lots of very smart white kids, and if you’re not sure about who you are, you could get eaten alive. . . . It can happen at any of the good colleges where a young black man who hasn’t spent much time with whites suddenly finds himself among almost all whites.”

This concern runs throughout Thomas’s jurisprudence. “Some people think that the solution to all the problems of black people is integration,” he said, in 1997. By his own admission, he is not one of them. In a lengthy 1982 research article (published with an acknowledgment to “the invaluable assistance of Anita F. Hill”), Thomas notes pointedly that “it must be decided . . . whether integration per se should be a primary goal.” At Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the Republican senator Arlen Specter pressed him on that claim, asking, “If you end segregation, doesn’t it necessarily mean that you are requiring school integration?”

At the time, Thomas dodged the question, but he has since given his answer on the Court. In the 1995 case Missouri v. Jenkins, the Court’s conservative majority held that federal courts could not force Missouri to adopt policies designed to entice suburban white students to predominantly black urban schools. Thomas joined the majority. In the Court’s private deliberations about the case, he argued, in the paraphrase of a profile of Thomas in The New Yorker, “I am the only one at this table who attended a segregated school. And the problem with segregation was not that we didn’t have white people in our class. The problem was that we didn’t have equal facilities. We didn’t have heating, we didn’t have books, and we had rickety chairs. . . . All my classmates and I wanted was the choice to attend a mostly black or a mostly white school, and to have the same resources in whatever school we chose.”

This private sentiment made its way into Thomas’s public statement about the case. His concurrence in Missouri v. Jenkins was “the only opinion,” legal scholar Mark Graber argues, “that questioned whether desegregation was a constitutional value.” If anything, Thomas believes that the state should—where it can, within the law—support the separation of the races. Looking back on his education, in an all-black environment, Thomas has admitted to wanting to “turn back the clock” to a time “when we had our own schools.” Much of his jurisprudence is devoted to undoing the “grand experiment” of which he believes himself to be a victim. As he made clear in 1986, “I have been the guinea pig for many social experiments on social minorities. To all who would continue these experiments, I say please ‘no more.’ ”

Perhaps the most insidious of those experiments, for Thomas, is affirmative action, which he has long opposed. His critics call him a hypocrite. “He had all the advantages of affirmative action and went against it,” Rosa Parks said of Thomas, in 1996. His defenders believe that Thomas is advancing a common conservative line—that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism, which imposes illegitimate burdens on whites. In fact, Thomas’s arguments are considerably more unorthodox than that. According to Thomas, affirmative action is the most recent attempt by white people to brand and belittle black people as inferior. Affirmative action does not formally mirror the tools of white supremacy; for Thomas, it is the literal continuation of white supremacy.

His argument is rooted in two beliefs, each informed by his time spent on the left. The first is that affirmative action reinforces the stigma that shadows African-Americans. Among many whites, blackness signals a deficit of intellect, talent, and skill. Even Supreme Court Justices, Thomas wrote in one opinion, “assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.” When the state and social institutions identify African-Americans as beings in need of help, they reinforce that stigma. It doesn’t matter if some African-Americans succeed without affirmative action. In the same way that enslavement marked all black people, free or slave, as inferior, affirmative action—here Thomas borrows directly from the language of Plessy v. Ferguson—stamps all African-Americans with “a badge of inferiority.”

The second way affirmative action continues white supremacy is by elevating whites to the status of benefactors, doling out scarce privileges to those black people they deem worthy. The most remarkable element of Thomas’s affirmative-action jurisprudence, and what makes it unlike that of any other Justice on the Supreme Court, is how much attention he devotes to whites, not as victims but as perpetrators, the lead actors in a racial drama of their own imagination. Put simply, Thomas believes that affirmative action is a white program for white people.

We see this argument in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 affirmative-action case concerning the University of Michigan Law School. In the early nineteen-nineties, the school adopted an affirmative-action policy in order to create a more diverse student body. … [more]
clarencethomas  affirmitiveaction  elitism  admissions  colleges  universities  politics  polarization  law  conservativism  blacknationalism  race  racism  segregation  integration  inequality  prejudice  discrimination  rankings  grades  grading  richardwright  whitesaviorism  assimilation  supremecourt  liberalism  civilrights  coreyrobin  blakpanthers  blackpantherparty  meritocracy  hbus  solidarity  self-help  angeladavis  kathleencleaver  erickahuggins  bobbyseale  us  policy  activism  radicalism  cedricjennings  schools  busing  charleshamilton  blackpower  stokelycarmichael 
26 days ago by robertogreco
Jonathan Kozol: Joe Biden Didn’t Just Praise Segregationists. He Also Spent Years Fighting Busing | Democracy Now!
[See also:

"Part 2: Jonathan Kozol on “When Joe Biden Collaborated with Segregationists”"
https://www.democracynow.org/2019/6/26/jonathan_kozol_on_when_joe_biden

and

"When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists: The candidate’s years as an anti-busing crusader cannot be forgotten—or readily forgiven."
https://www.thenation.com/article/joe-biden-education-busing-opposition/

"Unlike Bernie Sanders, who recently proposed a Thurgood Marshall Plan for public education that calls for a renewal and expansion of desegregation plans by means of transportation, Biden still believes his original position was correct and, according to one of his aides, Bill Russo, sees no reason to revise it. No matter how he tries to blur the edges of his past or present beliefs, no matter how he waffles in his language in order to present himself as some kind of born-again progressive, Biden has not shown that he can be trusted to confront our nation’s racist past and one of its most urgent present needs.

As the mainstream media repeatedly reminds us, Biden is a likable man in many ways. Even his critics often speak about his graciousness. But his likability will not help Julia Walker’s grandkids and her great-grandchildren and the children of her neighbors go to schools where they can get an equal shot at a first-rate education and where their young white classmates have a chance to get to know and value them and learn from them, as children do in ordinary ways when we take away the structures that divide them."]
jonathankozol  2019  joebiden  racism  race  elections  2020  education  schools  schooling  busing  segregation  integration  fannielouhamer  thrurgoodmarshall  juneteenth  corybooker  desegregation  amygoodman  newyork  california  illinois  delaware  maryland 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The Problem We All Live With | This American Life
"Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation. Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district that, not long ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program. First of a two-part series.

Ira speaks with New York Times Magazine Reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones about her years reporting on education and the various kinds of school reforms administrators have tried to close the achievement gap that never seem to work. Nikole says there's one reform that people have pretty much given up on, despite a lot of evidence that it works – school integration. (11 minutes)

ACT ONE: The Problem We All Live With PART ONE.

Nikole Hannah-Jones reports on a school district that accidentally stumbled on an integration program in recent years. It's the Normandy School District in Normandy, Missouri. Normandy is on the border of Ferguson, Missouri, and the district includes the high school that Michael Brown attended. (30 minutes)

ACT TWO: The Problem We All Live With PART TWO.

Nikole Hannah-Jones' story on the Normandy school district from the first part of the show continues. (14 minutes) Nikole also wrote about Normandy for ProPublica. [https://www.propublica.org/article/ferguson-school-segregation ] And Elisa Crouch's article in St Louis Dispatch that documented the day in the life of one Normandy senior is here. [http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/a-senior-year-mostly-lost-for-a-normandy-honor-student/article_ce759a06-a979-53b6-99bd-c87a430dc339.html ]

Nikole Hannah-Jones
SONG:
"IS IT BECAUSE I'M BLACK", SYL JOHNSON

Norman Rockwell's painting "The Problem We All Live With" depicting Ruby Bridges – the first black child to attend an all white elementary school in the South. Image from the website of the Norman Rockwell Museum."

[Part 2: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/563/the-problem-we-all-live-with-part-two
"Last week we looked at a school district integrating by accident. This week: a city going all out to integrate its schools. Plus, a girl who comes up with her own one-woman integration plan.

Chana Joffe-Walt talks to Kiana, who went to a school that was overwhelmingly black and Latino, but when some white students showed up one day on an exchange program, she went up to them eagerly. And since then, has embarked on a one-woman school integration program. Among other things, she wanted to see “white wasted.” (9 minutes)

ACT ONE

My Secret Public Plan.

Chana Joffe-Walt reports on the Hartford, CT school system, which actively seeks to integrate. The results have been impressive. It used to be that 11% of Hartford students were in integrated schools. Now it’s nearly half. But the trick to the whole thing is: convince white families it’s in their self- interest to go to integrated schools. This requires the kind of marketing skills and savvy we’re more used to seeing at Apple and Pepsi than we are at a public school district. (38 minutes)

ACT TWO

What’s It All About, Arne?

Reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has investigated integration in schools for years, joins Chana Joffe-Walt to interview the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. The Obama Administration says it’s in favor of integrating the schools, but doesn’t seem to do so much to promote it. They seemed to have the perfect opportunity, integration advocates say, with their Race to the Top program. But even then they didn’t act. Nikole and Chana ask: what’s the deal? (8 minutes)"]
thisamericanlife  education  segregation  desegregation  2015  policy  race  nikolehannah-jones  elisacrouch  whiteflight  resegregation  history  chanajoffe-walt  arneduncan  rttt  learning  schools  us  busing  missouri  racism 
august 2015 by robertogreco
CURMUDGUCATION: Can We Rebuild Social Capital?
"Can We Rebuild Social Capital?
I often disagree with his answers, but Mike Petrilli frequently asks excellent questions.

In the recent National Review, Petrilli is spinning off Robert Putnam's latest book about America's children and discussing the idea of social capital. The problem is simple, and clear:"the fundamental reality of life for many children growing up in poverty in America today is the extremely low level of 'social capital' of their families, communities, and schools."

The problem with any deliberate attempt to build social capital, as Petrilli correctly notes, is that nobody has any idea how to do it. Petrilli accuses Putnam of suggesting that we throw money at the problem. Well, I haven't read the book yet (it's on the summer reading list), so I can't judge whether Petrilli's summation is correct or not.

But Petrilli himself offers three strategies for addressing the issue. And as is often the case, while he raises some interesting and worthwhile questions, his line of inquiry is derailed by his mission of selling charters and choice.
1. Invite poor children into schools with social capital to spare.

No, I don't think so. Social capital is about feeling supported, connected, and at home in your own community. You cannot feel at home in your own community by going to somebody else's community.

Schools contribute to social capital by belonging to the community, by being an outgrowth of the community which has significant role in running those schools. Inviting students into schools that are not in their community, that do not belong to those students and their families-- I don't think that gets you anything. Social capital finds expression in schools through things like evening gatherings at the school by people from the community. It depends on students and families who are tied through many, many links-- neighbors, families, friends. It depends on things as simple as a student who helps another student on homework by just stopping over at the house for a few minutes. These are things that don't happen when the students attend the same school, but live a huge distance apart.

Making a new student from another community a co-owner in a school is extraordinarily different. But anything less leaves the new student as simply a guest, and guests don't get to use the social capital of a community.

2. Build on the social capital that does exist in poor communities.

The basic idea here is solid. Putrnam's grim picture aside, poor communities still have institutions and groups that provide social capital, connectedness, support. I agree with Petrilli here, at least for about one paragraph. Then a promising idea veers off into shilling for charters and choice.

Education reformers should look for ways to nurture existing social capital and help it grow. Community-based charter schools are one way; so (again) is private-school choice.

Churches, service organizations (in my neck of the woods, think volunteer fire departments), and social groups (think Elks) are all community-based groups that add to social capital. Unfortunately, as Putnam noted in Bowling Alone, those sorts of groups are all in trouble.

One of the fundamental problems of social capital and these groups is a steady dispersing of the people in the community. People spend too much time spreading out to come together. Spreading them out more, so that their children are all in different schools and no longer know each other-- I don't see how that helps. Social capital is about connection.

3. Build social capital by creating new schools.

Exactly where does a high-poverty community come up with the money to build a new school? The answer, he acknowledges, is for charter operators to come in from outside and create a new school from scratch. He also acknowledges that it's an "open question" whether such schools create any new social capital.

I would also ask if it's really more inexpensive and efficient to spend the resources needed to start a new school from scratch than it is to invest those resources in the school that already exists. Particularly since with few exceptions, that new school is created to accommodate only some of the students in the community. If the community ends up financing two separate but unequal schools, that's not a financial improvement, and it is not creating social capital.

Do we actually care?

In the midst of these three points, Petrilli posits that growing social capital and growing academic achievement (aka test scores) are two different goals that are not always compatible, and we should not sacrifice test scores on the altar of social capital.

On this point I think Petrilli is dead wrong. There is not a lick of evidence that high test scores are connected to later success in life. On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence that social capital does, in fact, have a bearing on later success in life. High test scores are not a useful measure of anything, and they are not a worthwhile goal for schools or communities.

Petrilli's is doubtful that lefty solutions that involve trying to fix poverty by giving poor people money are likely to help, and that many social services simply deliver some basic services without building social capital, and in this, I think he might have a point.

And it occurs to me, reading Petrilli's piece, that I live in a place that actually has a good history of social capital, both in the building and the losing. I'm going to be posting about that in the days ahead because I think social capital conversation is one worth having, and definitely one worth having as more than a way to spin charters and choice. Sorry to leave you with a "to be continued..." but school is ending and I've got time on my hands."
socialcapital  mikepetrilli  petergreene  community  communities  busing  education  schools  testscores  testing  poverty  cityheights  libraries  reccenters  connectedness  support  edreform  reform  robertputnam  society  funding  neighborhoods  guests  connection  academics  inequality  charterschools 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Segregation Nation
"Omaha’s radical experiment in school integration could serve as a national model—though local resistance indicates it might be a tough sell."

"Omaha’s project is our country’s most radical experiment in socioeconomic integration. (Since a 2007 Supreme Court decision, Seattle v. the People United, limited race-based approaches to school integration, virtually all efforts have been based on income.) To be sure, as a model it is not without its problems: Bitter conflict plagued the process of creating the Learning Community, and it is also unclear how other cities might follow Omaha’s lead, since the city’s approach to school reform grew out of unusual local law. Still, because Omaha’s socioeconomic mix matches that of the country overall, because the area is small enough to make interdistrict transportation possible, and because of its sheer ambition, this Central Plains city is a perfect place to show the rest of the nation how school integration could work."
publicschools  schools  policy  integration  segregation  politics  education  omaha  nebraska  busing  choice  schooldistricts  poverty 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Kids Make the Next Move, and the Next, and the Next - voiceofsandiego.org: Schooled: The Education Blog
"Educators often bemoan the revolving door of teachers in and out of disadvantaged schools. But the revolving door of kids is no less worrisome. Switching schools again and again can handicap children academically. They miss some lessons and repeat others. Kids who move more than twice are roughly half as likely to do well on a national reading test than those who haven't moved at all, according to one study.

Their classmates suffer from the churn too, as teachers try to juggle new kids with old ones. "You're always reteaching," said Becky Benitez, a teacher who has spent a dozen years at Marshall. That goes for everything from rounding decimals to how to line up for lunch. Any day can be the first day of school."
emilyalpert  schools  sandiego  continuity  education  learning  cityheights  marshallelementary  busing  2011  stacimonreal  moving 
april 2011 by robertogreco
"To Fight the Good Fight"
"It is unclear whether or not, as some PFT officials believed, Pasadena was a test case for the right-wing nationally to see if the anti- busing slogan could be used to succeed in getting local school districts to abandon federal programs and return to traditional education, weed out educators that did not support the right wing, and purge the curriculum of "unacceptable" materials. However, the actions of the board and the progressives' reactions provide strong evidence that the motives of the fundamentalists were much broader than a purely racist agenda. The evidence reviewed proves that the board dominated by Myers, Vetterli, and Newton during the mid-1970s had paranoid and extremist right-wing ideological beliefs and that they tried to mold these beliefs into school district policy through their philosophy of fundamental education. "
pasadena  politics  history  busing  schools  publicschools  education  desegregation  1970  government 
july 2009 by robertogreco
YouTube - Early Controversy Over Busing in Southern California
"This news clip from 1970 focuses on the start of desegregation-via-busing in the Pasadena school district and the signing of an anti-busing bill by California Gov. Ronald Reagan. A much larger controversy later surrounded busing in the Los Angeles Unified School District, since that district covered many more students. Busing in L.A. and elsewhere in California was largely halted by litigation and the passage of a ballot initiative in the early 1980s."
pasadena  busing  schools  history  ronaldreagan  1970  desegregation 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Desegregation busing in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"In 1970 a federal court ordered desegregation of public schools in Pasadena. At that time, the proportion of white students in those schools reflected proportion of whites in community, 54% & 53%, respectively. After the desegregation process began, large numbers of whites in the upper & middle classes who could afford it pulled their children from the integrated public school system & placed them into private schools instead. As a result, by 2004 Pasadena became home to 63 private schools, which educated 1/3 of all school-aged children in the city & the proportion of white students in the public schools had fallen to 16%. (In the mean time, proportion of whites in community has declined somewhat as well, to 37% in 2006) The superintendent of Pasadena's public schools characterized them as being to whites "like the bogey-man," and mounted policy changes, including a curtailment of busing, & a publicity drive to induce affluent whites to put their children back into public schools."
pasadena  history  california  1970  privateschools  publicschools  busing  desegregation 
july 2009 by robertogreco

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