This week’s reading involved a LOT of information regarding race and the Brown vs. Board of Education dispute from a few different sources. I wish I had the time to go through every point in each source, but unfortunately I don’t, so I’m going to focus on a few points that had strong connections to other articles that we’ve read in class.
While reading through the website on the history of the Brown vs. Board of Education, not only did I learn much more detail about the court case than I had learned before, but I also found many places where themes from other authors came into play. Obviously, the case revolves around race and society, so I found many connections to articles that focused on problems dealing with race in society, but I connected it mostly to Peggy McIntosh’s piece on White Privilege. A sentence that stuck out to me on the website in the section about educated students was “Segregated education was designed to confine these children to a subservient role in society and second-class citizenship.”When I read this, it shaped the way that I began thinking about the rest of the case: whether white Americans realize it or not, the main reason that they oppose integration in schools is because of their dominance in society: white privilege. Including African American children into the all-white schools would mean that they would have a chance at surpassing whites in supremacy, so they opposed it in order to keep black Americans in a second-class status in society. This reminded me of a quote that I mentioned in a previous post from McIntosh: “Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.” Throughout the Brown vs. Board of Education case, whites constantly deny that this dominance exists by stating that the schools, while separate, are still equal and provide equal opportunity. This statement is 100% false, yet they still continued to use it to support their argument and their white privilege.
The video interviews with Tim Wise also made me think about other articles that we’ve read in class, particularly Allan Johnson’s “Privilege, Power, and Difference” as well as McIntosh on white privilege. When Wise talks about Obama’s presidency and racism, he brings up many issues that these two authors discuss in their articles. Something that stood out to me was the concept of “Racism 2.0” as Wise describes it: the idea of “enlightened exceptionalism,” or that President Obama, even though he is a person of color, he transcends the racial stereotype because he is an outstanding individual. Our society has a very strong double standard for people of color. As Wise states, ““I don’t think we want to have a society where in order to be a successful person of color, you have to bring it the way Obama brings it, ‘cause we all know that there’s never been an acceptable limiting archetype for acceptable whiteness.” Basically, if you are not white, you must be absolutely exceptional in order to be considered successful, while whites are allowed room for mediocrity.
This discussion reminded me of Allan Johnson, specifically his list of white privilege versus the challenges that people of color deal with: in particular, “It is easier for a ‘good, but not great’ white player [athlete] to make a professional team than it is for a similar black; “whites are more likely than comparable blacks to…be given poor information or the runaround during the application process”; and “whites can succeed without other people’s being surprised.” This is similar to what Wise talks about when he says that Obama and other successful black Americans are only those who rise above the standard of excellence for whites and then some. This comes into play in the issue of integrating schools, because whites tend to see African Americans as less intelligent or less skilled unless they can prove themselves as outstanding. Since they are seen this way, whites argued in the Brown vs. Board of Education case that black students could not compete with white students; therefore, integrating schools would make it unfair to them.
Lastly, the article on segregation by Bob Herbert discusses the problems in education that stem from schools with high poverty rates. Since most of these schools are the majority black and Hispanic students, they are still considered to be segregated. He argues that students perform much better when moved to affluent schools with middle and upper-class peers. He also says that “The election of Barack Obama has not made true integration any more palatable to millions of Americans.” While Herbert doesn’t mention it directly, this concept made me wonder about Lisa Delpit’s idea of the culture of power in a classroom. The Brown vs. Board of Education website mentions that the schools for black children upheld the cultural values of African Americans. So, if black children go to school in an environment where that culture is valued and dominant, shouldn’t it help the education of those children? The same question popped into my mind here. I’m wondering how this culture influences these schools. But even so, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t integrate our schools – all children deserve an equal education.Pictures: