At the presidential debate three weeks ago, Kamala Harris challenged Joe Biden on why he opposed busing as a means to achieve school desegregation. This prompted tons of half-baked articles that failed to explain the nuance of the issue. Enter Nikole Hannah-Jones to save the day.
In this outstanding article, one of my favorites this year, Ms. Hannah-Jones unpacks how busing became coded language among white people who opposed school integration. Instead of saying they didn’t want their kids to attend school with Black children, they said they preferred “neighborhood schools,” when decades of discrimination protected separate and unequal educational opportunities for their families.
This piece is remarkable; there’s so much in it. Every sentence will inform or anger you. Toward the end, Ms. Hannah-Jones addresses her opponents, who call her a white apologist, and who argue that we can build strong schools in communities of color without the contributions of white people.
No, black kids should not have to leave their neighborhoods to attend a quality school, or sit next to white students to get a quality education. But we cannot be naïve about how this country works. In a country that does not value black children the same as white ones, black children will never get what white children get unless they sit where white children sit.
On this point, I struggle. On the one hand, I’ve worked in non-integrated schools that serve their students well. But those success stories are too few and too far between. At the systemic level, Ms. Hannah-Jones is correct. Integration works. The problem is, We, as a country, don’t have the interest or the will to do what’s right and just. (19 min)
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, with my highlights and notes. (This is totally normal, and you do this, too, right?)