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I Am Speechless...

I know, some of you are saying, "Oh, if only that were true, Flash", but sadly, it's just a figure of speech, prompted by this little fiasco in Nebraska.
As my eloquent compadre Kevvyd does, I often traipse through the New York Times to see if there is something interesting enough to feed a rant. Well, today I found it. I will admit (and it would no doubt be confirmed) that I am not often at a loss for words, but this story from Nebraska stopped me in my tracks - I had to read it again to make sure I was getting it, and sadly, I was.
A Bill in the Nebraska State Senate was passed into law. A law that provides for the segregation of school districts in Omaha according to race - White, Black and Hispanic. Thirty of the votes in favour were from conservative rich white guys - no surprise there. The big surprise comes from the state senator who sponsored the bill - the only Black state senator in Nebraska.
The senator claims that this will allow Black children to attend schools under their control, presumably allowing the district more autonomy, and the children a better, more afrocentric education. I'm not qualified to judge certain aspects of this, not being an economist or a teacher myself (yet), but even the most short-sighted individual could see that placing everyone of the same race in the same system would certainly make it easier to give that system just slightly less than the others in funding, with an explanation that would no doubt be accepted and promoted by the aforementioned rich white chaps.

What I can comment on is this: school serves other purposes than the ones explicitly spelled out. Children are supposed to obtain the intellectual and behavioral basis for good citizenship which, depending on how you define it, is a good or a bad thing.
More importantly, schools are a place where children socialize with others different from themselves, gain knowledge of others and how to interact effectively, and respectfully, with children who may have a variety of ethnic or religious backgrounds. The more you learn from real individuals you interact with, the less likely you are to believe or perpetuate stereotypes of other races and cultures.
Unfamiliarity, as we have seen, breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred. It is easy to fall back into the 'us-vs.-them' mentality when you've never met one of 'them', shared class time, played with 'them' at recess, eaten with 'them' at lunch.
This is a step backward for education and civil rights, and a step forward for those who want to polarize our societies, to make the authority figures seem more authoritative, to ultimately justify a process of separation 'for our own good', and to justify violence to back it up.
And all because this unfortunate political pawn, who will be put back into 'his place' by those who supported him in this vote the very moment he no longer does what they want, was taunted at school so many years ago.
I hope he's proud of himself, and I hope he'll be happy in the delusion that he's helping anything. Because he may be the only happy African American in Nebraska before long.

This is pretty amazing, and fortunately will likely be thrown out when the inevitable constitutional challenge hits it.

However, I read as resulting from a poor/rich division reinforced by colour as much as a racial one. What strikes me is that perhaps integration of the races in the US hasn't really worked out like everyone hoped it would - at least not yet. In the US, and here in Nova Scotia for that matter, there is a poor-rich divide that I think is more important than colour. The fact that minority populations dominate the poor half of this economic picture serves to reinforce the racial differences and attitudes; and leads to short-sighted measures like this one.

Looking at this issue specifically, the poor minorities live in the city and the rich, largely white population in the suburbs - and the fight splits exactly down those lines. Except for the overtly racial statements made by Ernie Chambers, this could also be as easily read as a class or economic issue (for they are essentialy the same) as a racial one.

Visible minorities are now starting to make their way to the top in many fields in the US - take Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice as examples. This was only made possible by desegregation and rulings like Brown v. Board of Education. This is an indication that true desegregation is possible, but not that it is working yet. The exceptional African American can rise to the top - but the society is only truly desegregated when those in each group have an equal chance.

You can't tell me that a poor kid of any colour has the same chance of "making it" as a rich one, because that's just bollocks.

But what do you do about this issue, specifically? I think that if there is a need to make schools or school boards more efficient and the need is felt to do it by redistricting, by all means do so without any consideration of colour. No matter what Ernie Chambers says about "representative schools", they must be representative of the community - not of the individuals in the school.

As you say, Flash - you learn a hell of a lot more in school than reading and writing. If you segregate the schools, you teach segregation. And if you teach segregation you perpetuate segregation. And we get nowhere.

Christ, where to begin? This is either the worst kind of blatant,pig-ignorant, nascar lovin' racism or it's blatant, pig-ignorant, needless meddling politcal correctness run amok. I haven't decided yet and in either case this is so much that is obviously wrong with it that its implementation astounds me.

Kevvyd,
The poor/rich divide falls nearly exactly along racial lines, it is true. The population of prisons are predominantly minorities, and those few that do 'make it' are predominantly those that have had some advantages to begin with, advantages that came from the movement to create social justice, including affirmative action. Gender is another matter where injustice and inequality has often been enshrined in law, but some very brave and intelligent people in both cases have stood up and said 'enough!'.
I'm not pessimistic enough to think that all of our efforts to the positive have failed (and not saying that you are, either - I know better), I just think the attacks on that progress have become more blatant, and in this case, more outrageous. Which makes it even more important to talk about them.
That's what we as a group are all here to do, in a general sense, to point out injustice and illogic, and create a dialogue that will ultimately make people think about things like this and what they really represent: the rich and powerful getting more so at the expense of the rest of us.

Flash, I hope you didn't get the impression that I think desegregation isn't working or isn't worthwhile. I think that it's a process that will take a couple of generations to see through - attitudes about race, like many contentious issues, change with the generation, and the economics effects will take time to work themselves through, too.

I'm actually very hopeful with what I see in the US, moreso than here in Halifax, actually, where we haven't paid much attention to race at all. True our forefathers didn't actually "own" other people, but using that as "evidence" that we don't have racial problems is bogus.

Wow. I really am speechless. Wow.

I've had a bit of time to digest this and have come to the conclusion that what bothers me the most about this is that whether it comes from blatant racism or insane levels of political correctness, you just can't argue with these people.They're True Believers and aren't interested in hearing any arguement contrary to their position. The only means of fighting this sort of thinking is the use of political means to shut them out which of course they can do themselves. I can think of all kinds of apt metaphors about "ploughing the sea" and "eternal vigilance..." but at what point does this foolishness end? Allowable computer access time forces me to close off here but I want to come back to this.

Doug, I look forward to it.

Kevvyd, you know I'd never assume you thought anything remotely like that. Beneath the cynic is somebody who still has hope, or you wouldn't have started this forum in the first place.

In a way, does this sound eerily similar to "Maitre Chez Nous"? At first I was appauled, but the more I thought about it, I guess its similar to the First Nations or Quebec national sentiments.

I still find that so strange though for the States which takes assimilation as it's approach.

Pedro, you make a very good point. I suppose the difference could be that asserting cultural independence and pride for First Nations people might be seen as a reaction to the forced assimilation and outright denial of their culture in the residential schools. African Americans were to a great extent outright denied access to the benefits of white society, rather than having that society forced on them at the expense of their birthright.
But, that doesn't necessarily reconcile my point with yours - it's definitely something worth thinking about. Have I assumed or adopted a double standard? Maybe so. I'm as susceptible to biases based on my beliefs and convictions as others, so it's better if someone questions a wrongheaded assumption, no matter how well-intentioned.

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