Discussing Brown v. Board on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry


Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, segregation remains in some public schools. ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Advancement Project’s Judith Browne Dianis, Julian Vasquez Helig from the Educational Policy and Planning Program at the University of Texas, The Century Foundation’s Halley Potter and MSNBC.com’s Trymaine Lee join Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss.

The first segment of the show What’s causing racial segregation in schools? was based ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones piece on the purposeful and recent resegregation of Tuscaloosa’s schools from the view of city residents. You can read the entire ProPublica article here.

See the YouTube video below for the first segment of the show.

My comment in the first segment at about 6:15 was based on our research on triple segregation of immigrant students in Texas that we conducted last year that I discussed in the posts Expansive School Segregation in Texas: Predicts Accountability Rating and Breaking News: School Segregation Study Strikes A Nerve

The second segment on the MHP show was 60 years after Brown v. Board, inequality in America’s birthplace grows. Trymaine Lee wrote:

In the six decades since the Supreme Court found that segregated schools were unconstitutional and inherently unequal in the landmark 1954 ruling of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, classrooms in many of America’s hometowns have undoubtedly grown diverse in previously unthinkable ways. The white and colored-only signs that had been affixed above water fountains and public accommodations have long since been knocked down. Black and white professional athletes play alongside one another. And a country that had once barred African-Americans from voting elected a black man as president. But while the Supreme Court’s striking of school segregation changed the social and political dynamics of schooling America’s children, it’s arguable that 60 years later, students in public schools in all corners of the country are more segregated now than they were a generation ago – in some cases, more so than when the court decided Brown.

Click on photo below to run the video

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 3.39.25 PM My comment in the second segment of MHP referenced my interviews with students begins at 4:14. I discussed that students are well aware that the United States has purposefully structured the school system to benefit the rich while under-resourcing minority-serving schools.

The third and final segment of MHP’s Segregation Nation discussed:

Public school closings in Chicago, New Orleans and New Jersey are subjects of federal complaints filed this week that claim because African American students are disproportionately impacted, the closings violate the Civil Rights Act.

Click photo below for the video

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.47.17 AM

My comment begins at about 4:48 and focused on how what we used to call discrimination is now being framed as Civil Rights. My main point was that we used to discuss the fact that tests were racially discriminatory due to their design and purposefully sorted students into ability tracks. Decades ago, the disparate impact of high-stakes tests on minority students was even challenged in Debra P v. Turlington at the US Supreme Court. The courts told us at the time that high-stakes test would “eradicate” racism (more on this in a post later in the week). Now we talk about tests not as purposeful discrimination and sorting of students, but that the “achievement gap” is a Civil Rights issue (See the post Walking Away From High Stakes Tests, A Noble Lie). The purposeful sorting and discriminatory design has been pushed to the side by “reformers.” Vouchers of course came to prominence after Brown so that Whites in the South could with “all deliberate slowness” resist integration of schools, now we are calling vouchers Civil Rights. We know from data and the predominance of the peer reviewed research literature that charters, on average, are more segregated and perform worse than traditional public schools. In the past we would have called that discriminatory, now we call charters Civil Rights. And finally, Teach For America, which sends uncertified teachers with only five weeks of training to temporarily teach poor whites and minorities in our toughest schools… we are now calling that Civil Rights too.

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on segregation click here.

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Click here Cloaking Inequity’s posts on segregation


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  • Black farmers were loosing land at an average of 160,000 acres per year as of the 80s. More recently, Black farmers have filed individual and class lawsuits because of “naked discriminatory lending practices of the USDA” and the Sec. of Agriculture issued a formal apology.


  • The Making of Discriminatory Pedagogical Practice into a Civil Rights issue:

    Dr. Vasquez-H: An eminent scholar from your Alma Mater, Stanford University, Joyce E. King, AERA President, was a co-editor of “Teaching Diverse Populations: Formulating a knowledge base” (1994) that I think speaks to your assertion on turning discriminatory practice into reinforcing those ideas as being “Civil Rights.” These issues run deeper than testing, as I’m sure you are aware. They run into the pedagogical practice of teachers in the classroom and the pedagogical practice of school administrators translated through the kind of school environments students learn in.

    Dr. King speaks about “Cultural Deficit” “Cultural Difference” “Cultural Congruent” and “Culture Centered” ways of thinking, by teachers and the population in our society. The first, “Cultural Deficit” model is, I believe, the way Americans are being taught to think because of it is reinforced through k-12 education policy using high stakes testing. Your Blog “Cloaking Inequity” often highlights these non-congruent, but, normative beliefs through research.

    Thus, there’s a dominant White American reinforced cultural reinforced belief that people of color have “cultural deficits” that need to be corrected through education. I saw this enacted while in the National Teacher Corps (1968) for example. My “Sociology of Education” course used as its primary text books, a series actually titled: “Teaching the culturally disadvantaged” and I suspect that TFA uses the same thinking.

    Before the U.S. Department of Education came into existence in 1980, within H.E.W. there were constant intellectual battles were raging about the “meaning” of education and about pedagogical practice with respect to “essentialist” White dominated curricular materials and practices and “constructivist” approaches that allowed for other cultures to be recognized as having value.

    Once NCLB took hold of America, “drill and kill” methods of teaching became the norm. Also, high stakes testing, by cultural and economic group, the normative measure.

    I believe that the “cultural deficit” series of books highlight the “conventional wisdom” of average White Americans including, unfortunately the first Secretary of Education, Wm. Bennett, 1980 and his boss, Ronald Reagan, who is now an icon for many. Prior to 1980 the U.S. Department of (H.E.W) “Health Education and Welfare” combined anti-poverty programs in Education, Title I, for example, with “Trio” Programs, Head Start, Upward Bound, etc., with OEO programs. The previous “system” also included a lot of debate about breaking down the barriers created by the “cultural deficit” models that were dominant in American society.

    Once Wm. Bennett took over with his “cultural deficit” and “essentialist curricular” views, in my opinion, the U.S. Department of Education has been on a path toward turning hard won civil rights victories about the existential rights of persons of color who are discriminated against, into a meme of “cultural deficit” thinking. This has happened on a national scale. The “education policy” of the U.S. Dept. of Education has accomplished the use of “high stakes testing” as a measure of not only “academic competence” but, more importantly in terms of Racist ideology or “cultural competence.”

    It has been a process that has taken decades to effectively make the measurement of k-12 students “fit” the already preconceived notions of “cultural deficits” for children of color. Thus, the premise used by the 9 Justices in the Brown v. Board of Education case where the inherent feelings of inferiority because of segregation are now reinforced more than ever under the current governmental structures, coupled with pre-existing “cultural deficit” thinking- too often highlighted in the media.


  • Pingback: SCOTUS on high-stakes tests: They “eradicate” “insidious” “racism” | Cloaking Inequity

  • For the sake of clarity:

    Ironically: Many people incorrectly think the “Black Belt Region” is so named because many Black folk live in the (Civil Rights) region of Alabama with Selma and Montgomery at the center. The Black Belt Region is so named because a strip of across Alabama and Mississippi to Texas has a particular “Black Soil” that’s good for raising cotton and many other crops.

    In the 1970s the Dept. of Agriculture issued a formal apology to thousands of Black farmers forced off their lands. Ashmore (2008) wrote of a systematic effort to force blacks out of the rural South was a political effort begun in 1964. Black farmers were loosing land at an average of 160,000 acres per year as of the 80s. More recently, Black farmers have filed individual and class lawsuits because of “naked discriminatory lending practices of the USDA” and the Sec. of Agriculture issued a formal apology.

    The USDA, in the rural South has had as much to do with re-segregation in an indirect way, I think, as has the new Dept. of Education. Economic interests to “Bust Unions” in the North and now to “Bust Teacher Unions” and other industrial and farm “policies” are very much intertwined in the story of re-segregation.


    • About: Equity “Cloaked”

      Protest Song: “Carry It On” by Gil Turner, 1964.

      There’s man by my side walkin’,
      There’s a voice within me talkin’,
      There’s a word that needs a sayin’
      Carry it on, carry it on, carry it on, carry it on.

      They will tell their lyin’ stories
      Send their dogs to bite our bodies
      They will lock us into prison,
      Carry it on, carry it on, carry it on, carry it on.

      All their lies be soon forgotten
      All their dogs are gonna lie there rotten’
      All their prison walls will crumble,
      Carry it on, carry it on, carry it on, carry it on.

      If you can’t go any longer
      Take the hand held out by your brother
      Every victory gonna bring another,
      Carry it on, carry it on, carry it on, carry it on.

      Forward in: Ashmore, S. (2008) “Carry it on”


  • Dr. Vasquez-Heilig. You wrote:

    “It’s arguable that 60 years later, students in public schools in all corners of the country are more segregated now than they were a generation ago – in some cases, more so than when the court decided Brown.” Why?

    I think we need to look at this historically and beyond education to understand. The Civil Rights movement had a target, i.e., “De Jure” discrimination not just in schools but it was imbedded into the fabric of Southern life. Meanwhile, in the North, Mid-west and West, economic mechanisms kept people “in their place” and now, the New South has simply adopted the tactics used elsewhere. Government and Court efforts to defeat “De Facto” segregation never completely worked. There has been political resistance to “equal opportunity” programs since 64’ particularly where quotas and affirmative action was used. Those battles have, to some extent, defined national politics for the past 40 or 50 years.

    With respect to, the Old South v. New South, Federal programs such as the 64’ OEO programs saw extreme resistance by former segregationists immediately: See for example: Ashmore, S. (2008) “Carry it on: The war on poverty and the civil rights movement in Alabama, 1964-1972.” In her book, you will see that in the region where Voting Rights were won, the “Black Belt Region of Alabama” even the entire economic base of the region, cotton, was eliminated in order to defeat the act! Thus, we’ve seen a very large displacement of poor Black people to the inner cities of America, North and South. That, coupled with declining resources for schools exacerbated the problems and thus passed on a legacy by the “De Jure” system within an entire region to become a “De Facto” problem for society to try and solve.

    The resistance to the 64’ Civil Rights Act and 65’ Voting Rights Act, the instruments that forced changes in “De Jure Discrimination” have been under political attack now for 50 years. The Nixon, Ford, Regan, H.W. Bush, Bush “W” i.e., the “Southern Strategy” and to some extent the “privatization” acceptance by Democrats, Clinton and Obama particularly, have yielded Presidential Victories and re-segregation of schools, by community, in my opinion- i.e., “white flight” and “privatization” have combined to negatively impact efforts to desegregate schools. And as it was pointed out, the notion of “civil rights’ has been turned on its head to mean the satisfaction of private education systems and high scores on tests. These political victories by those who believe “private rights” are “civil rights” and the public good should only be defined “philosophically” from a “libertarian” perspective have won many battles for the hearts and minds of the public. They’ve won over these past decades, since 64′ in my opinion- the election of President Obama not withstanding.


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