On Tuesday, an advisory panel on school integration and equity in New York City released a report – Making the Grade – suggesting that city government pursue policies that would address segregation in NYC’s public school system. Noliwe Rooks, a professor of American studies at Cornell University and author of the book “Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and The End of Public Education,” says that the report does not sufficiently account for entrenched racism and opportunity hoarding on the part of privileged, white parents.
“What jumps out is the ways the report urges ‘voluntary integration’ and how it avoids taking seriously the resistance of privileged and white parents to any and all talk of meaningful integration.
“Their resistance is not new, but goes back to the era immediately preceding Brown v. Board when one of the largest civil rights marches was actually against talk of racially integrating schools and reaches to the city’s very recent past.
“The language of the report chooses to repeatedly use the term ‘diversity’ to describe its work and does not mention how entrenched racism, poverty or opportunity hoarding on the part of the wealthy are the underlying issues that allow for New York City schools to look as they do. Casting a broad net that includes disability, learning differences, all ‘races’, language and the ubiquitous ‘diverse’, means that success at the level of individual schools can leave racial and economic educational realities of New York City schools in place while claiming they are now integrated.
“As a nation, we have rarely believed that poor children of color should be educated in the same ways as are wealthy children, or actually with children who are white and wealthy. If you cannot clearly name the problem, you cannot solve it.”