Resegregated schools are U.S. reality
by John Alan
On May 17 Bill Cosby, due to his generous financial support of institutions that work on the behalf of African Americans, was invited by the NAACPís Legal Defense and Educational Fund to speak at a public meeting on the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that ended the legality of racially segregated public schools in this nation 50 years ago.
For some strange reason, according to Theodore M. Shaw, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Cosby changed the focus of the celebration of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision by telling "the well-heeled, black-tie audience" that: "the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal."
Cosby said, unlike the story of Brown, this is no longer "the white personís problem." He chastised poor blacks for their failure to actively raise their children, to teach "knuckleheads" proper English and for spending $500 on sneakers while refusing to spend $200 for the educational package "Hooked on Phonics." Cosby has used the celebration of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to harshly scold poor African Americans for their failure to get a good education and become economically prosperous.
The "lower economic people" of Cosbyís scorn are not poor because they plan to be poor or want to be poor, but because capitalism either buys their labor power at cheap wages or doesnít use it at all. When Cosby referred to the masses of African Americans as "lower economic people," he expressed a class division among African Americans. However, Cosby refuses to admit this division as he railed against "senseless crimes and violence." Yes, senseless crimes are awful. But they canít be stopped just by offering a moral world to the "lower economic people" with the pretext that it would transcend the world of racism and poverty that Cosbyís "lower economic people" live in.
Cosby is so successful and wealthy that neither poverty nor racism can do him harm. But the overwhelming majority of African Americans do not have Cosbyís shields against the barbs of racism.
SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL
Recently, Charles Ogletree, an African American chosen to attend Stanford University under an affirmative action program inspired by the Supreme Courtís Brown vs. Board of Education decision, published a new book, ALL DELIBERATE SPEED: REFLECTION ON THE FIRST HALF CENTURY OF BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION.
In the book Ogletree argues that while the Brown v. Board of Education case was historic, it was opposed and diluted by the government, political officials, and anti-civil rights activist organizations. Black America finds itself segregated and under more threats than it has been since the Civil Rights era.
Racism still haunts Americaís public school system. Topekaís integrated schools are moving in a troubling direction. The minority students in its public schools are increasing at two percent a year, from 30% in 1991 to more than 51% today. In some Topeka Schools, nearly four-fifths of the students are nonwhite.
One reason for this diminishing number of white students in Topekaís schools could be that middle class white families are sending their children to private schools or have moved out of Topeka. Today there is little enthusiasm for a further court-ordered desegregation even among Topekaís Black establishment.
Indeed, there is no alarm among any of Topekaís political leaders about the re-segregation of its public schools. This indicates that after a half century the decision by the Supreme Court has left no influence on the thinking or the activity of many present day Black and white Americans. To many, itís an old political decision that has little or nothing to do with their immediate economic and social conditions and problems.
This reported indifference to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in no way diminishes the historic importance of that decision, but it does reject the political nature of that decision which sees human beings only as abstract citizens with constitutional rights and separated from all other human beings.
CONTRADICTIONS IN CIVIL SOCIETY
Karl Marx said: "Human emancipation will only be complete when real, individual man has absorbed into himself the abstract citizen; when as an individual man in his everyday life, in his work, and in his relationships, he becomes a species-being and when he recognizes and organizes his own powers as social power so that he no longer separates this social power from himself as political power."
Those lines from Marx can be objectively seen in the history of the African-American struggles for freedom. From the Reconstruction Period down to the Civil Rights Movement, the social power of the African- American masses has often been transformed into a struggle to gain political power to compel the government, i.e. the state, to stamp out racism, end poverty, build housing for the poor and stop segregating African Americans. In other words, political reform.
However, reform did not put an end to poverty or racism in the U.S. Nevertheless, this failure did not prompt many to take a critical look at the inability of political power to change the social relations and conditions created by capitalism.
The Civil Rights Movement shook up this nation and revealed to the world that it was not the "cradle of liberty" but a racist nation that segregated African Americans in schools, in restaurants, on buses and in urban slums. The African-American middle class thought there was a political remedy for this racism. They thought if enough African Americans got elected to Congress, laws would be enacted to end the practices of racism in all of its various social forms.
This so-called entrance into the power structure by the African-American middle class leaders clearly indicated that they were leaving the mass movement for positions in the political structure of capitalism. Their departure only ended a phase of the ongoing struggle against racism in the U.S.
Published by News and Letters Committees