This American Life: #562: The Problem We All Live With
August 3, 2015 9:13 AM - Subscribe

Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation. Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district that, not long ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program. First of a two-part series.

The districts in question are in the St. Louis area, and are Normandy (the inner city district, where Michael Brown attended) and Francis Howell. Nikole Hannah-Jones' Pro Publica piece covering many of the same themes.
posted by damayanti (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The audio of the Francis Howell School Board public meeting is infuriating.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:31 AM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah; my spouse and I ended up turning on the radio right before that, and there was pretty much a constant string of obscenities coming from both of us during that part.

The whole "*Those people* are criminals/dangerous/violent/will lower our property values/ will lower our school's test scores but I'm not racist (and you're racist for thinking I'm racist because I'm white)" attitude was just sickening. Bonus points for the one lady absolutely tripping over herself not to say "black people" when talking about the public transportation system expansion her town voted against.
posted by damayanti at 10:47 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

The most blatantly horrible expressions of white fear got the loudest applause.
posted by theodolite at 11:31 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I listened to this on the radio while running errands on Saturday. Took all my self-control not to turn off the radio as the closest thing I could manage to slamming a door in those peoples' faces, during those infuriating town hall meeting bits. Oi
posted by Alterscape at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2015

I think I hate white people, myself included. Gawwwwwd.

Compare that to the sweet story of that girl mentioning being welcomed to school.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:02 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's not about race, but if these people (waves hands vaguely) are let near our school, every single racist thing I can imagine will happen will happen!

Jesus. People are so shitty. This is what racism looks like, folks. White people believing that anything that might benefit a black person will necessarily harm a white person.
posted by maxsparber at 8:22 AM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thank GOODNESS for the story about her being welcomed to the school. Otherwise I would have ended this episode with no faith in humanity left at all.
posted by greenish at 10:10 AM on August 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

The horrible intersection between racism and privileged white parents who "read and read and read" about those things that frighten them until they are too hysterical to act rationally or, apparently, with compassion.

Bravo for the teachers at that school who see the broad spectrum, the full issues that were at play, and created an environment of welcome on that first day.
posted by amanda at 3:46 PM on August 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I just listened to the rest of this episode last weekend, and one of the most mind-boggling things about the story was the utterly transparent gambit taken by the state in order to drag the transferred students back to the failed school district.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:35 AM on August 11, 2015

that public meeting is how the few public meetings I've gone to have all sounded -- people have theirs, and don't want to share it with other people and stretch for any excuse they can why they're right and just to prevent others from being in their neighborhood.
posted by garlic at 10:19 AM on August 11, 2015

Does every state fund their schools via local property taxes? That's how IL and IN do it I believe, and it's bullshit. If you're neighborhood happens to be poor, than you happen to get shitty schools. And if it happens to be rich, then you happen to get fancy schools. And if poor and rich neighborhoods just happen to be racially segregated, it's just a funny coincidence.

I know if every school got the same $/kid from the state that rich neighborhoods would still pull some bullshit via booster clubs or something, but it still sounds like a better place to start the money off from then what we have now.

It feels like there's hope with the HUD department looking into racially segregated areas with no plans for affordable housing, but that's so long term, and like the reporter said, children are CURRENTLY getting shitty educations while long term housing issues are very very slowly being addressed.
posted by garlic at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

This was really fantastic reporting by Nikole Hannah Jones and Chana Joffe Walt. Great piece that gives this issue the space it needs.

I often feel that anti-black racism is the core issue of our country. White refusal to acknowledge the enormity of racism, it's historical impact and its present realities, seems to be our core illness, and addressing this directly could be the key to all of our liberation.
posted by latkes at 12:27 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm curious what folks thought of the takeaway message: it's easy to get pissed at the racist parents at the school board meeting, but does it impact your views on busing? Count me among the white 'progressives' who somehow had absorbed/accepted the idea that busing was a failure. This episode turned me around. Bring back intentional school integration now.
posted by latkes at 12:35 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

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