Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Society's Color Blindness; an Oxymoron

Like military intelligence, societal color blindness is kind of an oxymoron.

I hope you will follow the link shown here to Sean Gonsalves' op-ed column on this subject.

This author raised four sons in Atlanta, GA in the sixties and seventies. Mayor Ivan Allen was an effective and wise politician. He successfully steered Atlanta away from the storms which blew across Birmingham, AL at the time, by bringing in the most talented, wise and dedicated leaders of Atlanta's black community to bridge gaps in the Atlanta culture.

But while there were few riots in the streets, and no one stood on school house steps, concerns about quality of education of one's children was the topic of conversation in most any group of white parents. I was not privy to the conversations of black parents on the subject, but the black leaders, as one would expect, were vocal in their efforts to insure that black kids got a good education.

The City of Atlanta public school system was ninety percent black. Whites who could afford it put their children in private schools, justifying it by saying our kids are only this age once and if they don't get a good education now they will not be equipped to make it in life.

Atlanta is in Fulton County, with mostly white suburbs.

I married into a rather well-off Atlanta family, with in-laws very conscious of their position in society. I had attended public school in New Jersey and Connecticut and wanted my kids to do the same. I lost that battle, and my kids went to private school after our oldest attended the local public grammar school just through second grade.

Atlanta and Fulton County tried a unique approach. Rather than bus children they assigned black teachers to schools which were pretty much all white, and white teachers to all black schools. What developed, according to most white parents, was that a child could have a good teacher in one grade and a poor one in the next grade.

But these parents were not color blind. There was an assumption that the poor teachers all were black. There was enough evidence that some were not up to par that white parents felt exonerated in their decisions to pull their kids out of public school, by claiming their children's education was a stake.

My kids got a terrific education, probably better than they would have in public school, if one defines education only as learning subject matter. But they went to school only with other wealthy white kids, plus a few blacks from wealthy families, which prevented them from getting a good education in the mix of real life.

Sailorcurt has posted some comments on The Old New Englander blog, a really great blog by the way, about his experience with their children attending mostly black schools. His comments are important and worthy.

The Supreme Court is made up of nine very well educated people. Aren't you a little surprised that the Chief Justice fell back on a tautology as the basis for the ruling which gives up on at least trying to make integration work in schools?

Society is comprised of humans and humans are not, and cannot be, blind to color. Humans can acknowledge color awareness, and use it to mitigate inequalities in education for the good of all children.

Lighthouse Keeper

1 comment:

The Old New Englander said...

You have great insight from your personal experience. How do you ask a parent to make a statement with his child's opportunity for an education? Some do it, and more power to them, but it's hard to fault the parent who takes the road that seems to hold the most promise for his child. I was fortunate--my kids grew up in comfortable suburbs with good schools. Which is to say that integration was not an issue, but that there were few black children (although a fair number of Asians).

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