White complacency perpetuates segregation in public schools

Elizabeth Braaten

In the decades following Brown v. Board — the Supreme Court ruling that overturned legal racial segregation of school — white Americans celebrated their great moral victory, assured their friends that they “didn’t see color” and paraded a black president to show that blacks and whites, at long last, had equal footing. Because of Brown, whites in positions of power give themselves a pat on the back — and concern for inequality stops there.

Racial inequality, maintained by white complacency, will continue as long as we cite inadequate policy to refuse to see the complexities that prohibit implementation.

By examining black issues solely at the surface-level, such as claiming there have been no barriers to voting since 1965, whites are able to maintain their position of power while giving themselves the impression of making strides towards equality.

Inequality in state funding for public schools disproportionately affects the black community, hindering concrete social progress and ensuring further segregation from quality public services. Though policy says that we are integrated, real life shows us otherwise.

A recent case study of Connecticut public schools reported that over $6,000 more was being spent per year on students in a wealthy district, in comparison to ones in a poorer district. The negative implications of this are severe, as this means that there are larger class sizes, less tutors and fewer educational resources for the underprivileged students that need it the most.

Though states do provide some funding for public schools, most control over education comes from local governments. In Texas, where the majority of funding comes from property tax, it results in the continued assurance that many blacks will be denied access to a decent education and livelihood. Due to policies currently in place, however, whites refuse to see this.

Complacency is the enemy of progress. Flaws in public policy are continually perpetuated by this complacent attitude. The inability of impoverished areas to provide equal funds for public education is the primary cause of modern segregation.

Marginalization resulting from inequality and accessibility of public resources means that low-income students will be less likely to graduate high school and go to college, further resulting in the likelihood of remaining low-income — and reassuring the cyclical nature of poverty.

When the topic of societal inequality comes up, whites love to believe that past progress has ensured racial equality. However, the effects of well meaning policies are more intricate than what meets the eye.

We must refuse complacency by acknowledging the role wealth plays in success and enforce policy change from the ground up by leveling equality in state-mandated funding for public schools. Until then, we’ll remain separate —and woefully unequal.

Braaten is an international relations and global studies junior from Conroe.