With the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine upon us, it is hard to comprehend that segregation is still present in 2017.
On Sept. 25, 1957, nine African American students took their first steps in Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, effectively drawing the nation’s attention to the most prevalent push for integration. Flanked by federal troops on all sides, these nine teenagers entered a brutal high school environment and experienced daily tormenting, bullying and even physical assaults (Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest of the nine, had a bomb thrown into her house a month before she graduated.) Despite this, the Little Rock Nine helped spur the integration of high schools across the nation.
Today, we live under the facade of complete equality in America.
Stemming from decades old residential segregation, primarily low income areas of the country are currently being economically and socially isolated and their school districts are being robbed of the funding they need. A 2016 U.S. Government Accountability report stated that public schools that were majority black and Hispanic had noticeable fewer math, science and college preparatory courses, further illustrating the internalized divide.
Urban, heavily-populated cities have the most definable and drastic segregation by far, as those with a multitude of districts cause minority races to be grouped and compounded together. According to a study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research of metropolitan areas, “[…] most of that segregation is due to racial disparities between districts rather than segregative patterns within districts.”
Just this past April, controversy erupted in Alabama when a federal judge ruled that the city of Gardendale had the right to leave the predominantly black Jefferson County district despite concluding that the majority white city was seceding on racial motives. The beliefs of racial inferiority were clearly seen in this battle (no one even tried to deny it). Segregation is still alive because we allow it to be.
This being said, don’t lose all hope just yet. In New York, a prime example of urban segregation, efforts are being placed to allow more opportunities for minority and poverty stricken students, the most prominent victims of modern segregation. In May 2017, Mayor Bill De Blasio held a news conference on introducing new education programs to help bridge the gap between high and low performing schools. He focused on the goal of increasing elementary reading scores and funding for schools to support after school activities and health services.
This is certainly a good start to ending segregation, but because this is America and all good things don’t last, it should be mentioned that in the same news conference De Blasio expertly avoided directly addressing segregation in New York, stating that, “We cannot change the basic reality of housing in New York.”
Modern segregation echoes the environment of the sixties, and is undoubtedly a result of loopholes and legislature that was left untouched and ignored after the civil rights movement. Sixty years is a long time, and we have made some progress since the Little Rock Nine stepped into that infamous high school. However, we cannot stop at “some progress” when thousands of Americans are being denied basic opportunities to housing and education just for the hue of their skin.
The Little Rock Nine just began the fight for integration, it falls on our shoulders to finish it.