Monday, September 24, 2012

"It's all about money and race"

The public school system in Huntsville, Alabama used to be known as the best kept secret in Alabama.  As a product of the Huntsville City School system after integration,  I remember the good old days when all schools were considered "good schools".  When all teachers/principal and support personnel were highly qualified. When young minds were encouraged to reach their full potential regardless of of their zip code, parents income, race, gender, or religion.

The city of Huntsville had the perception of being a progressive oasis in the reddest of the red states.  Huntsville's image wasn't marred with bombings, Bull Conner, dogs and fire hoses.  Nope, Huntsville was thought to be immune from the ignorance of racism when public schools and facilities integrated without fanfare (except for the swimming pool).

So what happened between then and now?  Two words....white flight from north Huntsville to south Huntsville, and the creation of neighborhood schools.  You see, the government can't tell you where to live, but the government can tell you where to attend a public school.

As in most cases, people chose to live based on where they can afford to live.  Taxpayers who live in affluent areas have access to the best public schools their tax dollars can buy.  Taxpayers who live in non affluent areas have access to the worst public schools their tax dollars can buy.

There is a provision in the HCS Federal Court Desegregation order that allows students to transfer from schools where they are the majority race, to schools where they are the minority race.  This is supposed to be a two way deal, but what parent in their right (no pun) mind is going to transfer their child from the best public school their tax dollars can buy, to the worst school their tax dollars can buy?  I mean, really?

Why are public schools in the less affluent area considered to be the worst schools you ask?  Some say it's because of the unfairness of life, it's not their fault the majority of the students are black/brown/poor.  Some say the U.S. Department of Justice is making unreasonable demands on the school district.

I'm convinced we have a separate and unequal school district due to the lynching of public education, not only in Huntsville, but the state in general.  You see, Sweet Home Alabama cares more about property values than educating it's poor/black/brown students.

What those in positions of power fail to realize is we are all in the boat together.  If one end of the boat is clean and bright and the other end of the boat is dirty and full of holes, guess what...the whole damn boat is going to sink.

It's all about money and race.  Keeping those two things in mind, everything else makes perfect sense


Will Shetterly said...

Money and race or money and class? Do poor white kids in Alabama go to better schools than poor black kids there? They did everywhere in the South in the days of segregation, of course, because states gave more money to white schools than black schools.

As for the theory of white flight, articles like "Birmingham changes as blacks move to the suburbs" argue:

"It's really middle-class flight, not black flight or white flight," O'Beirne said. "Historically blacks and whites have been segregated in Birmingham, and a lot of that had to do with racism. We're in an era where racial ideology doesn't have the same effect as it once did. You have a rising middle-class population."

Redeye said...

Will, thank you for reading, for your thoughtful questions, and your williness to engage me in civil discussion on the topic of money and race.

Money, class and race are all connected. How much money you have (or not) determines what class you are in (or not). Historically and presently,the wealth gap between African Americans and whites is widening. Unemployment among African Americans is at 16%, compared to 8% for whites. There is a saying when white America gets a cold black America gets pneumonia...and dies.

And no, poor white children don't attend better schools than whites. They are in the same end of the boats as poor black and brown children, however their parents continue to vote for and elect candidates who don't have their interest at heart, be ause they know they can count on them to hate liberal democrats then they love themselves.

Yes "middle class blacks" are fleeing to the suburbs to the detriment of those they leave behind.

We can debate your rising middle class assertion in today's economic climate you are either rich or you are poor, and we are all just one pay check away from poverty.

Redeye said...

Typo should read- because they know they can count on them to hate liberal democrats more than they love themselves.

Will Shetterly said...

Yes, racism is the reason US poverty is racially disproportionate. However, the racial mix of the poor will not change without some redistribution of wealth because class mobility in the US is extremely restricted--which means that to deal with racial injustice, we have to address class.

Martin Luther King said something that's still true today: "In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike."

As for the South's white poor, they vote the same as the poor anywhere. From Krugman's "Bubba Isn't Who You Think": "if you look at voting behavior, low-income whites in the South are not very different from low-income whites in the rest of the country. You can see this both in Larry Bartels’s “What’s the matter with What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (pdf), Figure 3, and in a comprehensive study of red state-blue state differences by Gelman et al (pdf). It’s relatively high-income Southern whites who are very, very Republican. Can I get away with saying that rich white trash are the problem? Probably not."

The "rising middle class" comment was in O'Bearne's quote. I suspect he was referring to the upper end of the middle class, the people, black and white and Asian, who could afford to flee poor neighborhoods as they acquired wealth.

Redeye said...

It's the poverty, amd neither candidate frome either party has said a mumbling word about it.o

Will Shetterly said...

Full agreement there!