A Critical Look at School Segregation in Michigan
As America ponders the feasibility of a minority president, the issue of U.S. race relations has come back into the national spotlight. After over two hundred years of cohabitation, during roughly fifty of which races enjoyed equal protection by law, profound gaps between blacks and whites remain. Perhaps one reason America still needs to ask itself of its readiness for a black president is the lack of racial interaction. In the half-century since Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), segregation declined slowly in most areas of life. The progress has been the most moderate when it comes to public school integration, and in recent years progress has halted altogether or slipped backwards. Segregation and racial isolation inhibit people from all ethnicities from reaping the rewards of an integrated society. Misconceptions thrive, and cultures remain unshared when races do not mingle. Public schools are one domain where children can be easily exposed to the diversity our nation cherishes. Children carry the hope of a generation without racism because they lack the hardened, stubborn misconceptions of adults. It is for this reason that the recent trend of limiting integration efforts is so troubling. Michigan as a state suffers from extensive segregation. According to the latest U.S. census, Michigan has the most segregated housing of any state (US Census Bureau). This pattern carries over into its public school system as well (Schneider). With very limited funding, a fiercely segregated housing system, and recent Supreme Court rulings that limit state options for ethnic integration, Michigan finds itself in a bind. This research project provides an overview of the history of and causes behind school segregation, as well as efforts to address this problem in our public schools. By exploring the recent legal battles concerning school segregation, as well as analysis and suggestions from experts on schools and race relations, I hope to come up with a plan that minimizes racial segregation in Michigan public schools. The first chapter of this essay will provide a brief history of the struggle for racial equality in the United States, focusing primarily on major Supreme Court decisions. The second chapter will take a look at the troubling trend of resegregation, leaning heavily on the research of the Harvard Civil Rights Project. In the third section, I will discuss racial segregation in the Kalamazoo Public School system (KPS), taking excerpts from interviews with local school officials. The fourth chapter will provide some suggestions at how to solve what is America's biggest, most hushed problem, racial segregation.