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Dr. McGinley, Keep Your Apologies
4/24/2013 3:41:06 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I found it interesting the past couple of weeks as Charleston County School District officials went on about county schools desegregation.

In a public statement, Charleston County Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley apologized for the discrimination of the past. That’s great except for two things - the discrimination of the past continues today and apologies don’t provide any compensation.

You know, sometimes you have to laugh to keep from getting mad. That’s how I feel about McGinley and her apologies. That’s like apologizing for American slavery.

It sounds real progressive and all, but racism, discrimination and the exploitation of African Americans in this country continues today and Black folks still barely partake in the unimaginable wealth created by that slave labor. Can you say reparations?

Last November the S.C. Department of Education released its school report card statistics. It noted 50 percent of Charleston County School District students attend ‘excellent’ rated schools. That means 50 percent of students attend schools that are not rated excellent.

If your child is a Black student in Charleston County School District, there’s a 90 percent chance your child does not attend an excellent rated school which all have predominantly white student populations.

There’s a 60 percent chance your Black child attends a school rated below average or at-risk. And if your child attends a school rated below average or at-risk, that school is predominantly Black.

Schools in Charleston County are very segregated - with predominantly white schools doing well and predominantly Black schools doing poorly.

The elephant in the room no one seems to discuss is that even at schools with racially diverse student populations, racism and discrimination within those schools result in lower academic achievement among Black students than their white counterparts.

The graduation rates for Black students compared to that of white students in Charleston County School district is shameful. While about 80 percent of white students graduate, only about 65 percent of Black students graduate. And if your kid attends predominantly Black Baptist Hill, Burke or Lincoln high schools, there’s a 50 percent or less chance your kid will graduate.

Compare those numbers to the graduation rates at predominantly white high schools like the Academic Magnet, Charleston County School of the Arts, James Island or Wando where about 100 percent of students graduate.

And yes, the staff and faculty in Charleston County School District also reflect a disturbing racial picture. Of about 3,500 teachers, only about 15 percent are Black in the district where Black and white students each represent about 45 percent of the total number of students. About 30 percent of principals are Black.

I can sit here an write about statistics all day, but those who know Charleston County School District know the real deal when it comes to segregation and discrimination in public education.

Segregation (separate and unequal) hasn’t gone very far since the 1960s. Yeah, a few select negroes get to attend schools with the white kids at the nearly all white elite schools and schools in middle class communities have more diverse student populations. But the discrimination, even in those racially diverse schools, still is overwhelming.

I’m not alone in my criticism of the district and its apology.

A new coalition being spearheaded by former CCSD Personnel Director and Interim Superintendent Dr. Barbara Dilligard, challenges the district to “Discontinue practices and plans which result in re-segregating schools through programs and plans which systemically separate students along racial lines.”

Former CCSD Constituent District 20 School Board member Henry Copeland said Dr. McGinley’s statements regarding segregation 50 years ago “are little more than a self-serving publicity stunt.”

He said, “Her actions toward downtown public schools over her tenure show she is no more committed to providing access for all to a high quality education than her shallow and largely uninformed descriptions of the local public school administration 50 years ago. In the eyes on many, she and her actions have produced the same negative results as the people she is unilaterally apologizing for.”

In an email to the media Copeland asked, “What happened to the progress we helped initiate 50 years ago?”

I recently had a conversation with Charleston NAACP President Dorothy Scott about some other issues. During our conversation, Ms Scott reminded me that over the years there has been progress toward racial equality in education as well as other areas of our lives. That’s cool. Slow but sure beats nothing at all.

Still, making apologies as we continue to turn the wheels of inequality and inequity is deceit. So until this community earnestly begins to end the discrimination in public education, keep the apologies.

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