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New Definition of Diversity: Division
Published:
10/15/2014 5:11:31 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch


This week finds me in sort of a melancholy state. Last week death knocked three times at my door. And, one of those hard knocks was one of my favorite cousins, Alex Williams. One of Alex’s passions was his tutorial program. We often shared stories and experiences about the children and the school district since he knew that I, too, was very passionate about education. Alex loved life and he lived it to its fullest. This article is not about Alex. It’s about YOU! It’s about you getting involved making a difference. My parents made sure I received a quality education. I did the same for my children and I am sure they will do the same for their children.

Diversity in education is the new word for “division”. Do not be deceived by “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” The first few years of my childhood were spent living in a housing project. For me, there was a certain stigma associated with living in the projects or being on free or reduced lunch. I dreaded each year when Federal Cards came for my parents to fill out. The poorer you were the more money school districts received. With four children and only one parent working, we always fell below the poverty level. The information sought by the Federal Government was demeaning for poor families. My dad had a fairly decent job as jobs go during the fifties. My mother stayed at home and raised her kids like so many other black families did back then. In spite of the division and noted differences between black and white schools, the projects produced many excellent citizens that have gone on to make Charleston, the State of SC and this nation proud. It’s not where you come from that determines your altitude in life but what you do with the opportunities that come your way.

The deck has always been stacked against the poor, undereducated and uneducated. We don’t have to go back to separate and equal because education and educational facilities have never been separate and equal. The same holds true for job opportunities and housing. White students and schools have always had the best of everything. Court ordered integration created white flight to private schools.

As we fast forward, white parents do not want their children to attend predominately black schools, in black neighborhoods, with black teachers/principals. It just isn’t going to happen. So, White parents created Charter Schools with their very own governing board to create a safe haven for their children. As long as enrollment doesn’t exceed 40% blacks and as long as they can select children they consider apropos to attend classes with their children, that’s their definition of “diversity”. It’s just another subtle form of “division”. When white educators talk diversity, what they really mean is division. They talk a mean game of inclusion but what they really mean is exclusion.

Buist Academy started out with a 60% white/40% others (Enrollment according to State Department of Education 2013-14, 135 Day Headcount: 58 Blacks, 33 Asians, 5 Hispanics and 358 whites). Academic Magnet started off as a program with 60%/40% others and became a high school when white parents did not want Burke’s name on their children’s diploma (Enrollment according to State Department of Education 2013-14, 135 Day Headcount: 17 Blacks, 4 American Indians, 54 Asians, 15 Hispanics, and 521 whites. The only reason North Charleston High School exists today is white parents refused to send their children to Bonds Wilson High School because they said the entrance to the school was “undesirable”. The same holds true for Ashley River Creative Arts (Enrollment according to State Department of Education 2013-14, 135 Day Headcount: 80 Blacks, 4 American Indians, 23 Asians, 29 Hispanics and 309 whites . The environment around the old Wallace Consolidated School had to change before white parents would send their children to the school. Jennie Moore in Mt. Pleasant was transformed from a majority black elementary school into a Creative Arts Elementary School(Enrollment according to State Department of Education 2013-14, 135 Day Headcount: 133 Blacks, 21 Asian, 17 Hispanics, 596 Whites).

The above statistics reveal that nothing really has changed in the way children are educated not only in Charleston County School District but the same disparities are trending across this nation. Minority students are no better off today than before integration.

Education changes the path of the poor and underprivileged. Without an education, children tend to take the low road. They can’t see beyond Fast Food Restaurants to Five Star Restaurants; from the projects to Rome; from Motel 6 to the Renaissance Hotel. My parents never ate in a five star restaurant or stayed in a five star hotel until their children’s education was able to pay for it. They could not afford to do so but they made sure their children had the opportunity to do so. They were big on education and travel. We learned through travelling that there was a world beyond the projects and our ticket out was education. When I was eight years old, my parents bought their first home and it was upward bound from there.

Black students are being pushed out of school into detention centers and jail. Alex saw the inequities in the way children were educated in Charleston County School District and wanted to make a difference. While ill, Alex gave his all to tutoring and recruiting tutors to help students become successful.

I implore Charleston County School Board to stop this divisive nonsense and provide the best education possible for all students. True diversity is inclusive—not exclusive.

 

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