|Public School Racism Then and Now
2/11/2015 5:38:46 PM
By Barney Blakeney
As if Charleston County School District needs more issues to facilitate the racism so inherent in the local school system, the issue of Montessori programs versus traditional classroom education has emerged as yet another divider.
I firmly believe Charleston County School District always has and continues to be among the most starkly racist institutions in our community. My parents - a Charlotte, N.C. boy and a Kingstree girl - told stories of the racism they experienced as children in their respective communities when I was a boy. I attended segregated racist schools and kids today still attend racist schools.
My USC college buddy, Jenks, commented as we passed little Black kids boarding buses at Charleston Progressive Academy a second ago, that white folks will spend good money to build new schools for Blacks so their kids don’t have to attend public schools with Blacks. A February 8 report in the local daily newspaper presents a glaring indictment on the racism that exists in Charleston County public schools.
Somebody born in the era behind my parents, and I can’t remember who, often tells me of having to jump into roadside ditches in his rural community as busloads of white kids passed on their way to school. White kids got school buses, Black kids got ditches and were tormented daily by the bus drivers.
When I attended school my friends rode buses to the new schools built for Black students after the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 mandated that separate but equal wasn’t good enough. Of course the truth was that the separate Black schools never had been equal to white schools.
The racists of that day, in an effort to perpetuate their racism, built modern schools for Blacks hoping they would be appeased. Those are the schools my generation attended. They were good schools and produced good students, but they were subjected to the same kind of racism my parents’ generation had experienced.
When I attended school during the 1960s we had modern facilities, but the racial discrimination continued as we were provided outdated books and few other resources. The bestest thing that happened to us, and I suppose to my parents as well, was that we had the world’s greatest teachers and administrators. Those folks took little more than the bare necessities and produced world leaders. They are the real heroes in Black History.
By the time I got through public school in the early 1970s Black folks were pushing for true integration. It took that long for Black folks to realize that white folks with mentalities similar to those of Strom Thurmond and George “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever” Wallace - would not provide quality education to Black kids, let alone attend the same schools.
I was 20 years old before ever sitting in an integrated classroom. I’d had white teachers during high school, some darn good ones, but I was in college when I first sat with white students. It was then I realized them’s some dumb suckers!
I’d heard it before, but I finally understood what my teachers meant when they told us white folks didn’t want integrated public schools because they didn’t want us to see how dumb they were.
I know not all white folks are dumb, just like not all Black folks are smart. But going to school with white folks helped me to realize it takes a real dummy to be racist. I mean, people are people - white, Black, red, brown - people are people. We all eat, sleep and go to the bathroom the same way.
So I’m really frustrated by the ignorant actions of past and present members of Charleston County’s school boards. I use the plural - boards- because previously there were independent school districts that now are consolidated. They all have been racist.
No matter how some try to pretty up the racist segregation that continues in Charleston County schools, racism is the word that’s being avoided - housing patterns, economic dynamics all are the result of racism.
As the daily news report reveals, most Charleston County schools are racially segregated with predominantly Black schools being inferior. Even at integrated schools racial segregation exists within those schools and Black students still get the worst of it.
Now, here we go with this crap about Montessori programs, which I support. I favor any program that offers more opportunities to more students - magnets, charters, Montessori - I wouldn’t give a rat’s whisker if we had schools with only one student as long as that same opportunity was offered to all students.
But what’s happening in Charleston County is that the most progressive and successful programs are being manipulated to function in racist fashions. Intelligent Black and white folks, whom I believe are the majority of folks in the county, continue to allow racists to set policies for our schools. We’ve been lazy and have taken the easy road to public schools and continue to elect dimwits to public office. The facts are indisputable. It’s time we call a spade, a spade and move past racism.