The Atlantic just published the most important story of the year.

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Usually I put a post like this — all someone else, little me — in the Off the Cuff section.  I’m doing a full post for this, though, because I think it’s that important that everyone read this article by Pro-Publica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones, which was published this morning by The Atlantic.

Titled Resegregation in the American South, the article describes how local US school districts, freed from court-ordered integration, are actively and deliberately working to re-segregate both schools and society.  It’s important to note that we’re not talking about accidental situations where black people simply choose to live in black neighborhoods.  In the district that acts as the story’s microcosm, the leaders of Tuscaloosa, Alabama take a successful high school, split that high school up into multiple smaller schools, and then gerrymander he district’s neighborhoods to ensure a separation of blacks and whites.

Here is a taste of the article:

Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa’s schools have seemed to move backwards in time. The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central [High School] retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city’s poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. D’Leisha, an honors student since middle school, has only marginal college prospects. Predominantly white neighborhoods adjacent to Central have been gerrymandered into the attendance zones of other, whiter schools…

In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica…

Tuscaloosa’s business leaders and elected officials had witnessed the transformation of other southern cities after their school districts had reached a tipping point—the point at which white parents become unsettled by the rising share of black students in a school, and pull their children from the school en masse. School districts in cities such as Birmingham and Richmond had seen their integration efforts largely mooted: just about all the white students had left. As white families had moved out to the suburbs, eroding the tax base, both the schools and the cities themselves had suffered. Many officials in Tuscaloosa obsessed about the rippling consequences of continued white flight. “Money follows kids, and the loss of white students was very, very critical,” said Shelley Jones, who is white and served as a school-board member in the 1990s, and later as the chair…

When school officials make decisions that funnel poor children of color into their own schools, they promise to make those separate schools equal. But that promise is as false today as it was in 1954. Indeed, in some ways all-black schools today are worse than Druid High was back in the 1950s, when poor black students mixed with affluent and middle-class ones, and when many of the most talented black residents of Tuscaloosa taught there…

When President George W. Bush came into office, approximately 595 school districts nationwide—including dozens of non-southern districts—remained under court-ordered desegregation, according to a ProPublica analysis of data compiled by Stanford University researchers. By the end of Bush’s second term, that number had plummeted to 380. Nearly 60 percent of all the districts that have been released from their desegregation orders since 1967 were released under Bush, whose administration pressed the Justice Department to close those cases wherever possible. The trend has slowed under the Obama administration, but it has continued. Today, about 340 districts remain under court order.

A 2012 Stanford study examined school districts with at least 2,000 students that had been released from court order since 1990, finding that, typically, these districts grew steadily more segregated after their release. A separate study found that within 10 years of being released, school districts on average unwound about 60 percent of the integration they had achieved under court order…

High-poverty, segregated black and Latino schools account for the majority of the roughly 1,400 high schools nationwide labeled “dropout factories”—meaning fewer than 60 percent of the students graduate. School officials often blame poor performance on the poverty these kids grow up in. But most studies conclude that it’s the concentration of poor students in the same school that hurts them the most. Low-income students placed in middle-income schools show marked academic progress.

As a school’s black population increases, the odds that any given teacher there will have significant experience, full licensure, or a master’s degree all decline. Teacher turnover at segregated schools is typically high. And black students, overall, are less likely than any other group of students to attend schools with Advanced Placement courses and high-level classes like calculus.

I offer this piece — a year-long work of journalism, in the best and truest sense of that word — as a response to those fellow OTers who claim that racism against blacks is a thing of the past, and that being accused of promoting “racist policy” is the very worst slight that can befall a person in the year 2014.

I offer it as well to those OTers who assure me that, left to their own devices and freed from federal oversight, states and local governments will better solve problems such as racism and poverty in our communities.

Lastly, I offer it to those who claim that the adjacent policy movement of voter restriction — which seems to occur in the same places where racial segregation is being gerrymandered into a new renaissance  —  is just about “fraud.”

It’s a long article, but everyone needs to take the time to read it.

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137 thoughts on “The Atlantic just published the most important story of the year.

  1. I offer it as well to those OTers who assure me that, left to their own devices and freed from federal oversight, states and local governments will better solve problems such as racism and poverty in our communities.

    Who exactly are those OTers? That seems like a bit of a straw man.

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    • Straw man? Well, not so sure. I suspect Tod had specific “fellow OTers” in mind when he wrote that –I know I had specific names in mind when I read it– and rather than distorting their argument as one would in a straw man situation, he just left them unnamed.

      After all, this is an argument many libertarians would be comfortable making:

      “left to their own devices and freed from federal oversight, states and local governments will better solve problems such as racism and poverty in our communities”

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      • Right, Brandon. A glib “no true scotsman” response. Never heard that before.

        Pop quiz. Who said this?

        “I do defend and believe that the government should not be involved with institutional racism or discrimination or segregation in schools, busing, all those things.”

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      • Trusting government to solve problems is exactly the opposite of what libertarianism is. If you think faith in state and local governments is a plausible thing to attribute to libertarians, you’re not qualified to have an opinion on libertarians. Or likely much of anything else.

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      • ““Well, let’s put the government in charge of it for 50 years. Surely that will fix the problem.””

        The government has always been “in charge of it.” It’s just that in the last 50 years, the government efforts have been toward racial equality rather than white supremacy, which is how it went for the previous 100 years.

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      • From the article:

        In some ways, all-black schools today are worse than Druid High was back in the 1950s, when poor black students mixed with affluent and middle-class ones.

        So things have changed, it seems.

        Let’s do it again. More government might be able to get it right this time. And if it doesn’t work again? Well, obviously, it’ll be the fault of the libertarians.

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      • It’s worse, according to the article, because resegregation has resulted in divisions between poor black kids and middle class black kids, whereas mandated segregation just cared that you were black. So what happened was: things got better, then the government took its hands off, and things got even worse. So if the charge is, “The government hasn’t made things better,” the answer is, “Well, it had, then it let go, and things got worse without it.”

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      • Well, it seems strange that the government makes things better in such a way that if the government ever stops helping, for a moment, that everything is even worse than before.

        But, sure. Let’s put the government back in charge for another 50 years. Maybe this 50 will be different from the last 50.

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      • Jay, I agree it’s weird, but I’m not sure it suggests that the problem was the government oversight in the first place. What we have is underlying societal conditions such that the government intervention was needed in the first place, and that when that intervention is removed, there is a sort of rebound to the equilibrium state promoted by the underlying societal conditions, which haven’t changed as much as the government intervention might have led someone to believe. That is, white people didn’t want their kids going with black and Hispanic kids 50 years ago, and they don’t want their kids going to school with black and Hispanic kids today. And without government intervention, they don’t have to, and they can take the money and political influence they wield with them, making it possible to perpetuate racial inequalities in perpetuity.

        So is the solution less government intervention? Different government intervention? Thought police? I know where you’re going, but from the abstract position you’ve taken, “thought police” is as valid a conclusion as “maybe it wasn’t yet time to remove the government intervention, because the underlying societal conditions weren’t where they need to be yet. I mean, we’re really only looking at one fully integrated generation here, and more might be needed to get rid of the pernicious residue of segregation-perpetuated prejudice and inequality.”

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      • What’s more, nothing in the scenario suggests less government intervention. If anything, it suggests more, and we are, as you might say, haggling now. Do we want the federal government to take over school districting and zoning? Do we want them to take over busing? Do we want them to go even further? All of these seem like valid suggestsions from the line of reasoning you’ve started, because to date, no government intervention has been awful, and has only gotten worse!

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      • This is a strange conversation. You have a situation in which a conservative status quo (the power of government being used to enforce traditional racial hierarchy) gave way to a progressive status quo (the federal government intervened to attempt to dismantle that hierarchy). Ultimately, the progressive status quo was unable to accomplish what it set out to do and the conservative status quo began to reassert itself, so… libertarians are to blame.

        Instead of looking for boogeymen, maybe the progressives here ought to spend some time contemplating the actual limits and efficacy of government intervention.

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      • Well, one of the points made above was that we’ve never been without government intervention. From Herb:

        The government has always been “in charge of it.” It’s just that in the last 50 years, the government efforts have been toward racial equality rather than white supremacy, which is how it went for the previous 100 years.

        I know where you’re going, but from the abstract position you’ve taken, “thought police” is as valid a conclusion as “maybe it wasn’t yet time to remove the government intervention, because the underlying societal conditions weren’t where they need to be yet. I mean, we’re really only looking at one fully integrated generation here, and more might be needed to get rid of the pernicious residue of segregation-perpetuated prejudice and inequality.”

        So I am being serious. Let’s put the government back in charge for another 50.

        What do you think will happen? For the record, I don’t think that anything will change much. People will move. Those that can, anyway.

        Do we want the federal government to take over school districting and zoning? Do we want them to take over busing? Do we want them to go even further? All of these seem like valid suggestsions from the line of reasoning you’ve started, because to date, no government intervention has been awful, and has only gotten worse!

        Sure, let’s try that. Let’s try that until we get people to say “okay, that didn’t work” instead of “well, we don’t know whether that would have worked”.

        How long do you think that that will take?

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      • JR, yeah, that’s not quite how it worked. And the current state is certainly a direction libertarians would have encouraged, though they would go further, right?

        The solution? Privatize it, because that will certainly change the distribution of the resources, right? I mean, the poor black kids will be able to pay to go to the wealthier white schools on their own, instead of having to go to the poor black ones on the government’s dime. This is obvious.

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      • Chris,
        all due respect, but I think both white folks and black folks want their kids to get the best education. Some, misguided, folks may believe that is best done by segregation, plain and simple. Others merely note that “folks together act together”, and are more interested in performance than segregation per se.

        I think part of the challenge is how do you build diverse places (including a lot of low income folks, who traditionally have trouble with school for a variety of reasons including homelessness)?

        Pittsburgh appears to have a few “all-black” schools, but nothing that’s particularly “all white” (looking at high schools, because we do bus around here, as well as having “local schools”).

        THAT said, redistributing white kids to a “good ladder school” has opened opportunities for black kids in magnet schools, which I take to be a good thing (in that white folks were previously applying their kids to magnet schools they didn’t particularly want to be in).

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      • @chris

        How are we defining “working”? Forced integration certainly worked if the goal was to make schools more heterogenous. And it seems to have addressed at least some of the disparity in school achievement between white students and students of color, though teasing out how much of that is the result of integration and how much of that is the result of other factors (some done via the government and some through other forces); I don’t know if that qualifies it as working. Surely, some folks will argue it didn’t work because they see integration as inherently bad or see they a black president — something they don’t like — and point towards things like integration as a mechanism which allowed it to happen. But let’s leave those folks aside.

        How do we know if our school system is working when it comes to race?

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      • jr,
        Oh, believe me, I have. I think what it boils down to is:
        1) white folks want their kids to succeed.
        2) white folks have more (instutional/privileged) power to make this happen.
        but
        3) it is possible to have good, diverse schools.

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      • Certainly the government has always been involved, but when the local and state governments are running the show, things get worse. When the feds are running it, to the extent necessary to enforce desegregation, things get better. Again, we’re really talking about one, maybe two fully integrated generations. If you want widespread social change of attitudes and prejudices that go back centuries, in 2 generations of interracial exposure, you’re going to be disappointed. Hell, the parents of today’s elementary school kids had, in many cases, parents who went to segregated schools. My parents went to segregated schools. My mom’s school had one black student by the time she graduated high school. One (though it was private, Catholic). In this sort of thing, 50 years is nothing. And we haven’t done enough anyway.

        Really, what resegregation shows me is that the Jim Crow laws pre-desegregation weren’t really necessary. You don’t need the government to get white people to avoid black people. They’ll do that all on their own.

        I say forced desegregation along with redistribution of resources between schools so that existing social and economic inequalities aren’t automatically perpetuated sounds like a pretty good route to go.

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      • , the data is pretty damned clear: desegregation led to lower dropout rates, higher college attendance rates, and better economic outcomes for black students pretty much across the board, even with white flight keeping those rates down in some areas by taking all of the money out of areas and leaving them basically broke and populated only by the people who can’t afford to get out. I call that working. Is it working perfectly? Could it be much better? Sure. But it was making things better. If someone wants to object to it, they’d better come with an alternative and an explanation of why they think it would do even better, because otherwise there’s no reason to listen to them at all.

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      • That is, white people didn’t want their kids going with black and Hispanic kids 50 years ago, and they don’t want their kids going to school with black and Hispanic kids today.

        Can I ask some dumb questions about this?

        Statement fully conceded for 50 years ago. And somewhat today (though hopefully less).

        But then and now, another big part of it was “Rich people don’t want their kids going to school with poor kids (and race makes an excellent proxy for ‘rich/poor’ for historical reasons)”.

        IMO, those who can afford to do so, are just as likely to pull their kids from a poor *white* school district by moving to a wealthier one (again depriving the school in the poor district of resources it might otherwise have had).

        1.) Would we have had any better success integrating schools based on relative income levels rather than race?

        At bare minimum I could see this being viewed as more “fair” and generating somewhat less resentment and friction.

        Or would this be just as problematic, both from a political/ideology viewpoint (socialism!) as well as actual educational outcomes and unintended consequences?

        2.) Instead of actually integrating the schools themselves, is there a way to make it so that rich and/or white flight don’t really matter as much? I am thinking of making education tax dollars go up to the state level, and mandating their equitable disbursement (X dollars for each state student, no matter where they are in the state) from there. The only way people could “flee” such a system would be to move out of state, which people tend to do less than just moving a district over. Even if they choose to send their kids to private school, they would still be paying state education taxes*, again distributed equitably.

        Or is this a total pipe dream and/or again a perceived infringement on liberty?

        * actually, a dumb question occurs to me here as well, even under the current scheme. When someone puts their kids into private school, they still pay for public school. Isn’t that theoretically free money for the public school system now, getting paid for students they don’t have to educate? Can’t that money now be spent on the students who probably need it more, since they can’t afford to go to private school? Unless I am missing something, private schools should be a win-win thing. So I must be missing something.

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      • Glyph, it looks like some of it is class based, but it also looks like middle class white parents would rather their kids go to school with a substantial number of poor white kids than a substantial number of black kids, period.

        And I think redistribution of resources between school zones is pretty much a necessity. The current system just perpetuates inequalities, with or without federally mandated desegregation, because the rich schools have more money (from the tax base) to draw from.

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      • In the last 50 years, when equality of opportunity has increased the most for those who needed increased the most, under what circumstances had that happened?

        It seems to me that if 2013 was the best year yet seen to be African-American in Tuscaloosa, that the reasons for that aren’t really related to integration and that integration is seen as “something we can do, something we have power over” while… something (and I don’t know what that something is) that we don’t really have power over is really the thing that needs to be modified and other things would follow from *THAT*… including integration.

        And changing integration changes things only slightly and, should we stop interfering, things are even worse than before.

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      • I think the issue is that parents bring much more than taxes to the table. They volunteer, they show up and complain when teachers suck, they basically serve as (unpaid) oversight and support staff for the school. And of course wealthier and more privileged parents are better able to do this. So when a wealthy parent, or one who’s confident about negotiating a bureaucracy, leaves a school, it makes all the kids who are there worse off. This loss could easily offset or even dwarf the marginal cost of educating their kid. This is why the new Central is in some ways worse than the old one–because of the loss of the most active and effective parents. High-status and/or wealthy parents are good for their kids, but they have positive externalities for everyone who attends school with their kids.

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      • Glyph: It’s very difficult to mandate equal funding. While a thorough comment on California’s school funding system is way beyond my abilities, my basic understanding is that property taxes go to the State, which then divvies up the funds based on school attendance plus other factors (inner-city schools get more, etc.)

        However, nothing prohibits the parents in high net worth areas from making gifts to their school district. And landowners can also essentially impose additional taxes on themselves for the benefit of their local district.

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      • , my reactions are similar to yours — just saying “racism!” seems to be oversimplifying. I’m sure that’s there to some degree, but I suspect a bigger part of this is an association in many people’s minds between race and class.

        Re state funding, I thought states already sent money to poorer school districts, though perhaps not “enough”. Even with full state funding, I don’t see how you could ever have real equality without actually preventing the wealthy districts from putting extra money into their schools, which would never fly and would just be another incentive for the better-off to put their kids in private schools.

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      • If we can show that the difference between integrated schools and resegregated schools are pretty dramatic in terms of increased opportunities for black students, would you believe that maybe integration, even if it’s only a mediator, plays a role in that increase? And since we have that data, do you now believe it?

        Again, even mandated integration wasn’t perfect, but it’s better than the only apparent alternative.

        So what is your solution? I ask because this is the sort of situation in which, if you don’t have an alternative to something that makes things demonstrably and impactfully better, if you don’t have ideas about where the problems lie, at the very least, or what specifically needs to be done better, there’s really no reason to include you in the dialogue (I don’t mean anyone specifically, but a generic “you”).

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      • Putting that differently, theoretical discussions of how government intervention doesn’t change underlying social dynamics just because the government intervened help no one, ever.

        Imagine if someone said this: if tomorrow the government, at all levels, removed its murder laws from the books, making it legal to murder people, the murder rate would likely go up significantly. Clearly murder laws are not solving the underlying problem. Does that get us anywhere? Except into a discussion about how people are kinda violent by nature? Or in the case of segregation, how deeply ingrained prejudices are, in fact, deeply ingrained?

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      • Ken, there are pretty simple ways to redistribute the money (per-student caps with everything above that going into a general fund, with a mandate that every school be within X% of the max after redistribution).

        The problem is that, inevitably, the wealthy districts would just lower taxes dramatically, or use the money that would have gone into the school system and ended up as excess to fund other stuff.

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      • If I can offer an observation re: Cali

        While a thorough comment on California’s school funding system is way beyond my abilities, my basic understanding is that property taxes go to the State, which then divvies up the funds based on school attendance plus other factors (inner-city schools get more, etc.)

        The funding model for California is per capita based upon attendance, with Title I money going to disadvantaged schools, supposedly to make up for the historical difference.

        The important thing there is that school’s site income (so to speak) is highly dependent upon daily attendance. I mean, really highly.

        Not, “it’s in your best interests to get the kids’ butts in the seats”, but “your funding is dependent upon the kids’ butts being in the seat *today*”

        And the highest levels of truancy are guess where?

        In addition, local school districts have control over their facilities, and can do pretty much whatever they want with them, and the funds don’t go back to the state.

        So Beverly Hills can release a bond issue, upgrade all the school facilities to rival the best private schools in the state, and they still get the same per capita funding as any school that doesn’t have the same level of Free & Reduced Lunch kids. They can also rent out those facilities, to the local Little League, or rent out the gyms for fundraisers, or whatever.

        California has striven mightily to make the funding from the state to the local district formulaic for all districts. Which is effed backwards. They should be trying to make the funding from the state match the spending by the districts.

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      • So what is your solution? I ask because this is the sort of situation in which, if you don’t have an alternative to something that makes things demonstrably and impactfully better, if you don’t have ideas about where the problems lie, at the very least, or what specifically needs to be done better, there’s really no reason to include you in the dialogue (I don’t mean anyone specifically, but a generic “you”).

        It seems to me that any solution that does not address such things as the further creation of private schools, charter schools, and even more White Flight isn’t really solving the problem. Can I say that much? So a solution that says “more forced segregation!” is likely to end up with numbers slightly better than the national average but… well, If we want to call that “good enough” we can call that “good enough”.

        But we should keep in mind that the second the government turns around and gets all hands-off again, the numbers will bounce back up to the levels found in the rest of the country.

        As for my solution, I’d say that it involves the culture more than anything else. Because, without the culture changing, we’ll see more private schools, more charter schools, more apartheid schools, and more segregation.

        It’ll look a lot like the rest of the country.

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      • Jay, what do you think charter and private schools will do to help the most at risk students in poor districts? If you think they’ll help, I’m open to the arguments and the data, because all I’m interested in here is equality.

        As for the culture, the government intervention isn’t going to automatically solve the cultural issues. Exposure helps, but as with murder, the laws need to be there because the problem is there. When we get the cultural situation right — and I agree, ultimately that’s the only way to fix this once and for all — we won’t need the laws, or the mandates, anymore. What the current situation shows is not that the mandates didn’t work, but that they did what they were supposed to, and the cultural stuff wasn’t working.

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      • Jay, what do you think charter and private schools will do to help the most at risk students in poor districts?

        Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t clear. I don’t think that they will. I think that they’ll do harm.

        But I also think that more laws will lead to more of them and, as such, more laws will result in more harm.

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      • Well, not all laws are created equal. We can pass laws that help public schools foster opportunity for the most disadvantaged, or we can pass laws that take money from public schools that might do that and give it to someone else who won’t. Unfortunately, in the current political climate, where it is difficult to pass good laws, bad laws frequently pop up.

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      • “Ken, there are pretty simple ways to redistribute the money”

        Sure, but none that would keep the wealthier areas from either finding ways to spend the money they want to spend or just exiting the public schools.

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      • , there have certainly been liberals that thought that things like integration and affirmative action would have worked better or at least with less backlash if they were organized around income rather than race. The idea was that since lower income people of all races would be benefiting from affirmative action and similar policies, poor whites wouldn’t feel left out and oppose it politically. The critics of the income based approach think that if its not based on race than a disproportionate amount of African-Americans and other people of color would end up not getting the help they need.

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      • Jay,
        I dunno. I think the whole idea of ending white flight (and, as a sidebenefit, punishing the panicky racists) is a good way to get decent schools in the city. I also think that a centralized city can better afford to absorb the real hopeless cases nearby.

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      • Jay,
        I’m in pittsburgh, not Canada, therefore I wasn’t really thinking about laws.

        But a general principle of “city will absorb suburbs into its governing region” might do. (you’d still get exurbs, but they would be sufficiently far away to cause inconvenience to be an issue. I know people who commute to Pittsburgh from Ohio, for god’s sake).

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      • Well, it seems strange that the government makes things better in such a way that if the government ever stops helping, for a moment, that everything is even worse than before.

        I suspect that if we legalized bank robbery, we might have a similar situation. I’m not sure that says much about whether making bank robbery a crime was good policy.

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      • The solution is a bank robber’s guild. Have a quota of allowed bank robbings, have the guild manage the dispersement, and then leave it to them to prevent unauthorized persons from robbing banks (and to prevent banks from being robbed above their annual quota).

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    • From the article: In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane.

      I’m pretty sure that any real change would require change on the part of the Midwest and Northeast.

      As such I’m pretty sure that we can look forward to no real change.

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      • I also don’t like how they threw out an apples and oranges there at the end. What percent of black students in the Northeast attend such schools? What percent in the Midwest? Is there an acceptable level of segregation that has been achieved in the rest of the country that the South is in danger of exceeding?

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      • Jay,
        It’s two different questions.
        1) How many all white schools do you have?
        2) How many all black schools do you have?

        Pittsburgh has a couple of all-black schools (some of which parents are rating as good, others of which parents are rating as pretty bad).

        No all-white schools (all appear to have more black kids than % of pittsburgh census would indicate “normal,” based on full population data).

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      • I’m not seeing how you have two questions there, Kim. The term is, apparently, new to the scholarly lexicon.

        And most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest.

        What does that mean? The only data I have is that 12 percent of black students in the south attend such schools. What percentage attend such schools in the Northeast and Midwest? If it’s significantly less than that, that’s interesting. If it’s more than that… that’s *REALLY* interesting.

        But I don’t know. I have two datapoints:
        1) most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest
        2) 12 percent of black students in the South now attend such schools

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      • And looky here:

        http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/21/study-apartheid-school-segregation-deepening-in-california-texas-and-new-york/

        A full 15 percent of African American students and 14 percent of Latino students are attending America’s “apartheid” schools, which have student bodies that are less than 1 percent white, according to a new study by the Civil Rights Project published on Wednesday.

        The numbers are worse outside of the South. 20% worse.

        That’s interesting.

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      • Haven’t read the study but I can’t say as I’m hugely surprised.

        And I wouldn’t be hugely surprised to find that the darker the complexion of a school’s student body, the lower its test scores and the lower its tax base of funding and that these three phenomenon converge to create a negative feedback loop that has yet to reach the conclusion of its death spiral.

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      • “The numbers are worse outside of the South. 20% worse.

        That’s interesting.”

        Why is that interesting? The South is not any more racist than the rest of the country. They’re just more obnoxious about it.

        This is what I found interesting about that last link:

        “These segregation factors are most exacerbated in California, Texas and New York…””

        Or in other words, in the three states that account for almost a third of this country’s population.

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      • Yep:

        “We underscore the fact that simply sitting next to a white student does not guarantee better educational outcomes for students of color,” the report said. “Instead, the resources that are consistently linked to predominately white and/or wealthy schools help foster real and serious educational advantages over minority segregated settings.”

        Being of the wrong race means fewer economic opportunities means living in a neighborhood with a lower tax base means sending your kids to schools that underperform means more people of the majority race take steps to pull their kids out means a more racially monopolar school means even more majority kids get pulled out means further erosion of the school’s tax base means even greater underperformance means…

        And so it goes.
        And so it goes.
        And so it goes.

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      • Burt,
        yeah. Being of the wrong race means you’re more likely to be homeless for part of your childhood. To not be getting enough food (yes, school lunches, but you have to be there to get them).
        It means more stress and less wealth. It’s really hard being poor.

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  2. I can’t say I am surprised.

    I’ve been thinking about this issue lately. Not segregation specifically but about how the long-history of American politics and society is seemingly that no one wants to give up the ghost ever and learn to compromise or when to throw in the towel. There are too many opportunities for veto points and grandstanding.

    You have Cliven Bundy in Nevada sprouting a lot of nonsense and being joined by snippers on the freeway in support. You have a small-town mayor from a town who agrees with a murdering anti-Semite and manages to come up against murder but also says that the US has a “false economy” or something like that because some corporations are run by Jews. You have the Republican Party trying to dismantle no-fault divorce after it has been around in U.S. society for nearly 50 years or more:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/04/14/republicans_against_no_fault_divorce_gop_politicians_push_for_waiting_periods.html

    It seems like we have a large section of the population that completely and absolutely rejects all forms of progress and modernity and will do all in their power to stop modernity. Sadly in some parts of the country they are more successful than others. There are still lots of people who remember Jim Crow and other prejudicial policies in the U.S. and remember them fondly. Now they are trying to bring it in through the back door so it is around after they are gone.

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    • Its not a uniquely American phenomenon. The golden age myth is a very virulent one and its rather easy to find people in every country that don’t want to give up the past and compromise with modernity if you look enough. In Europe, you have all those national conservative parties like the FN in France or Jobbik in Hungary that harken back to non-existing mystic days where everybody was of the same ethnicity and practiced the same religion and customs. In Japan, more than a few people still look fondly back at the early Showa period. Some Muslims dream of the perfect theocratic Caliphate uniting all Muslims. The world is a messy, complicating, maddening, and confusing place. Lots of people don’t like that.

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  3. Were the non-segregated schools doing a better job of teach students? Or did they just look better in the statistical measures because non-dropout students were required to attend them?

    To put it differently: Are there students in the now-majority-black schools who drop out that would not have dropped out while the forced integration measures were in place?

    Please try to show this with actual data rather than just saying “whites are all racists, therefore obviously removing forced integration caused all the problems”.

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    • Yeah, because “whites are all racist” is exactly what I said. Word for word.

      Before you tell me why Hannah-Jones article is so terribly wrong, you might try reading it first. I know you haven’t read it, because it talks about this issue rather extensively.

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      • ” it talks about this issue rather extensively.”

        There’s one paragraph that says “studies have shown”, and that’s all the discussion there is of the issue.

        The *closest* the article comes to discussing it is pointing out that funding is generally determined by things like enrollment and attendance, and these are directly correlated to the number of white students (and Asian ones, but that’s really not a factor in the American Southeast.)

        …which is just another way of saying “we need white kids in the school because their success makes our statistics look better”.

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  4. My post will annoy and piss a lot of people off. That is intentional.

    This is a perfect example of “democracy”.

    Oh, do we like democracy when it gets us what we want/prefer and not like it when we don’t? Too bad. You think this is just a southern thing? It’s not.

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      • How is that relevant to what Damon is saying? Do you believe that this does not reflect the preferences of voters?

        Sure, it represents the preferences of voters, in one sense. It’s terribly easy to present a political solution that’s a suboptimal Nash Equilibrium that you can sell to a majority of voters.

        That’s why we have a republic, you know, to help alleviate the tyranny of the masses and all.

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      • @damon

        It is relevant because we do not live in an absolute democracy. There are times when majority rule matters and there are times when constitutional principals matter more than majority desire.

        The United States Constitution, Federal Government, State Constitutions, and State Governments have various laws that protects the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Examples: The First Amendment, The Fourteenth Amendment (Due Process and Equal Protection clauses), The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Unruh Civil Rights Act and others.

        The old Jim Crow standard of separate but equal was anything but. Segregated schools lead to schools for African-Americans and other minorities that were overcrwoded, underbudgeted, under supplied, understaffed, etc.

        No one is going to be in the majority one hundred percent of the time. We are also always going to all have issues where we want to be protected from the tyranny of the majority. The trick towards compassion and decency and compromise is to realize when and why others might want protection from the tyranny of the majority and not just for your own causes and issues.

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      • Yup, democracy has problems. But where do you go with that? Is it just a quick throw away line in the face of problem to avoid talking about the problem and potential solutions? That isn’t all that impressive. If this is the world we live in, with all its flaws, then how do we live in it? What do we do when confronted with problems?

        As a sidenote those groups that spend a lot time complaining about democracy bites do tend to overlap with those groups that don’t’ seem to have much success getting what they want in a democracy. We could draw a few possible conclusions from that.

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    • This doesn’t piss me off, though I do agree with Patrick and think his point is fairly significant in situations such as this.

      Also, I agree that this isn’t just a “South” thing, and although she reports on the South, Hannah-Jones says it’s a national problem. That’s why in my post, I identified it as a US issue, not a Southern issue.

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      • It’s becoming a problem in the South again because that’s where the court orders mandating desegregation are being thrown out at high rates. It’s been a problem in other parts of the country for some time, because there were no court orders or they weren’t (or couldn’t be, e.g. because white flight was so complete) enforced.

        But watching it happen in real time in the South is incredibly disturbing, because the basic cause is that white parents do not want their children in schools with minority enrollment over a certain percentage, and will either move or work to change the zoning in order to make sure that they don’t. The Tuscaloosa case in the article is the worst I’ve ever seen though: white kids who can see the 99% black school from their home being zoned for other schools further away. That is insane.

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      • white parents do not want their children in schools with minority enrollment over a certain percentage,

        Although it may not be directly relevant if the issue is drawing of school district boundaries, Tom Schelling’s tipping point/segregation model is lurking here.

        For those who don’t know, Schelling demonstrated that even a very mild preference for living among one’s own type, without real antipathy to other types, and with a willingness to have some considerable percentage of that other type as neighbors, can lead to near total segregation. An explanation, with an interactive model you can play with, is found here.

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    • So, here was my point. I’ve made it other places on this forum too…I will use an example.

      When someone thinks smoking is bad and the gov’t passes a law against smoking, the view of the anti-smoker is “democracy has spoken”. When that anti smoker sees that some gun control law that he supports fails to pass, it’s a “failure of democracy”. Sorry, can’t have it both ways. Either the system works as intended or it doesn’t.

      Don’t like that fact that most people are tribal and don’t like to be around other folks that aren’t similar in either: race/income/culture/whatever? Tough. That’s how it is until we evolve more. This was covered up a bit by the various school busing laws and such, but those of this mindset just fled to the suburbs or paid to have their kids in private school. Now, when the laws that enforced desegregation are weakened, the example in the OP comes about. The point is, those who don’t want to live around those that aren’t like themselves will do what they have to to make that so. Call it “consumer choice”.

      and Saul
      Democracy/Republic. Yadda yadda. Whatever. We’ve long since moved away from either and the constitution is just a scrap of paper that is disregarded when convenient.


      “then how do we live in it? What do we do when confronted with problems?” I have no good recommendations, as it pertains to this issue, other than “that’s the way it is”. I don’t consider it something that can be directly changed with laws or “education”. People will have to grow to accept it, but given that it seems to be rooted deeply into people’s DNA, I think it’ll take a while.

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      • Laws and Ed can’t solve everything. But they have solved some problems and pushed us in a good direction. There are no perfect answers. Sometimes Gov/Free Market/Education/ etc are the proper and good tool and sometimes they aren’t.

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      • Oh yeah people will see education they don’t like as propaganda. But then again doing nothing is making a value statement. There is no choice that doesn’t push some value or lead to some outcome. I think its better to admit where we are trying to go and what our preferred policies will lead to.

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      • Democracy/Republic. Yadda yadda. Whatever. We’ve long since moved away from either and the constitution is just a scrap of paper that is disregarded when convenient.

        Eh, you can make that argument I suppose, but then there’s not much point in engaging in public policy discussions at all.

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      • I’ll happily engage in public policy discussions when those that have allowed this situation to develop, fix it. I didn’t create it, or contribute to it, and I bear no responsibility to fix it.

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      • I’ll happily engage in public policy discussions when those that have allowed this situation to develop, fix it. I didn’t create it, or contribute to it, and I bear no responsibility to fix it.

        That seems to be a set of principles which allows you to do nothing, forever, always.

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      • I don’t clean up after another’s mess. If I’m ASKED to fix it, I will, but odds are, the asker isn’t going to like my fix. No one’s been willing to agree to my terms, so, they can lie in the bed they made.

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  5. I haven’t yet read the article, but I wonder to what extent forced integration was a suboptimal solution to institutional racism in schools. There are many downsides to forced integration (and it’s close relative bussing), some ideological and some methodological. And there exists some evidence that some populations of students of color do better in more homogenous environments.

    I’m lax to use the word “natural segregation”, because even neighborhood schools that are largely homogenous as a function of the demographics of the neighborhoods are often that way because of unnatural systems of racism and oppression. But I sometimes wonder why the primary solution to underfunded and poorly staffed schools which “just so happen” to be populated primarily by students of color is integration. The cynic in me thinks it is because it is the only way to get the white power structure to care. The slightly-less-cynical cynic in me thinks it is because of kumbuya-style liberalism that thinks a Benneton ad will cure what ails the world.

    Part of this view is informed by my experiences as a student teacher in Sudbury, Massachusetts, a wealthy, almost exclusively white (94%) suburb of Boston with a fantastic public education system. They participated in the MetCo program, which meant that students of color from Boston were eligible to be bussed 20 miles out to Sudbury schools. And while the program theoretically made efforts to ensure these students were well-integrated into the culture and community of the school, my experience told me otherwise. These students stood out like sore thumbs and not just because of their race. The school made no effort that I saw to account for the vast differences that existed between the Sudbury kids and the Boston kids. So while the quality of education in the strictest sense of that word was surely better than what they would have received elsewhere, there were great costs: long bus rides each way; outsider status in their own school building; disconnect from their local peers; and more. And there was a collateral effect as well: school officials referred to all students of color as “MetCo kids”, even those who were local to Sudbury.

    Was the net outcome for these kids positive or negative? It is really hard for me to say. It might even be an unanswerable question. But it does seem worth asking if forced integration is the only means by which we can address disparities between primarily white schools and schools serving predominantly populations of color.

    Note: This should not be read as any sort of defense of what is happening down south and elsewhere. I highly doubt the people making these decision are doing so in an effort to better address the issue that integration purports to address.

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    • The official policy under Jim Crow was that public facilities for blacks and whites were supposed to be equally funded. We know that didn’t happen because a lot of whites weren’t going to let their tax dollars fund education and other services for African-Americans. The only way it seems you can get white people to decently fund schools for African-Americans is to ensure that there are a decent amount of white people there.

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    • We seem to have a halfway working system in pittsburgh. Schools that nobody wants to go to (various reasons, from mismanagement to sex-segregation), or that people hate, get merged into other schools. Then you spin off new schools as needed.

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  6. where to begin.

    Mandate #1
    Live and let live.

    Mandate #2
    No rent seeking.

    The Feds pushed national agendas that violated both mandates. The experiment failed, now the locals have to unwind it. The Feds never should have tried, its in the local mindset and local cultures that true integration occurs or doesn’t.

    Kim pointed out the bigger problem these kids will face: poverty. Love lost in the color of skin is not the same as love lost for a decent life.

    The piece has an air of partisanship that is leaned heavily on one direction. Not good.

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    • Poverty’s one thing, but people actively trying to keep you impoverished is another.
      And that goes on in places. Debt-based slavery (prisons) is luckily getting some scrutiny these days, but that was also a fad in the South relatively recently.

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  7. This seems to be a very good piece of journalism. I only say seems, because I have no way right now of independently verifying the narrative being presented. Even if it is completely accurate though; we should remember that even very good journalism is limited in what it can tell us. It’s limited because it portrays a narrow perspective that, while informative, isn’t always useful in pointing out the appropriate policy response.

    In this case we are getting primarily a narrative of black and white, which tells us something but not everything. It is possible that by adding other dimensions, you would get a slightly different perspective. Right now we have a story of a community where black and white were separated and blacks languished in inferior conditions. For a while, the federal government forced integration and the situation of blacks improved. Now, federal enforcement has waned and the condition of the black community is regressing pre-Civil Rights era conditions.

    What happens to the narrative if you add the dimension of intra-ethnic differences? So, pre-Civil Rights you had a system where low-achieving and high-achieving blacks were kept separate from all whites in inferior conditions, which kept all blacks achieving below their potential. Integration gave way to a situation in which high-achieving blacks were able to hit their potential and form their own high-achieving black communities that are separate from low-achieving black communities. This marginalizes low-achieving blacks even further, away from whites and away from middle class blacks.

    Further, if the second version is the more accurate one, the sort of legacy civil rights interventions that progressives tend to like won’t actually make the situation better and, in fact, only hasten the marginalization of the part of the population that is worse off. This is not a critique of the civil rights era. It is only a suggestion that today’s problems might need something more than yesterday’s ideology and yesterday’s interventions.

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    • jr,
      most progressives are in favor of a more income/wealth based affirmative action (this includes blacks, who seem to take the position of “we know you guys hate this because you see it as Just For Us” well, if we make it for You Too, then you won’t want to end it so badly — and it does help! (plus, folks are well familiar with immigrant Africans taking up spots originally intended for African-Americans)). We might want to quibble over “how much” race ought to tilt things, but I think it’s safe to say that rednecks ought to be getting a bit of help on the whole “going to college” front.

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  8. : “Ultimately, the progressive status quo was unable to accomplish what it set out to do and the conservative status quo began to reassert itself, so… libertarians are to blame.”

    With all due respect (and with you there is indeed much due), I’m confused. Who, exactly, is saying that libertarians are to blame for — well, I’m not sure exactly, so let’s just say anything related to either the Atlantic article or my OP? I’m certainly not suggesting that.

    It seems like you rushed to say I made a straw man, and now that people are arguing as I suggested they would, you’ve answered with one of your own.

    Or am I missing something? (Since it’s you, I might well be. You are not a sloppy thinker.)

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    • I believe he was referring to the subthread, and specifically to comments by Herb. And to be fair to JR, I have no idea what Herb was getting at. I do think that, clearly, this is the sort of solution that libertarians would prefer both to the pre-integration status quo and the progressive solution, since both of those involved more government involvement, but it’s clearly not the libertarian ideal.

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    • Come on, . You can read what’s said above. If you can’t make the connections from what has already been written, I probably can’t say anything to make it more clear.

      , your comments belie a desire to stick it to libertarians that is stronger than your desire to actually solve the problem at hand. If that’s the game that you want to play, fine. As someone who isn’t particularly interested in the team sports aspect of politics, I don’t have much of a desire to join you.

      I will say this. What libertarians tend to have is a fairly tautological model of the world in which discrimination without government mandate creates an unstable equilibrium and, therefore, doesn’t need the hand of activist government to eradicate it; it only needs government to stop intervening on behalf of the racists. It’s not the best model, but it’s also not the worst. You can argue that it doesn’t do enough to combat harm, but it also doesn’t do harm, which is often the best course of action that you can take. Is this one of those cases? I honestly don’t know, so I won’t pretend to have all the answers.

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      • Dude, I mentioned libertarians once, in this subthread, in response to Tod. If I were being honest, I would say that on this issue and any like it, libertarianism is at best irrelevant. I don’t care about it at all.

        But if you think I’m playing a team game, feel free to show me where. As it is, your contribution has been much more team oriented from where I’m sitting.

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      • I know Chris from way back on Jason Kuznicki’s old libertarian blog Positive Liberty.* He’s been hanging out amicably with us libertarians for years, and while he’s definitely not one of us, he’s not a hater or a troll. He’ll argue, but you can trust him to be fair and honest. Despite his evil beliefs, and the fact I’ve never actually met him, I consider him a friend.

        P.S., I’ve appreciated your contributions since you’ve stumbled into the joint. I like the thoughtful way you write, and your ability to express concepts with great clarity.
        ___________
        *A confusing name, but it promoted a positive view of negative liberty.

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      • I’m not accusing of trolling or hating. I just think that people, myself included, can get a little too involved in critiquing ideological bundles without stopping to consider the discrete set of ideas within those bundles. In general, I don’t think that libertarians have the best answers on race issues, but I do think that there are very important libertarian ideas that ought to be part of whatever the right answer on race is.

        If I seem bristly about this, I am actually not at all. It has been a particularly frustrating day at work, however.

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      • My evil politics are actually pretty irrelevant here, too, because they offer no practical alternative solution within the current system for a situation like this. Which is why I don’t have any team-based skin in this game. Now, if we were playing basketball…

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      • Thanks for the (non) clarification. If you were responding to something I said, your response is a total non-sequitur.

        chris

        I apologize for starting the libertarian thing. It apparently triggered a bunch of confusion and some defensive crouching.

        I only said libertarians would be comfortable making an argument I’ve heard libertarians make many times before, an argument criticized in this very post. I even provided a Rand Paul quote supporting just how comfortable they can be making that argument.

        That was read as “blaming libertarians for our racist country” or something.

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      • j r

        That’s cool. I just wanted to clarify that as evil as he is (a Kentucky fan, for god’s sake, and ocassionally willing to defend the state of Texas), he’s one of the good guys, and libertarian leaning folk can be assured he’ll talk fairly and honestly with them.

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  9. Isn’t it strange that a smallish city in Alabama rates all this anguish and hand-wringing while nearly all the large cities in the Northeast and Midwest have much worse segregation? How much longer are we going to be the whipping boy for the rest of the country?

    We’ll never make progress by shifting blame. No sir, the solution is for each individual to own up to his/her own fears, guilts, hatreds, etc. and simply turn to beauty and love. A lot of folks are simply not going to ever be scholarly, and there is no reason why they should. Becoming a yuppie suburbanite is not a goal for them. They are due the exact respect as those bound for universities, perhaps even more, for they have compensating strengths. Remember that every person alive is the culmination of a long line of survivors.

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    • As someone who lives in the South (North Georgia), I am forced to admit that, while the South has actually made up a lot of ground in removing prejudice, a lot of that was due to *Federal law*. Claiming to be better than other places because we’re been on probation is not a very useful claim to make.(1)

      A lot of hearts and minds have been changed over the years here, but you know whose didn’t change?

      The old white people who actually run the place. The people born in the 60s, and who came of political age in the 80s under Reaganism. What I guess would be called ‘stage two racism’, when pushback against the laws against racism started in earnest.

      And their entire life has been seething anger at the government telling them racism is not acceptable. The people who still run around bashing hippies.

      And now that the courts don’t care, they can spring into action.

      The joke is that most of the kids affected by this would honestly be baffled if someone explained this was what was going on. *They’re* not the racists. Hell, their *parents* aren’t the racists, not most of them them. It’s the *grandparents*. (And the people running for elected office that pander to them.)

      1) Although what is useful to point out is that it is not just the South, and has *never* been just the South. In a weird, twisted way, I think the Robert’s Count was sorta right with that. Although non-stupid outcome would have been something like ‘Legislatures cannot use civil right violations from older than twenty years the next time they put burdens on states.’, which would have the added features of getting states that have cleaned up their act out from under it (Without having to go through a process) and perhaps making people understand that it happens other places, too, and *they* need to be covered.

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  10. Granted I haven’t read all the comments, but in all of this, has anyone thought to address the method by which they are discriminating?

    I say it is long past time we craft a Constitutional Amendment outlawing gerrymandering, or allowing elected bodies any say or influence in the drawing of district lines of any sort. Seriously, such lines should be drawn by a non-partisan group (perhaps chosen like a jury), or even better, drawn by a program like ArcGIS using geographical and voting population data, with no other demographics allowed.

    Elected officials have consistently shown they can not be trusted with the responsibility to determine political districts.

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