Bittersweet good news: When Nikole Hannah-Jones profiled Tuscaloosa’s public schools, she focused on three generations of the James Dent family.
That included D’Leisha Dent, senior class president at Tuscaloosa’s Central High School.
Dent was also homecoming queen this year. She’s a member of the mayor’s youth council; she was a three-time individual state champion in track.
But because of Dent’s low ACT scores, Hannah-Jones said she was barely getting a nibble from the four-year colleges she hoped to attend. Her profile ended on this downbeat note:
HANNAH-JONES (4/16/14): For black students like D’Leisha—the grandchildren of the historic Brown decision—having to play catch-up with their white counterparts is supposed to be a thing of the past. The promise was that students of all colors would be educated side by side, and would advance together into a more integrated, equitable American society. Polls show Americans embracing this promise in the abstract, but that rarely translates into on-the-ground support for integration efforts.As it turns out, that small, historically black college came through. According to the Tuscaloosa News, Dent will be attending Miles College, where she will compete in two sports—track and volleyball.
Late last year, D’Leisha took the ACT for the third time, but her score dropped back to 16. So early on a Saturday in February, she got up quietly, forced a few bites of a muffin into her nervous stomach, and drove once again to the community college where the test is administered. A few weeks later, she got her score: 16 again. She contemplated a fifth attempt, but could see little point.
A few months earlier, D’Leisha had talked about how much she looked forward to meeting people from different cultures at college and sitting in a racially mixed classroom for the first time. But her college hopes are thinner now than she’d expected then. As of this writing, they largely hinge on the tenuous promise of a coach at a small, historically black college outside of Birmingham, who has told her that the school will have a place for her despite her score. No official offer of admission has yet arrived.
In her lengthy report, Hannah-Jones focused on issues of “resegregation.” Dent had always attended all-black schools in Tuscaloosa. According to Hannah-Jones, she looked forward to “meeting people from different cultures at college and sitting in a racially mixed classroom for the first time.”
More than half the students at Miles come from outside Alabama, but the school has very few white students. We’ll bet that Miles has made the right choice in accepting Dent, but Dent still won’t move beyond the classroom separation that was invented so long ago.
In our view, Dent may have missed out on white Alabama. But based on Hannah-Jones’ profile of this superlative kid, a lot of kids in white Alabama have surely missed out on the chance to know her.
For the record, no, it isn’t their fault. And better days lie ahead.