Welcome to Tuscaloosa’s schools!


Nobody cares about this: Last week, we recommended the lengthy report in The Atlantic about the Tuscaloosa City schools—more specifically, about the “return of segregation” to those schools over the past fifteen years.

The lengthy report, “Segregation Now...,”
was written by Nikole Hannah-Jones of ProPublica. In our view, the report is fascinating in various ways, though we don’t always mean that as a compliment.

As noted, Hannah-Jones’ report is quite lengthy. In our view, it seems to cover some parts of this story well.

We’d say it covers other parts of this story very poorly. On the brighter side, it does so in ways which help us see the shortcomings in the way public schools tend to get covered, even or perhaps especially by liberals and progressives.

After Hannah-Jones’ piece appeared, Ta-Nehisi Coates offered a fairly short post about it. This is Coates’ nugget summary of the lengthy piece:
COATES (4/18/14): Hannah-Jones profiles the schools in Tuscaloosa where business leaders are alarmed to see their school system becoming more and more black, as white parents choose to send their kids to private (nearly) all-white academies or heavily white schools outside the city. It's worth noting that the school at the center of Hannah-Jones' reporting—Central High School—was not a bad school. On the contrary, it was renowned for its football team as well its debate team.

But this did very little to slow the flight of white parents out of the district. (This is beyond the scope of Hannah-Jones's story, but I'd be very interested to hear more about the history of housing policy in the town.) Faced with the prospect of losing all, or most of their white families, Tuscaloosa effectively resegregated its schools.
Is that true? Did Tuscaloosa “effectively resegregate its schools?”

We think Coates is offering a reasonable summary of the feel of Hannah-Jones’ piece, though he overstates what she literally says. On balance, though, we’d have to reject that account of what has happened.

Did Tuscaloosa “effectively resegregate its schools?” In the next week or so, we’ll attempt to answer that question, and we’ll offer information about the schools in question. For today, we’ll offer one chunk of information—the student enrollment by race in Tuscaloosa City’s three high schools.

Hannah-Jones focuses on high schools in her piece. The Tuscaloosa City school system has three.

Here they are, with student enrollment by race, according to greatschools.org. Overall, Tuscaloosa City’s student population was 22 percent white as of 2007, according to Hannah-Jones:
Tuscaloosa City high schools:
Central High:
765 students
100 percent black

Bryant High:
944 students
75 percent black, 19 percent white

Northridge High:
1226 students
61 percent black, 35 percent white
Have those schools been “resegregated” by the Tuscaloosa board? Everybody gets to decide how to use that word! For now, let’s add some new information:

Tuscaloosa City is part of Tuscaloosa County, but it has its own school system. Outside the city limits, the Tuscaloosa County School System runs six additional high schools.

Here they are with their demographics. Again, we’re relying on great schools.org for our data, largely because the state of Alabama provides rather poor reporting:
Tuscaloosa County high schools:
Brookwood High: 91 percent white, 8 percent black
Hillcrest High: 57 percent white, 41 percent black
Holt High: 44 percent white, 51 percent black
Northside High: 96 percent white, 4 percent black
Sipsey Valley High: 73 percent white, 25 percent black
Tuscaloosa County High: 60 percent white, 36 percent black
Those nine high schools serve the students of Tuscaloosa County, which includes Tuscaloosa City. As noted, three of the schools are run by the Tuscaloosa City schools; six are run by the Tuscaloosa County school system.

Question: Have those schools been “effectively resegregated,” even the three in Tuscaloosa City? We’d call that statement a stretch.

When Tuscaloosa’s schools were legally segregated, no one went to school with kids from the other so-called race. Overall, it’s no longer anything like that.

We think it’s time for the liberal world to ask ourselves why we keep overstating such matters in ways which seem to please us so much. We’ll do more posts on Tuscaloosa in the coming days, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses in Hannah-Jones’ reporting.

We strongly recommend Hannah-Jones’ report, though only if you care about black kids, which very few liberals seem to have the time to do. Perhaps we’re too busy chasing NBA owners around, while boo-hoo-hooing about how hard the millionaire players have had it.

Boo-hoo-hoo for the poor millionaires! But does anybody care about schools, or about the poor children within them?


  1. We talk a good game about education, but we do almost nothing to foster it.

    Education has become a luxury for the elite.

  2. I am confused. Bob covered this previously in the brilliant "Ways To Divide" series as the way to divide by region, in short, don't pick on the poor South.

    Now it's being used to show how much Bob cares about black kids? By showing its OK to resegregate some schools if you resegregate other schools in the same county?

    Is this another part to Way To Divide? Or is Bob tired of defending poor, beset-upon Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling after so many days of doing so distracted him from those poor kids in Tuscaloosa.

    1. "The term “apartheid school” is of course designed to excite. That said, Hannah-Jones notes, in a fleeting aside, that most of the nation’s “apartheid schools” are in the Northeast and Midwest.

      We’ll guess that many readers of her piece didn’t completely ingest that fact. Various aspects of her piece may give us the feeling that we are considering an artifact of the South."

      That was BOB's description of the article a week ago. It used terms "designed to excite." Truths about non southern locations were only in "fleeting asides" and BOB "guessed"
      many readers did not ingest those truths because "various aspects" "MAY give us certain "feelings"
      BOB wants to imply.

      And BOB warns you against propaganda all the time.


    2. Obviously Mr. James, you were not one of the elite. Sorry our good game talk did not foster what you needed. Better luck next life.

    3. Tell Somerby. He can't even read the own numbers he provides as he asks:

      "Question: Have those schools been “effectively resegregated,” even the three in Tuscaloosa City? We’d call that statement a stretch."

      Uh, yes Bob. They've been resegregated.

    4. Only two of 6 county schools have a preponderance of one race or another (one largely white, the other largely black). Only one of 3 city schools is not mixed. How is that resegregation?

      The term segregation refers to restriction of enrollment on the basis of race. Back in the day, they called about de facto segregation, to indicate that the lopsided enrollments were not the result of deliberate enrollment restricted. Here, they seem to have dropped the term de facto. In the process, they imply that achieving racial imbalance is deliberate or a goal. That is patently false.

      So, Somerby asks why language is being used in this misleading way. It is not because the schools have been resegregated -- they have not been in any statistical sense. Why is overheated racially inflammatory language being used to talk about patterns of enrollment?

  3. If nobody cared why did the Atlantic publich the article?

  4. Note the ambiguity of the word "Tuscaloosa." When someone writes, "Tuscaloosa effectively resegregated its schools", that might that schools were resegregated due to actions taken by
    1. Tuscaloosa city
    2. Tuscaloosa County
    3. Voluntary actions by the parents of white students in Tuscaloosa cit or county

    1. We don’t think he explained the data real well. We regard some of the data as suspect on the conceptual front.

  5. Not the best intelligence at the time. The best PR narrative at the time.

    In the email, Rhodes specifically draws attention to the anti-Islam Internet video, without distinguishing whether the Benghazi attack was different from protests elsewhere.

    The email lists the following two goals, among others:

    "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."

    "To reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges."

    1. Ahhh, Benghazi. That's the easiest story of the year. The State Department asked for more money to protect Americans overseas in embassies (and in this case CIA outposts). Congress instead cut their funding. The deaths of these Americans in Benghazi can directly be laid at the feet of those making believe the richest country in the history of mankind was broke, just to score political points.


  6. While it's true a school with both black and white kids is not segregated, without control over the ratios there can be problems. There is such a school in Chicago with ethnicity quotas and the student body is a lot less cliquey on racial lines than other ones. In other words, a school can be desegregated but still not encourage racial mixing.

  7. With overheated language like this, Tuscaloosa will be banned from the NBA for life.

  8. I thought it was a great piece. She doesn't lay all the possible interpretations out for the reader, but do we need that? I didn't have any problem imagining different scenarios. Sometimes Mr. Somerby's seems to be demanding the writer lead us by the nose and direct us to each and every possible point of the facts presented. I don't feel I need that.

    I actually see both sides of this. I see what the black leaders were trying to do with building new schools and making deals. They tried bussing kids and that eventually failed. They then took a different approach, where they tried building schools in different combinations of district boundaries. Two approaches; the kids go the school or the schools go the kids.

    I see the logic in that. I see that as a genuine effort to deal with a situation.

    1. The point is not that schools are being resegregated. The point is that misleading language is being used to describe the current situation, which does show that most of the schools are mixed while only a few are mostly white or black.

      Somerby is asking why such misleading language is being used. He asks why they are making it appear that Tuscaloosa is still living in the bad old days when the situation is better now.

    2. Right. Out of nine schools, only "a few" are "mostly white or black."

      Nothing to see here. Move along.

    3. Out of nine, 2 are largely black and one is largely white. That means 6 are mixed. Nothing to see there.

      When there is a large black population, you cannot have every school be 50-50. That would require that there be an equal number of white and black students in the area. That cannot happen when one racial group outnumbers the other.

      Nothing to see here, truly.

    4. I guess you have a different definition of "largely" than the rest of the thinking world.

      All three of the high schools in Tuscaloosa city are at least 60 percent black, and one, the high school that is the subject of the story, is 100 percent black.

      Of the six county schools, four are at least 60 percent white with two of those at least 90 percent white.

      Which was what the story was about -- white people have fled the city schools for private schools and public schools in the suburbs.

    5. You do, however, hint at the context that Somerby fails to provide. What is the demographics of Tuscaloosa, city and county?

  9. OMB (There is Nobody but the OTB)

    If anyone wants to get a full grasp of the dementia of this blogger, this piece is a good starting place to take you backward to its source. We may or may not ask you to follow us back in our review of the archives.

    At this point we'll start where we began this journey.

    His opening line is "Nobody cares about this."

    Nobody, of course, except the author from ProPublica who wrote it, the editors at The Atlantic, who published it, the writers of 800 + comments it generated, and the readers of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Bob Somerby who waded through their interpretations of it. We won't do a Nexis search to see if other writers reviewed or excerpted parts of it.

    Oh, and of course, the people in Tuscaloosa.

    Nobody cares. Only BOB.



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