"Segregation" then: Long ago and far away, Alabama's governor, George Corley Wallace, "stood in the schoolhouse door."
The date was June 11, 1963. The school in question was the University of Alabama, which was about to admit its first two African-American students.
Governor Wallace took his stand. The leading authority on the event describes it thusly:
The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door took place at Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. George Wallace, the Democratic Governor of Alabama, in a symbolic attempt to keep his inaugural promise of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" and stop the desegregation of schools, stood at the door of the auditorium to try to block the entry of two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood.According to this leading authority, Wallace was staging a symbolic attempt to keep a campaign promise. He was trying to stop the desegregation of his state's schools.
Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door—but under the direction of President Kennedy, agents of the Alabama National Guard told him to stand aside. Eventually, the governor did, and the university's "whites only" practice finally came to an end.
This was "desegregation" of an especially clear-cut kind. Traditionally, states like Alabama had operated "dual school systems," from their public elementary schools right on through their colleges and universities.
Black kids went to school with black kids, full and complete total stop. White kids went to school with whites kids. No exceptions needed to apply.
That was the basic structure of "segregation" then. This was, of course, "de jure" segregation, segregation by law.
In the 1955 Brown decision, the Supreme Court had ruled this practice unconstitutional. In a unanimous vote, the Court had ruled that state-mandated segregation produced schools which were inherently unequal, for the following reason:
"To separate [black children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone."The reasoning there was deeply humane, though also perhaps a bit shaky. But so the Court had ruled, more than seven years before Wallace's 1963 stand.
Later that year, in the fall of 1963, despite its governor's heroic stand, the state of Alabama finally got around to integrating some public elementary schools. Last September, the Alabama News Center recalled what had occurred:
ALABAMA NEWS CENTER (9/9/18): On this day 55 years ago, four African-American children walked into four public schools operated by the Huntsville Board of Education. It became the first public school system in Alabama to integrate. Weeks earlier, a federal judge ordered the board to enroll 6-year-old Sonnie Hereford IV–son of the local civil rights activist Dr. Sonnie Hereford III–at Fifth Avenue School...[On Monday, Sept. 9, 1963,] Sonnie Hereford IV became the first black child enrolled in a formerly all-white public school in Alabama. Later that day, David Piggee was enrolled at Terry Heights Elementary, John Anthony Brewton at East Clinton Elementary, and Veronica Pearson at Rison Junior High.Four kids, attending four different schools, including a 6-year-old! Given the brutal history to which we all remain tied, this was "desegregation," 1963-style. This was "desegregation" then!
We've still neglected to discuss Governor Wallace's speech. We refer to the speech, cited above, in which he made that unfortunate statement about his desire to perpetuate segregation.
The speech had been delivered at the start of that fateful year. Years later, Wallace said he regretted his statement that day. But as described by the leading authority, this is what he said:
George Wallace's 1963 Inaugural Address was delivered January 14, 1963, following his election as Governor of Alabama. Wallace at this time in his career was an ardent segregationist, and as Governor he challenged the attempts of the federal government to enforce laws prohibiting racial segregation in Alabama's public schools and other institutions. The speech is most famous for the phrase "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever", which became a rallying cry for those opposed to integration and the Civil Rights Movement."Segregation forever!" It's one of the most unfortunate speeches in the nation's history. But that's the way these events were unfolding in one southern state back then.
That was "desegregation" then. Now we're engaged in a great tribal war—and in some quarters, school "segregation" is back on the nation's front lines. For example, on page A1 of today's New York Times, the famous newspaper is at it again, advancing its heroic attempt to "desegregate" New York City's public schools.
The report is 1800 words long; it's festooned with quite a few photos and graphics. Within the past few weeks, the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been turned into a national punchline. But in this one area, he's still seen, at least by the Times, as one of the nation's savants:
SHAPIRO (6/4/19): [I]n a school system that remains severely racially segregated, many black and Hispanic students have been left in struggling middle schools that sometimes do not even notify them that the elite [public high] schools [in New York City] exist.On the front page of the New York Times, Gotham's public schools remain "severely racially segregated." Luckily, de Blasio has sparked a fight over how to "integrate" these schools.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to scrap the decades-old admissions test has sparked an intense backlash and a renewed fight over how to integrate the city’s deeply divided school system.
That would be "desegregation" today! But we're getting ahead of our story.
Today, we're involved in a great tribal war. It sometimes seems to us that, as part of that ongoing war, our own liberal tribe may have a type of investment in maintaining the "feel" of Wallace's grisly speech.
We love to talk about "segregated schools," pretending, as we do, that we're bravely engaged in a great civil war—a great war which finds our floundering tribe on the side of the nation's past heroes.
For ourselves, we don't see the situation that way. In our view, we aren't engaged in any such war, and our self-impressed, largely uncaring tribe isn't hugely heroic.
In our view, our tribe is inclined to posture about racially imbalanced schools, much as Wallace once postured about those which were legally segregated.
As we posture, the actual needs of low-income and minority kids are rarely discussed in an intelligent way—are rarely discussed at all.
On our corporate cable channel, big stars entertain us with Mafia jokes. These fatuous, overpaid corporate vessels don't discuss the interests and needs of the nation's black kids at all.
In our view, the actual needs of low-income and minority kids are rarely discussed in an intelligent manner. We'd certainly say that that's the case in this morning's Times report, which fails to address the most basic questions about the situations it portrays.
Over the next few weeks, we'll examine the way the New York Times and the "associate professor left" approach the question of modern-day "segregated schools"—the question of "segregation" now.
In what way do we have "segregated schools" at this point in time at all? To what extent does the ongoing use of that term make any real sense? Is the use of that historically fraught term actually helpful? Or does it distract us from the actual questions which need to be discussed?
We'll examine such questions in our reports, even as we explore the question of why a state like the state of New York has so many racially imbalanced public schools.
"Segregation forever," Governor Wallace once said. Elements of our failing liberal tribe are inclined to issue a somewhat similar cry.
Wallace was talking about the practice of segregation; we seem to be in love with the word. We seem to want to maintain the word "segregation" forever. We seem to like the way it feels when certain cries leave our lips.
We've described the "segregated schools" of George Wallace's day. According to the professoriate left, what is a "segregated school" today?
To answer that question, we'll have to take a trip to UCLA. The Civil Rights Project at that university has largely defined "segregation" today, at least as the term is used within our own tribe. And uh-oh! That influential institute has defined public school "segregation" is an almost comical way.
If we accept the Civil Rights Project definition, we are, in effect, demanding "segregation" forever! Indeed, this story would almost be funny—if it weren't for all the kids whose needs we ignore as we make our heroic, modern-day stand in our modern schoolhouse door.
Tomorrow: What is "segregation" today? On page 32, we're finally told