Cultural Segregation through Education

by Driss Camara

Although Brown v. Board of Education decided more than six decades ago that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, children today are more racially and socioeconomically isolated than they have been in decades. As mentioned by George Wallace in 1963 “Segregation today. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever”. While segregation is different from the past, it’s still around in our society in ways we don’t even realize. You can see it in schools, communities, and prisons. Critics often attribute that regression in part to the failure of policymakers to take action; however, change must come from us first. We should not rely on government too much to create change, especially when it comes to education. Educational issues should be handled by the local government, but more importantly by the local people because no one understands these issues better than they do.

Segregation in Education is one of the direst issues in the education system. By attempting to solve it, a lot of other issues are touched upon at the same time. For example, economic inequality. These two issues are very much interconnected since the richest people send their kids to the richest schools leaving the people who have less money send their kids to the poorest schools. Private and public schools are very different in terms of resources. Most minority groups attend public schools which touches upon the issue of discrimination and equal opportunity. Segregation in schools takes away the concept of equal opportunity for everyone, which in turn increases the gap between the rich and the poor, and again adds to the segregation. As a result, it’s an endless cycle that has to be broken at the roots of it which is segregation itself. We need to implement programs that give as much opportunities to rich white people as poor minorities.

While “schools should be models for the expression of human rights and respect for cultural and group differences”, segregation is a violation of human rights and school is usually a place of prejudice.  According to a study last year, 43% of Latinos and 38% of blacks go to schools where less than 10% of their peers are white. This lack of diversity in schools brings about a lot of ignorance. However, segregation affects us in even more personal ways. It impacts the American culture in a larger sense-deeply rooted in the everyday places that we frequent. This includes restaurants, bars, and even religious places. Even New York Times food critic Sam Sifton weighed in on the issue, stating: "New Yorkers are accustomed to diversity on sidewalks and subways, in jury pools and in line at the bank. But in our restaurants, as in our churches and nightclubs, life is often more monochromatic." (Allen)

Segregation in the 21st century is not just about being legally and physically separated, but about a cultural separation that still feels like it divides more than it binds.