I began reading A Call To Conscience with the intention of gleaning wisdom to advance The Orant's Lenten “fast from racism”. In this particular speech Dr. King addressed what he saw as the pivotal issues of racial injustice effecting citizens in the North. Because I am under the impression that racial injustice is no longer legally sanctioned in the United States, I believe these issues to be particularly relevant to today's struggle for racial and social justice.
“Now in the North it’s different in that it [racism] doesn’t have the legal sanction that it has in the South. But it has its subtle and hidden forms and it exists in three areas: in the area of employment discrimination, in the area of housing discrimination, and in the area of de facto segregation in the public schools. And we must come to see that de facto segregation in the North is just as injurious as the actual segregation in the South.” - Dr. King in Detroit 1963
To review, our goal of reading this book is to better recognize and eliminate racism in ourselves. Unless you are an employer or landlord, King's first two issues don't effect you directly. If you are an employer or landlord I admonish you to be just and equitable in your practices, avoiding favoritism of any kind (James 2:9). However the issue of public school segregation is an issue that effects every parent and child in my country.
As a parent, student or taxpayer you are connected to this issue. You and I contribute money each year to a system of education that is tailor made to fit certain demographics, but leaves others out in the cold. A Harvard University study found that schools were more segregated in 2006 than they were in 1991 (read more here at NPR.org). The SAT test, although it is revised regularly, consistently awards black students with lower grades than white students (JBHE.com).
Although the system has real problems, I am convinced that the real solution is to invest in it. The public schools of our communities need our full support, full attention, and full funding. I am convinced that when privileged parents keep their kids out of public schools, they do a disservice to both their children and their communities. If you're a parent who is going to demand excellence from teachers and administration then I want your kid in a public school. If you're a parent that holds your child to a standard of academic excellence then I want your kid in a public school. If you're a parent who cares passionately that your child be raised in the Christian faith then I want your kid in a public school.
If you have the resources to send your children to a private school, or the time to invest in schooling them at home, then you have time and resources that could benefit your kid as they learn side by side with people different from themselves. I attended a parochial school, which means it was a faith-based school that you had to pay in order to go to. Out of my class of thirty five students I had only two black classmates. Although I do not believe the curriculum at my school deliberately encouraged racism, the absence of diversity created an ideal environment for racist ideas to develop and thrive. I labored under some very prejudiced attitudes until my senior year of high school. I believe the de facto segregation represented in my school contributed to those attitudes.
De facto segregation is a real and living remnant of racism in the United States. It exists in virtually every community, and I believe it will continue to do so without widespread intentional intervention.