Random Knowledge: How Segregated Are Urban American Schools?

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Bob Somerby is always going on about this, so I thought I’d show it to everyone in simple chart form. Among America’s 20 biggest urban public school districts, here are the percentage of students who are white:

Outside of Florida and North Carolina, there are virtually no big urban school districts that are more than 20 percent white. This is partly because white families long ago fled to the suburbs or because they send their kids to private schools in the city. Either way, the result is the same: the vast majority of the student body is black and Hispanic.

Why does this matter? Because it means that desegregation of our cities’ public schools is all but impossible. If you did a perfect job of desegregation in Los Angeles, each school would have 9 percent white kids. In a more likely scenario, a few schools would have a quarter or a third white kids, and the rest would have about 1-2 percent. There’s just no realistic way to make genuine, broad-based desegregation happen.

This is apropos of nothing in particular. It’s just a reminder that if we want to improve education for children of color, then we have to improve education for children of color. Full stop. As nice as desegregation would be, we have to accept the world the way it is and figure out how to do a good job with classrooms that are all but completely black, Hispanic, and Asian. So what’s the answer?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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