When we, especially us in the South, get bogged down in political and emotional debates about whether or not we should have diversity in our public schools . . .
Whether we should be segregated or integrated? . . .
Whether we should have high concentrations of poverty in certain schools?. . .
Whether we should have high concentrations of one race or another in certain schools?
Maybe we should be reminded of the dark and ugly past, the road we’ve come from and not want to return to in any form or fashion.I want you to listen to the final words of the General Counsel of the NAACP, Thurgood Marshal. Close your eyes as he closed his argument before the Supreme Court, 56 years ago. He was arguing for our children, who walked by their neighborhood schools to go to the segregated colored schools across town. He was arguing against the failed philosophy that had been the law of the land since 1896. The Separate but Equal policy. Marshall spoke of the strangeness of the thinking that under-girded the policy of segregation . . . of anti-diversity.
“Those same kids in Virginia and South Carolina—and I have seen them do
it—they play in the streets together, they play on their farms together,
they go down the road together, they separate to go to school, they come out
of school and play ball together. They have to be separated in school.
There is some magic to it. You can have them voting together, you can have
them not restricted because of law in the houses they live in. You can have
them going to the same state university and the same college, but if they go
to elementary and high school, the world will fall apart.
So whichever way it is done, the only way this Court can decide this case in
opposition to our position, is that there must be some reason which gives
the state the right to make a classification that they can make in regard to
nothing else in regard to Negroes, and we submit the only way to arrive at
this decision is to find that for some reason Negroes are inferior to all
other human beings.
Nobody will stand in the Court and urge that. And in order to arrive at the
decision that they want us to arrive at, there would have to be some
recognition of a reason why of all of the multitudinous groups of people in
this country you have to single out Negroes and give them this separate treatment. We submit, that this Court should make it clear that that is not what our Constitution stands for.”
The NAACP won that argument. The old policy of segregated schools was outlawed in 1954.Now, here we are in Wake County 55 years later. 55 years of blood, and sweat, and the tears of children and their parents—walking through screaming mobs, having human excrement and spit and venomous words thrown at us.
Knowing our past, what we ought to be saying, especially in regards to our children whether by race or class, we demand in our public schools diversity and integration. Diversity today. Diversity tomorrow. Diversity forever.
The framing of the current political debate by the opponents of diversity is to ask whether we want neighborhood schools and busing is wrong. It’s a trick. It’s a ploy.
First, the use of code words like ‘neighborhood schools’ and ‘busing’ is the old “N-word” politics cleaned up with euphemisms taken directly out of Richard Nixon’s southern strategy play book. Stir up old racial fears.
I would have more respect of the opponents of diversity if they would just openly say they want segregated schools. They don’t want their children around certain other children based on race or class. Put it out there straight, rather than using code words.
The whole world is becoming more diverse. From the Presidency of the United States to the daily streets we walk on. What we need is not to be afraid of God’s beautiful and diverse world. We need to embrace even more diversity.
Secondly, their notion of neighborhood school is too narrow. Wake County is our neighborhood. Not just a few houses in your immediate area. The fact is, all of our financial capital and human capital benefits the entire county and no one block or one set of children means more than any other block or children.
Thirdly, what we ought to be talking about is constitutional schools. The federal constitution says that separate but equal is unconstitutional. The state constitution says that every child has a right to a sound education. What we should be doing. . . rather than fighting the diversity policy . . . is standing together, making an even deeper commitment that we are to eliminating high poverty, racially identified schools and packing all poor children into the most under-funded, most segregated, most children from poor families, schools.You and I here tonight know that when children are packed into the most underfunded, most segregated, most high poverty schools it is nothing but a form of institutionalized child abuse. It is noble for the current Wake County policy to promote diversity and to stand against high poverty schools. It
is a nightmare for John Tedesco and the rest of his anti-diversity slate to hijack the school board to move away from this noble goal.
The truth is the people who use the ploy of neighborhood schools and busing as a wedge issue to divide us. Their vision is too small. Their compassion is too limited. Their purpose is too narrow. Their heart is too selfish. And their motives are too rooted in a past which all of America—including the old slave states that tried to leave America to maintain slavery—want to leave behind.
Racial resegregation and high poverty-concentration in our schools not only separates our children, it separates our budgets, our buildings, our basic needs for developing an educational environment conducive to every child’s development.
The truth of the matter is what is at stake Tuesday, Election Day, November 3rd, and beyond is whether we want an American school system here in Wake County. An American schools system will follow the American Constitution. And the North Carolina Constitution.
Do we want to abandon the Constitutions and the limited progress for a return to resegregated high poverty schools, which discriminate and undermine commitment to fundamental high quality education?
I know this election cycle has been confusing but don’t let the confusion keep you from making a full commitment to save our Children, save our school, and save our diversity. We called this meeting tonight to ask you to do something.
1. Be at the polls on Tuesday, and vote against the anti-diversity and
Resegragation policies. Let is be known that there is a constituency that will not go away quietly.
2. Be a part of building every branch of the NAACP in this county to
at least 500 members so we can have an army of activists--black, white,
and brown-- who will counter this regressive policy onslaught against our
children. Some have said the election will be over Tuesday. But we in the
civil rights community have never based our principles or agenda on one
election. Even when we've been in the minority and seemly didn't have the
votes we have changed America and changed this State. Our energy. . .our
engagement. . . and our efforts will not end on Tuesday no matter what the
outcome of the election.
3. Be prepared to litigate. This is a call we have made all across
NC, we are invigorated. The NAACP is ready for a fresh battle to demand in every county a constitutional education. Armed with the federal constitutional, state constitutional, and the Civil Rights Act, we will challenge every policy that we believe is a violation of the promise of a constitutional education.
4. We will file a Title VI complaint in another county soon. Our Legal Redress Chair has already been in contact of our Nation Legal Staff about the possibility to engage right here in Wake County.
5. Be at every school board meeting. It is time for Wake County to Wake up. We cannot for the sake of our children allow a few to drag our policies to a place that under minds educational opportunity for all.
So for those who thought in a off year election they could win a few seats and swing back the pendulum of history with the backwards anti-diversity, segregated policies of the past, let me be clear. Instead of killing our spirits you have sparked a new beginning. You have
Caused us to sound a new rallying cry.
Forced us black, white, and brown who believe in freedom, justice and equality to get fired up and ready to go all over again.