Why my Parents Wouldn’t let me go to a “Black School”
My neighborhood is about 75% black. Growing up as the only white student in my class was noticeable, but didn’t cause any issues for me. In fact my 4th grade brain could never really grasp what the big issue was about integration in school (this was talked about a lot in our neighborhood). Until 5th grade.
I couldn’t help but notice the difference in quality between the two, and looking back now, I think about how separate and unequal the schools were.
Going from being one of 15 white students in a school of almost 700 to being one of 270 white students in a school of 500 was a shock for me. I had never been around so many other white kids my age, let alone white people in general (aside from the occasional family event). So why did my family put this upon 10-year-old me?
My father has been a community leader since before I was born. He is well known as the pastor of a local church as well as a volunteer at our elementary school. What escaped me as a child was the fact that in addition to being a leader, my father was a community activist. I remember at the age of 7 marching in front of the Inglewood Unified School District office on Inglewood avenue holding pickets about contracts that I was too young to understand. But the overlying reason for all the issues in the district was that a primarily black school district in a low income area is not going to have the funding or resources to provide a competitive relationship with schools in whiter areas.
My parents’ first remedy after protest was to request to have me released from the district to attend Overland Avenue Elementary School in the Westwood area of L.A. However, the Inglewood District was bombarded with these petitions and denied most of them. After a process of committing enrollment fraud, I finally attended LAUSD schools until I received my diploma.
The ultimate outcome of this anecdote is this: If my home school district is not equal to the district whose boundaries are mere blocks away from my home, and I am not allowed to attend that nearby district, then my opportunity for an education is separate and unequal.
Additionally, Orfield, Siegel-Hawley, and Kuscera write in Divided We Fail, “…it is reckless to think that we really know how to create and operate ‘separate but equal’ schools on a large scale… [integration] will require serious collaboration between school and housing officials, the enforcement of fair housing law, and the strong commitment of local government.”
I would like to bring up Judge Alfred Gitelson’s Superior Court decision in Crawford v. Board of Education and concur with Gitelson’s decision. However, Gitelson’s decision applies to a single district acting in discriminatory fashion, not one district acting while its counterpart does not.
Perhaps Gitelson’s moment of true wisdom comes from his explanation of separate but unequal schooling:
Since leaving in 2005, I have not set foot in an Inglewood school. Neighbors now talk about sending their kids even farther than I went, to El Segundo and Manhattan Beach. Inequality amongst neighboring schools and districts is rampant and cannot be solved by sending all the students of the “bad school” to better schools. Education inequality can only be remedied when “bad schools” are equitably invested in to bring them to the level of “good schools”
My parents wouldn’t let me go to a black school because its status as a black school meant an underfunded, broken, lower quality school that was not fitting for any student.