We never really wanted this

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones — who is half-black — tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that when it comes to school segregation, separate is never truly equal:

“There’s never been a moment in the history of this country where black people who have been isolated from white people have gotten the same resources,” Hannah-Jones says. “They often don’t have the same level of instruction. They often don’t have strong principals. They often don’t have the same technology.”

I believe a quick look at the data demonstrates that many majority-black schools get more resources than the average school. And yet they don’t have the same level of instruction. It’s as if the two aren’t strongly linked.

Still, when it was time for Hannah-Jones’ daughter, Najya, to attend kindergarten, the journalist chose the public school near their home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, even though its students were almost all poor and black or Latino. Hannah-Jones later wrote about that decision in The New York Times Magazine.

For Hannah-Jones, sending Najya to the neighborhood school was a moral issue. “It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices,” she says. “As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.”

If good students lifted up poor students’ performance, this might make sense, but we see far more of the opposite: disruptive students can bring down an otherwise good school.

Hannah-Jones adds that her daughter is thriving at school. “I know she’s learning a lot,” she says. “I think it is making her a good citizen. … It is teaching her that children who have less resources than her are not any less intelligent than her or not any less worthy than her.”

Taking resources away doesn’t make students any less intelligent, and giving them resources doesn’t make them any more intelligent — but poor families aren’t simply rich families without resources. The “children who have less [sic] resources” are generally less intelligent, by any reasonable metric.

On why she chose to send her young daughter to the public school in her neighborhood

One of the things I’ve done in my work is kind of show the hypocrisy of progressive people who say they believe in inequality, but when it comes to their individual choices about where they’re going to live and where they’re going to send their children, they make very different decisions, and I just didn’t want to do that. So for me it was a matter of needing to live my values, and not being someone who contributed to the inequality that I write about.

She’s completely right about the hypocrisy of progressive parents, of course. All of our hip, progressive friends and colleagues moved to the “right” suburbs with the “best” schools — and tend to be remarkably proud of their choice of a public school.

On the importance of having students from different races and income levels in the public schools

The original mission of public schools … is this understanding that no matter where you come from, you will go into the doors of a school and every child will receive the same education.

I find it odd that we would want every child to receive the same education, since children aren’t identical and don’t want or need the same things.

On the history of school desegregation since the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education

Brown v. Board happens, and the way that we’re taught it or the myth about it is immediately our nation repented and went into an integrated future together. That’s not what happened. There was massive resistance, and we don’t see real desegregation occurring in this country until 1964, and really most rapidly from 1968 on. …

Then you see pretty rapid desegregation particularly in the South, but then that changes, and in 1988 we start to go backwards. So we reach kind of the peak of schools integrating, of black students attending majority white schools at the highest rates that they ever have in the country, and then we start to see school districts re-segregating, which means black students are starting to go to schools that are more and more segregated. And school districts that had had a degree of integration are losing that integration. …

I can’t imagine why.

On American resistance to desegregating schools and housing

When I started what I kind of call the segregation beat about five years ago … I think we had stopped talking about this as a problem. If you look at No Child Left Behind, which comes out of the Bush administration, that was all about giving up on integration in schools and just saying, “We’re going to make these poor black and Latino schools equal to white schools by testing and accountability.”

If we assume the problem with poor black and Latino schools is the schools, then testing and accountability make sense, right?

So no one was discussing integration anymore. I think it’s because … we never really wanted this. … It’s always had to be forced, and as soon as … our elected officials and our courts lost the will to force it, most white Americans were just fine with that. …

One of the things that I really try to do with my work is show how racial segregation and racial inequality was intentionally created with a ton of resources. From the federal government, to the state, to city governments, to private citizens, we put so much effort into creating this segregation and inequality, and we’re willing to put almost no effort in fixing it, and that’s the problem.

I’m having trouble seeing how it took “a ton of resources” to create the situation that came naturally, once “our elected officials and our courts lost the will to force it.”


  1. Candide III says:

    Let’s revisit this in a few years. Breivik wrote:

    Speaking of stubborn multiculturalists. I remember a story from the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten for approx. 6 months ago very good (I find, unfortunately, not this).

    I can remember that it was a school in the City Center East, in a class where there was only a single Norwegian boy again (the majority were Muslims). Most others had taken their children out of school. The mother of this boy was, of course, a hardcore Marxist who died and life was to prove that multiculturalism and Islam will be functioning. She refused to move to another area or take him out of school. Her son would prove once and for all that Islamophobes on documents and other cultural conservatives were wrong and that it WAS possible.

    The poor boy was harassed for several years until satisfactory one day he began to self harm. He told his marxistmor that he wanted to die. Only after this the mother realized that she had been wrong. The result was that they moved to another neighborhood and changing schools.

    So one should not underestimate the fact how “hardcore” some of these kulturmarxistene is. I’m sure some of these actually had sacrificed their own children just to prove this sick Marxist theory.

  2. TweetWivMe says:

    By coincidence I listened to the Gladwell podcast on Brown vs Board of Education today.


    It promoted the view that black schools were great before, and that integration of children before integration of teachers/admins was a mistake.

    Seems like a narrative shift is going on.

  3. Kentucky Headhunter says:

    So race-hustler journalist refuses to admit that most blacks self-segregate by choice and not due to systemic racism, because that would basically end her scam/career. Goes so far as to sacrifice her own child’s education/well-being in service to the narrative. Sad.

  4. Kirk says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb, and probably be termed a racist for saying this, but I don’t think that the pedagogical techniques that work with, say, Ashkenazi Jewry are really appropriate to another ethnic/genetic heritage that doesn’t include a lengthy period of selection for introspective detail-oriented academics. Face facts, people–Cultures are related to genetics, one way or another: Either the genetics influence the culture, or the culture influences the genes. Either way, what is appropriate for someone whose ancestors were selected for lengthy periods of contemplating the Talmud is not likely to be appropriate for someone whose ancestral background was more in tune with pursuing game in a near-Stone Age environment on the African savanna.

    I think it’s possible to educate anyone to take part in modern society; what isn’t possible is to do it the same way for everyone, in lockstep with every classroom in the country. We’ve got a widely differentiated population, and where a Chinese-American kid may be coming from a family background where generations studied for the Confucian exams, and has the background in terms of genetically-influenced characteristics that were selected for in that environment, the African-American kid he sits next to may not have the necessary features in the genes to be able to do the same things in the same sort of classroom.

    I’m not saying the African-American kid is stupid, or somehow a lesser human being, I’m saying he or she may not have the genetic tool kit to be able to effectively benefit from the same sort of pedagogy the Chinese-American or Jewish kid has. Thus, the instructional technique needs to be adjusted, and brought into appropriate alignment with the things that African-American kid needs in order to achieve educational success.

    The sort of thing I’m talking about would be to shift from doing a bunch of rote, repetitive abstract work on paper using textbooks to doing things in a more active mode, like taking the kids out into the real world to see how things like algebra and general academics benefit them. One key thing I noticed as a trainer in the Army was that while I was often able to pull off the classic “Because…” justification for getting my white troops to pay attention and learn something, with a lot of my black guys, I had to actually show and justify it before they’d knuckle down and actually learn something new. It’s not that they’re any less intelligent, either–It’s just that there is something of a different quality to how blacks view the world, based on culture and I presume genetics. Hands-on training works better with a significant fraction of the black community that I’ve worked with, and that doesn’t mean they’re stupid, either. It’s just that they learn differently, and trying to pound the square peg into the round hole is a waste of time. I think we’d be a hell of a lot more successful if we quit trying to make people fit into the educational system, and instead, fitted the educational system to the people.

  5. Adar says:

    I am totally clueless as to what this woman is trying to say. She says that segregated schools are unfair and unequal because they lack resources.

    But she says her own daughter is going to a self-segregated school and is “thriving”.

    So what is her point?

  6. Sam J. says:

    “…Hannah-Jones adds that her daughter is thriving at school. “I know she’s learning a lot,”…”

    Vicious woman is torturing her child. Until it gets life-threatening the kid will probably stay quiet, because she knows how much her mother wants her there. I pity her.

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