But these were not archival photographs of the White Southerners of the 1960s. This took place last year in Howard County, Maryland, a suburban community that prides itself on racial integration. It was there that progressive white parents mobilized with other groups to try to stop a school integration plan that would allow poor students, who were mostly black and brown, to richer, whiter schools.
Willie Flowers, the father of two eighth-grade boys in Howard County schools, was impressed by the ferocity of the resistance. He says it was a reaction to the kind of racism he found attending white-collar schools in the south.
“I’m from Alabama and I thought I was escaping this kind of nonsense,” says Flowers, who is president of the NAACP’s Maryland State Conference. “There have been cases of Confederate flags at high school football games, racial epitaphs.”
However, any attack on entrenched racism will become one of the most formidable barriers to real change: good whites.
Many are such dangerous opponents of racial progress because their goals cannot see racism coming and often neither. Researchers say these people are often motivated by an unconscious racism that makes them uncomfortable admitting and disguising their racial hostility with seemingly innocuous terms like “neighborhood schools” and “property values.”
No real change can take place until whites are willing to give up some power and resources wherever they live, says Matthew Delmont, author of “Why Work Failed: The Race, the Media, and the Resistance national school desegregation “.
“The sign that change is real versus symbolic is that people are making real changes to things close to their own gardens, such as supporting more affordable housing in their neighborhood or programs that integrate schools,” says Delmont, a professor of history at Dartmouth College.
But, he says, many whites have never been willing to take that step.
“Broadly speaking, white Americans and other people with socioeconomic status must be willing to give up something in order to have a more just and equitable society.”
Why integrated schools evoke so much resistance
The black signs of black life are shown on the grass of the whitest people today. But statistics suggest that these lives don’t matter as much if more blacks start sending their children to school with white children.
Public schools in America remain highly segregated, not just in the south, but in many blue states and progressive communities.
He said less than 13% of white students attend a school where most students are black, while about 70% of black children attend these schools.
It would be a rough story to attribute all this failure to the White Southerners. Bus resistance in places like Boston in the early 1970s was as vicious as in the South. But northern opponents of school integration used terms such as “search forcing” to disguise their racial hostility.
“In general, they would say they weren’t racists, and they’re not like the racists in the south and that in fact they were liberals and they voted for Democrats,” Delmont says. “But when they got to their own backyard, they had a different perspective.”
It would be unfair to say that all progressive white parents who are reunited in changing the racial makeup of their children’s public schools are hypocrites. Part of their behavior is also motivated by something called “opportunity grabbing,” Delmont says.
“Once white parents have access to a school district that they consider works well for their children, they try their best to create barriers around them to keep resources to themselves and their very small number of peers. “He says.
Flowers says he is still angry at the racial tensions of the exposed episode. He was also impressed by the resistance because Howard County includes Columbia, one of the first planned integrated communities in the country. He also says some of the opponents to the school plan were blacks.
“The surprise was the negative response, the vitriol, the resistance not only of white families but also of other ethnicities,” he says. “They all came out strongly against the idea of having their families in schools with African American children.”
Why American cities remain largely segregated
There is also a long tradition of white resistance to racially integrated housing. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. he said some of the people with the most hatred he found were white residents in Chicago who resisted an open housing campaign he led in 1966. During a march, King was hit in the head with a rock. It’s one of the few times he showed fear to the camera.
This kind of resistance has evaporated today. Many white people accept much more people of color in their neighborhoods. But if there are too many racial minorities, many whites start renting mobile vans. This phenomenon is so common that sociologists have a name for it: a racial “reversal point”.
In a message posted on Twitter, Trump told “all the people who live their dream of suburban living will no longer be bothered or hurt financially by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood.”
American suburbs are becoming more diverse, as evidenced by Democratic roads with suburban voters.
They both cited two “surprising facts” about housing segregation:
“Middle-class blacks live in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates than low-income whites; and African-American households headed by a person with a high school diploma have less wealth, on average, than white households headed by one person. who does not have a high school diploma.
So how does housing segregation persist decades after laws like the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned renting, buying, and financing housing based on race, religion, national origin, or gender?
Two words: zoning laws.
According to researchers and activists, political leaders can prevent blacks and browns from moving to whiter, more affluent communities through exclusive zoning laws that prevent the construction of low-income housing or apartments.
This clash between a white landlord’s policy and the zoning laws that make his racial isolation possible may lead to some strange insights, says Omar Wasow, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University. Wasow says housing policy is “zero zero” for racial equality because it shapes access to good schools and jobs, as well as the ability to build wealth.
There are people in Princeton City who will have a Black Lives Matter sign on their front lawn and a sign that says ‘we love our Muslim neighbors,’ but they are opposed to changing zoning policies that they say has of having an area and a half per house, ”he says.
“That means, ‘We love our Muslim neighbors, as long as they’re millionaires.'”
How is the real change
There have been many examples of progressive white Americans who are willing to give up something for racial progress that goes beyond symbolism.
Viola Liuzzo, a Detroit White Housewife, gave her life for voting rights to blacks when she was assassinated by racists during the Selma campaign in 1965. Whites voted for programs like Obamacare that disproportionately taxed to the rich to help black and brown people. Some white families insist on sending their children to racially diverse public schools and do their best to worship in integrated communities and live in mestizo neighborhoods.
There are also white civic, business, and civic leaders who are pushing for profound racial change.
The benefit of school desegregation is also well documented, says Delmont, a Dartmouth teacher. He says the dissemination of educational resources through a subway area has been shown to improve this community. He says there is also a selfish reason White parents should not be afraid of racially integrated schools.
“You’re not training your kids to function as adults in the world, as it currently looks if they don’t experience integration before joining the staff,” he says.
Some do it by blaming lower-class whites for continued racism. They adopt a “white middle class goodness” lifestyle, saying the right things about race and avoiding actions of racial hostility, but they use that kindness as a mechanism to divert responsibility and protect their white state.
Sullivan says many progressive whites are unaware of this deviation. They do not intend to intentionally exclude people of color from their schools or public neighborhoods. In his book, he says many of these attempts to protect his state “work unconsciously, but they exist and are effective.” Sullivan, according to one of the most popular deviation strategies, is to call for racial reconciliation.
“Reconciliation is that white people don’t feel uncomfortable,” he says. “They wouldn’t characterize it that way, but they just want to not feel uncomfortable and it makes them not feel okay if there are black people who are angry.”
While Americans are now debating how to move forward, Sullivan says he prefers his white colleagues to focus on another word.
“I want to hear about justice,” he says. I want to hear about things that restore destroyed communities. I don’t want to hear about how we whites feel comfortable again. ”
Justice, however, often means relinquishing some power or sharing resources. This is a step that many good white Americans have not wanted to take. When was the last time you heard someone talk openly about pursuing integration? This racial optimism almost sounds picturesque, like a relic from another era.
Anything is better than racial hostility so long ago.
But there is an uncomfortable truth that many blacks and browns know from their bitter experience:
Unless whites are willing to give up something to change the racial makeup where they live and send their children to school, there will be no real racial awakening in the United States.