I've been listening to a This American Life podcast on my way to work the last two days and trying not to cry in public. The episode is called "The Problem We All Live With" and it's about the present-day segregation of schools and how we all seem to be ignoring the problem with segregation despite evidence that integration works.
What was most upsetting was hearing white parents speak publicly about integration like it was the worst idea ever, making blatantly racist comments then denying their own racism and bias. Some of the parents were demanding metal detectors and claiming that test scores would drop, that violence and drugs would erupt in the school. No matter how often I hear comments like that, it never ceases to amaze me that people still think that way. What makes someone think like that? Is it how they were raised? Is it just the result of media bias and sensationalized news? Is it politicians who have influenced their beliefs? Is it because of housing segregation and their own segregated schooling that never allowed them the opportunity to befriend a black person? The problem of segregation is so big, so ignored, and so ingrained in our society. How do we even begin to tackle it?
What inspired me most about this story was hearing about the first day of school. The black students were bused over from their failing school district 30 miles away. Some of the parents followed the bus because they feared for their children's safety. When the children pulled up to the school in fear they were surprised to find themselves greeted by cheerleaders welcoming them to their new school. Teachers and students were so horrified by the way the white parents had behaved that they decided to do something positive.
And then, of course, I had to hold back more tears on the train.