Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Desegregation: Where Do We Go From Here?

In the wake of my posts criticising desegregation and calling for the repeal of civil rights laws, commenter Justin reasonably asked what kind of end-state I am hoping to achieve. In truth, my expectations are modest.

As I responded in the comments and have written in other posts, the middle class and up, in the name of finding "safe neighborhoods" in "good school districts", have in fact purchased significant segregation for ourselves, not only from blacks but from lower-class whites as well. And we have done so without having to confront in the incongruity between our private choices and our public commitment to "diversity" and "tolerance". It's difficult to image us joining a political coalition to grant to proles by policy that for which we had to pay so dearly.

Similarly, while the political salience of re-segregation increases with the relative size of the black population within a jurisdiction, so too does the political difficulty in achieving it. Whatever their misgivings about desegregation, it is also difficult to imagine minority communities acquiescing to a policy that brings them no benefit and imposes psychic costs.

So I am not really expecting a revolution in re-segregation, even with the repeal of civil rights laws. Now that I think about it, the primary short-term effect of a return to an originalist interpretation of the 14th Amendment would be license to municipalities like Louisville and Seattle to undertake their integrationist busing schemes. But while I have great sympathy for whites who suffer the nonsense foisted on them by elites, the solution should not be a race to the federal courts. The solution should be to depose the elites and elect new ones that will govern on their behalf.

But let me step away from the political difficulties and address the policy issue. Assuming that all things were both legally and politically realizable, I would put forth a couple of principles. First, I would say that no white public school student should be forced into minority status in her own country. One of the most heartbreaking stories of Race and Education was of the town (whose name I would tell you if I hadn't already returned the book to the library) with a little white school of 500 students and a larger black school of some 3000 students that were forced to merge by judicial decree. Unsurprisingly, this destroyed the community, as all the whites with the means to flee did so. My policy would be to allow the white school to set a quota on black students, and the black school to set a quota on white students. This wouldn't necessarily mean absolute segregation. Actually, my preference would be academic screening of all black applicants to the white school such that their mean aptitude did not fall significantly behind the mean aptitude of the white students. For every black student X number of IQ points above the white average, we could admit one X number of IQ points below the white average. This would keep the black students from clustering at the bottom of the class and likely screen for other socially desirable traits.

But would this be acceptable to the community? During the desegregation era, the support for segregation in some communities was so strong that many whites abandoned the public school at the first black student who put her foot through the door. Emotions ran high back then, and I would like to think that this represented anger at the loss of local control rather than metaphysical hatred of minorities. But I could be wrong! Which leads me to the second principle: social stability. It should be the responsibility of local politicians to know the limits of local tolerance and stay within them. Yes, that means catering to racism of which they do not approve. Nor should they approve of it. But we've seen the alternative: communities reach a "tipping point" as whites flee, leaving the community darker, which causes more whites to flee, which leave the community darker yet, and so on. This tipping point will vary with locale. Φ's lily-white little school district quite happily graduates one or two blacks a year. My daughter's previous school was stable at 2% black and 5% Hispanic. It depends.

I will admit that little of this is politically likely. "Diversity" has become the new civil religion to which whites are devoted at least as much as minorities. It is true that as long as the Supreme Court is willing to grant to whites the equal protection of the civil rights laws, then those laws will run counter to the goals of the civil rights establishment, at least in our current political environment. But to self-consciously turn from it would be tantamount to mass apostasy. It's fun to think about it though.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Desegregating schools, in and of themselves, would be almost impossible and certainly unfair. The fact is, segregated schools were built on the back of segregated neighborhoods.

I think a modest first step would be to stop all busing schemes and racially gerimandered school boundary lines. If schools went back to being strictly neighborhood schools, natural segregation would result, since most neighborhoods are voluntarily segregated.

Charter schools allow a further refinement in segregation, since they allow whites to send their kids to largely white schools, even when living in minority neighborhoods.