Decades of progress toward school desegregation are at risk as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to enter the White House in January.
Biden’s disconcerting obsession with race is a matter of public record. Samples:
— Barack Obama is “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
— “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”
— “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.”
— “Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things.”
— “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”
An exhaustive list of Biden’s racist statements would fill pages. More troubling than his words are his past policies and associations. As a rabid opponent of busing programs to desegregate schools, Biden told the Senate judiciary committee in 1977 why he opposed assertive integration.
“My children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point,” Biden said, as recorded in the congressional transcript.
Biden has recently boasted about his friendships with notorious segregationists, including former Sen. Robert Byrd — the man who started a major chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and served as the organization’s Grand Cyclops.
As president-elect, Biden has made characteristics of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation a central focus in naming nominees for key administrative roles.
Biden does not tell us how former small-town Mayor Pete Buttigieg is best qualified to serve as transportation secretary. Instead, he emphasizes that Buttigieg is openly gay. He talks about nominating the first woman to serve as secretary of the treasury, the first Black to serve as secretary of defense, the first Latino Secretary of Health and Humana Services, etc., etc., etc.
We hope Biden is choosing people for their skills, intelligence, qualifications, and high character. Maybe he is, but all we hear is a tribalistic view of humanity that identifies individuals first and foremost by immutable traits.
Biden’s obsession with race, combined with his long-held concerns about integration, raises enormous concerns about the future of public schools. His likely choice for education secretary only confirms those worries.
Leslie Fenwick, dean emeritus of the School of Education at the historically Black Howard University, tops Biden’s list of potential appointees to head the Department of Education. Fenwick is a leading opponent of charter schools and voucher/scholarship programs that give poor children access to schools historically available only to the children of wealthy parents.
“When you look at the history of these schemes — and I use the word ‘schemes’ purposefully — you find that they are rooted in resistance to the Brown legal decision,” Fenwick said in September.
It is hard to imagine a more bizarre and misleading statement. The ruling in Brown v. Board of Education liberated Black children from all-Black schools so they could choose better-funded traditionally all-white schools. The ruling forms the foundation for the school choice movement of vouchers, scholarships and charters — all of which erode the economic segregation not specifically addressed in Brown.
The “schemes” Fenwick disparages have integrated schools throughout the country and empowered poor parents to choose the schools they deem best for their children.
Data from the 2017-2018 school year tell us Colorado’s charter schools are more diverse than traditional attendance centers. Minorities make up 51% of charter school enrollment and only 45% of traditional enrollment.
Election results and numbers throughout the country tell us minority parents want school choice. Just like wealthy parents, they love their children and want what is best for them.
Forced busing programs failed to sustainably integrate schools. The voluntary use of vouchers, scholarships and charter “schemes” do what busing never could. They create the racially and ethnically diverse environments Biden used to call the “racial jungle.”
Hope and pray Biden’s administration does not reverse decades of progress toward sustainable and voluntary desegregation. Indeed, Mr. Biden, poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as rich kids. Let’s allow them to succeed.
The Gazette Editorial Board
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