Posts Tagged ‘de facto segregation’

De Facto Segregation in Education

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

As a college student, I have become invested in combining study with my personal life, to the best of my ability. I was a Spanish and History double-major as an undergraduate, but because I attended Calvin College, a liberal arts school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I was also able to count several sociology classes toward my degree. These classes focused on dissecting and explaining the reality of American society. For example, schools today are more segregated than they were immediately following the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This was not the legal version typical under Jim Crow, which was finally dismantled in the 1960s. Rather, it was de facto segregation- not enforced by law, but a reality brought about by social structures. Despite attempts to integrate, factors such as continued discrimination, the generational accumulation of wealth, and investment in schools based on property tax contributed to the current state of segregation.

The weathered, wooden sign delineating the boundaries of my neighborhood.


I understood the history and the facts behind the reality of segregated schools. But what was more, I had seen this segregation while I was growing up in Sacramento, California. We moved  to Gardenland/Northgate, a neighborhood just north of downtown Sacramento, when I was seven. I was homeschooled, but as I entered sixth grade, my parents decided to supplement my home education with a co-op program at a charter school in Natomas, the new suburbs being developed north of our neighborhood. I attended Natomas Charter School from sixth through eighth grade as a home-schooler, but upon my debut as I high-schooler, we decided that I should enter full-time school. This decision gave rise to another question: which school should I attend? Grant High, which was only a few blocks from my house, was in one of the “worst” school districts in Sacramento. Because it was under-resourced, Grant had struggled to meet state standards for years. My parents were torn- should they send me to the failing school around the corner, or ship me off to the suburbs for a potentially richer academic experience?

So probably for my own good, my parents contributed to segregation, albeit in a micro-sense. They sent me to the suburban school, rather than our local high school. They made the choice that parents who have the opportunity to do so usually make. Investing in our neighborhood school wasn’t worth the risk of me becoming beaten down by the public school system. It wasn’t worth me losing my love for learning, and it wasn’t worth negatively impacting my chances for success.

The de facto segregation of schools, which is tied up in the segregation of neighborhoods, of opportunity, of American society in the most general sense, decides the future for most of America’s youth. I will most likely succeed, when other young people who are just as talented and dedicated as I will might never have the chance to go to college. Who decided that I would have access to better chances than my neighbor, not by virtue of my own effort, but merely due to generational privilege? Is it my duty to level the playing field that has been uneven since before I was born?

To this day, I’m not sure if I agree with their decision or if I would have done differently. The self-discipline I developed in high school allowed me to thrive in college. I was an honors student who read every page I was assigned, and I decided I wanted to pursue critical race and gender theory and research.  I will begin graduate studies at New York University in a few weeks. I have continued the trend begun by my parents in terms of education: seeking out the most prestigious (and expensive) option, one that will be most likely to guarantee my success. The internal turmoil continues: although I have chosen academia, I don’t want to lose focus. My hope has always been to do justice, not just when it easy, but also when it requires personal sacrifice.

The research to which I have dedicated myself applies abstract theory to practical issues. I study phenomenons like modern de facto segregation not only out of my own interest, but because of its overwhelming relevance in American society today.  I hope my research can join the current body of evidence of social injustice and assist in making society a bit more just.

By Anna Lindner

Anna is a Campus Clipper intern and a first-year student in NYU’s Media, Culture, and Communication program. Her research interests include critical race and gender theory and their resultant intersectionality. When she’s not studying, Anna enjoys visiting friends, catching up on TV shows, and lifting weights. For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC, from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.

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