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Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2003 / 2 Adar I, 5763

Julia Gorin

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The integration blues | After spending decades trying to get white society to include them, black people finally realized they don't really like hanging around white people after all.

So indicates a new report by The Civil Right Project at Harvard University. According to the study, public schools have gradually re-segregated. Analyzing enrollments in the 2000-2001 school year, the report found that black and Latino students are more likely to go to a school where the majority of students are black and Latino, leaving many schools "white."

Simultaneously, a similar development has been uncovered in the military, where front-line troops are disproportionately white--not black, as has been the common misconception about blacks in the armed forces. In fact, black recruits gravitate toward non-combat posts which teach marketable skills for civilian employment. While in the Army they make up only 10.6% of enlisted combat infantrymen, in the most occupationally hazardous slots such as Army commandos and Navy and Air Force fighter pilots, they comprise fewer than five percent of the force. Minorities and their rights warriors used to complain about racism and segregation in the military. When in response the military was desegregated, the complaint morphed into one of minorities being killed at disproportionate rates, and now that minorities choose non-combat positions, the racial divide on the front lines is blamed on lingering racism.

Interestingly, schools in the South remain far more integrated than those in the Northeast and on the West Coast. There, 31% of black students go to majority white schools, as compared to 13.6% of black students and 13.3% of Hispanic students who attend majority white schools in New York state--which was found to have the most segregated schools.

An AP article citing the report attributes the re-segregation in the Northeast and West Coast to "socio-economic divisions between city and suburb," creating "a different kind of segregation."

These developments warrant paraphrasing. The social engineers of the North who, after winning the fight for Southern desegregation, went on to push for forced busing while sending their own kids to private schools, today live in the seat of segregation. The reasons they cite are economical--precisely the argument they famously scoff at when told that societal segregation has more to do with class than with race.

So let's say both sides are finally in agreement on that front, and the "problem" is one of economics. Didn't George W. Bush and the Republicans devise a solution? It came in the form of school vouchers, which would afford students the opportunity to go to the school of their choice. Who opposed school vouchers but the very camp of self-professed integrationists? So how "different" is this "kind of segregation?" And why is it ok to force busing but not to let someone choose a school?

Just like the ACLU lawyer prototype who would easily discourage or even prohibit his little girl from dating outside her race, just like the disingenuous claim that this is the case only because one doesn't want one's kids or grandkids to grow up under any disadvantage as a result of "society's racism," so is citing economics--when there is a ready solution--disingenuous.

At the same time, scanning any school cafeteria, one can easily observe the heavy social stratification that exists even within a single school. The clique-forming happens hard and fast. And just as often as not, the most exclusive groups are formed by the kids of wealthy, high-minded sorts--the kind who keep the civil rights battle alive, perpetuating the otherwise non-existent race war.

So could it be that maybe, just maybe, people naturally gravitate toward their own? Or maybe minorities simply prefer honest whites. And they can't find them in New York or Los Angeles.

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JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a journalist and comedienne residing in Manhattan. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2003, Julia Gorin