Segregation Revisited: The Racial Education Landscape of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

By Farinde, Abiola A.; Adams, Tempestt et al. | The Western Journal of Black Studies, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Segregation Revisited: The Racial Education Landscape of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools


Farinde, Abiola A., Adams, Tempestt, Lewis, Chance W., The Western Journal of Black Studies


African American students in the United States are more likely today to attend segregated schools than they were a generation ago (Boger & Orfield, 2005). Bouie (2014) notes, as of 2011 more than 40% of Black students were attending schools that had an intensely high minority population of 90% or more. When considering racial segregation, W. E. B. DuBois in his seminal work The Souls of Black Folks (1903) proclaimed, "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line" (p. 9). Though written over one hundred years ago, considering African Americans' progress, both feats and obstacles, many may fervently assert, with just cause, that the problem of the color-line remains constant even in the 21st century. In an effort to further examine and dismantle racial division in education, it is necessary to highlight significant landmarks that address African Americans struggle for equity and social justice in the U.S. Of these landmarks is the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson (1986) ruling. Where Plessy institutionalized "separate but equal," arguing that racial segregation did not violate the 14th Amendment, Brown declared that racial segregation did indeed violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This ruling declared the unconstitutionality of separating students by race in American public schools.

While the Brown case was not the first legislative attempt aimed at thwarting injustices in the schooling experiences of Black students (Milner & Floward, 2004), unlike its predecessors, it endured, having state and national implications through the nullification of de jure segregation (i.e., separation enforced by law). Propelled by Brown, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 followed suit, making it illegal to racially segregate public facilities and employment. Despite these judicial judgments, the problem of the color-line remains persistent and evident through de facto segregation (i.e., segregation by practice). This racial division is largely evident considering the national averages of school segregation where on average a White student is likely to attend a school that is 73% White, leaving a large percentage of students of color, particularly Black students, in "hyper-segregated schools" (Bouie, 2014).

Acknowledged as a victory for the African American community, it was believed that legislative acts such as Brown and the Civil Rights Act would provide increased and more equitable learning opportunities for Black students (Milner & Howard, 2004). Unfortunately decades later, considering the state of many Black students in the American education system, the influx of de facto segregation (Orfield, 2009) alongside disparaging "achievement and opportunity gaps" (Ingersoll, 2004; Jacob, 2007), it is evident that the fight for equity and social justice in American public schools has not yet been achieved. Education research asserts that children from different backgrounds face uneven outcomes in and from school because they do not in fact receive equitable schooling opportunities, treatment and experiences (Wiggan, 2007) which perpetuate their low socioeconomic statuses (i.e., cycle of poverty) and hinders their social and economic mobility (Gurn, 2011).

The purpose of education should be "to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life" (Cazden et al., 1996, p. 60). Unfortunately, across the nation there remains a cloak of oppression, impacting the educational progress of many African American students. According to the 2012 Census, approximately 13% of the entire population identify as Black (US Census Bureau, 2012). In 2011, nearly 10.9 million children, ages five through seventeen, were in families living in poverty, and of this percentage, 39% of these students were Black (Aud et al. …

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