Toying With Voluntary Segregation

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What's missing from the coverage of the Supreme Court ruling on school desegregation is a discussion of why race is still a factor in our largely segregated public schools. After all, it's been a half century since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. Shouldn't a half century of proactive integration strategy have diversified public schools by now?

Yes, but the fact is it has not.

In Thursday's "Parents Involved in Community Schools" decision, the justices ruled that use of race as a factor to diversify public school student bodies is largely unconstitutional.

In the early '90s, while Chief Justice William Rehnquist led the court, he wrote the majority opinion in a case that ended court-ordered busing to desegregate schools. He said schools remained segregated because families chose to live in self-segregated neighborhoods (African-Americans in African-American neighborhoods, Latinos in Latino neighborhoods and so on). Gone were the days of de jure or legal discrimination. This self-imposed discrimination, Rehnquist believed, no longer required schools to provide busing to overcome voluntary segregation in housing. And so the vestiges of court-mandated busing were dismantled.

Now the Supreme Court has taken this logic a step further and said schools can't even use race as a factor toward the worthy goal of diversifying, even in say, magnet schools. So the question is, are we as a society going to sit idly by and allow voluntarily segregated neighborhoods to produce involuntarily segregated schools?

Up next: Does colorblind mean discriminatory?