Taking a Step Backwards to Segregation

I admit, I wasn’t the best student in Social Studies, but I seem to remember something about segregation and more specifically the desegregation of schools. I remember reading and hearing about the Civil Rights movement and how leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and ordinary people turned extraordinary like Rosa Parks risk their lives, and in MLK’s instance gave his life, in an attempt to create equality for all races.

Of course, the United States still has instances of inequality, but the opportunities for minorities and women have improved. We have made steps, and some would even argue – strides forward. So, when I read an article on CNN about a school district in Omaha that is attempting to essentially segregate their school district, I was floored.

“There is no intent to create segregation,” said Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, the Legislature’s only black senator and a longtime critic of the school system.

He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students for integration and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school.

Chambers said the schools attended largely by minorities lack the resources and quality teachers provided others in the district. He said the black students he represents in north Omaha would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.

I can understand Senator Chamber’s frustration if he feels that the minority students in Omaha are not receiving an adequate or equal education. I would be upset as well, but is separating the school system into sections and racially segregated districts really the best way to improve students’ education? Is taking a step backwards into history really the best choice?

How are we ever supposed to infuse tolerance and understanding of different cultures and ethnic groups into our citizens if we are never given the opportunity to interact with each other in a somewhat structured and contained environment?

As I continued my research on this topic, I was even more disturbed to read a recent report on the website for KETV, an Omaha news station, which reports, “Omaha Sens. Ron Raikes and Ernie Chambers proposed the amendment to make OPS into three districts, and the Legislature approved it 33-6.” Only six people in the Legislature thought supporting an amendment that would essentially segregate schools was the wrong thing to do.I don’t understand. How can we effectively educate our students for the 21st century if we don’t allow them to see as much of the world and its cultures as we can before they graduate? How can we allow our policymakers to step backwards into history and resurrect such a discriminatory policy as segregation when so many fought so hard to lay it to rest?

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