A program meant to diversify New York City’s infamously segregated specialized high schools failed to admit representative numbers of black and Hispanic students this school year, figures released last week by district officials show.
The Discovery program, hyped as a desegregation tool for elite schools, mostly benefited Asian students despite the fact that those students already account for a majority of enrollment.
In contrast, black and Hispanic children, who account for about 67 percent …
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In February 1959, Patricia Turner and her brother James Turner, Jr., walked through the front door of the Norview Middle School and into the history books.
They were two of the Norfolk 17, the first Black students to desegregate six Norfolk public schools.
The Turners and the other 15 students made history after months of resistance by the city of Norfolk and the state of Virginia, each refusing to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision five years earlier that segregated public schools were illegal.
During her time at Norview Middle and then Norview High School, Turner, like the 16 other Black students, endured isolation, verbal abuse and taunts inflicted by White students who were venting hatred and anger inspired by a resentful dominant culture resistant to their history-making experience.
In 1963, despite these challenges, Pat Turner would graduate from Norview High School and set herself emotionally to never look back.
She attended business college, became an accountant, married briefly and worked for Norfolk Public Schools for two decades.
Due to an Honorary Doctorate degree awarded by Old Dominion University, “Dr. Turner” is now seeking to secure an “earned” ODU doctorate.
Over the past five years, although she may have succeeded in “erasing” most of the bad memories of long ago, she has managed to secure some emotional and moral closure in a way she could have little predicted.
Today, she regularly joins a group of her White former classmates for lunch at Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant on Shore Drive In Virginia Beach.
As she did when she was in school with them, Turner is the lone Black sitting amidst the remaining White female members of the Norview Senior Class of 1963.
“I sit and I am mostly quiet,” said Turner, who admits she is introverted. “During the lunches, we do not talk about the past all the time. But it has come up.
“I have been able to educate them from the perspective of a member of the Norfolk 17, as they have educated me about what was going on with them back then.”
Turner and the other 16 Black children desegregated those all-White schools during the fall of 1958 by federal law. But rather than admit them, the city closed all of the White schools which were targeted to be desegregated. It was the state law.
While the schools were closed, many of the White high school seniors went to work or the military. The traditional senior year transition to adulthood and college was erased.
Since no White students applied to attend any of the all-Black schools, they remained opened.
“They (the White students at Norview) were told by their parents that we (the Norfolk 17) were trying to take their schools and deny them an education,” Turner said. “So they were punishing us. It was not our fault. Nor was it their fault, it was the city … the politicians which closed the schools.
“I explained to them that we were just 17 little Black kids, trying to get an education” Turner said. “Segregation was illegal. But they did not understand that. Their parents did not explain to them, why and what we were doing, until I explained it all. I also told them about me as a person. Now they know.”
Turner said her interaction with her White classmates started five years ago when plans for the class of 1963’s 50th reunion were being devised. She was approached to join them during the planning session in Nags Head.
“I was so surprised,” Turner recently told the Guide. “Initially I was very leery … afraid. I had never had any contact with them since leaving high school. This is why I had one of my friends accompany me to that first meeting. Then I attended by myself.”
Turner said after 50 years, her classmates had aged, as she did. She had no idea of how they looked back in the day; she never had the chance.
But they knew she was the “Black Girl” who was walking through a sea of White hatred and anger.
“So if they were any of the ones who said or did nasty things to me back then, I could not identify them,” Turner said. “None of them have admitted they did.”
“But there was one. A woman who died recently,” Turner said, “and she would come up…hug me… start crying so hard…she would wet up my clothes. I do not know what was on her heart…to make her feel so bad. But I had to tell some of the other classmates, to tell her that all of the crying and hugging was not necessary. She did stop.”
Turner said because she sought to educate her White classmates and explain to them, her role as a member of the Norfolk, 17, her classmates have made attempts to redeem themselves with small gestures.
Turner explained she was an “outsider” as a Black child attending Norview Middle and High schools. She had no social life.
She also did not interact with the Black students at Ruffner Middle or Booker T. Washington High schools.
So she was a “outsider,” too, from the Black community, as well.
At one of the Norview class reunions, she was made the honorary Homecoming Queen.
Also, at one of the luncheons, her classmates organized a birthday party for her.
“I did not have a normal childhood after I entered Norview Middle School,” Turner said. “I could not join a club, be a cheerleader, have a boyfriend or enjoy lunch time talking to friends. My childhood was stolen. I have reclaimed something from even people who thought I was trying to take something from them. But like them, all I wanted was a good education and to enjoy life.”
Today, only 11 of the Norfolk 17 are still alive. Like the others, Turner despite her efforts to “move on” from her experiences at
Norview Middle and High schools, she is reminded of those experiences.
Over the years she has been reminded often of the chapter she wrote in Norfolk’s and the nation’s history.
Although she believed it, the idea of Pat Turner being an “outsider” in the view of the Black and most of the White community of Norfolk, has been erased long ago, as she is frequently reminded, in word, deed and image.
The spotlight will be even brighter early next year, when Norfolk will observe the 60th anniversary of the Norfolk 17 who etched their legacy in the city’s, Virginia’s and the nation’s history books.
I’ve never been good at remembering special dates – Memorial Day, my girl’s birthday – most dates besides Christmas, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving get past me. So when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Noble’s press coordinator on May 17 called me about a press conference to discuss he and running mate Dr. Gloria Bromell Tinubu’s position on education and segregation, it didn’t sink in that May 17 commemorated the 64th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against public schools segregation.
Maybe it’s not so hard to forget that racial segregation in public schools is supposed to be against the law because schools still are racially segregated. Heck, America still is racially segregated! Electing a Black president was monumental, but did little to change the reality of racism in America. Most recently I’ve been thinking there is no real desire to end segregation, racism and discrimination in America.
According to one source, the NAACP since the 1930s had been fighting to end racial segregation in public schools. A lawsuit that began in South Carolina’s ‘Corridor of Shame’ in Clarendon County led to the 1954 Supreme Court decision. Clarendon County’s public schools today still are shamefully segregated, unequal and discriminated against.
In 1954 the Supreme Court gave America a way out of the order to end segregation, racism and discrimination. The Supreme Court’s decision did not spell out any method for ending racial segregation in schools. It only ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed”. That’s the same rouse South Carolina’s Supreme Court used to make the 20-year-old Corridor of Shame lawsuit go away. And neither the state’s legislature nor the people who elect it have moved an inch otherwise.
The race disparities in Charleston County report released last year by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston documented some things most of us know. Despite having some schools that are racially integrated, racial disparities in educational attainment still are blatant. In 2008 about 74,000 whites in the county had attained a Bachelor’s or higher degree compared to about 7,000 Blacks.
In the 2015-2016 school year, the five schools with the highest poverty indicator were predominantly Black schools and those with the lowest poverty indicator were predominantly white. In 2015 of the students taking and passing advance placement tests about 78 percent of Asian students passed AP tests, about 76 percent of White students passed the tests while only about 25 percent of Black student passed the tests.
During the 2014-2015 school year there were about 8,000 suspensions in Charleston County schools. Black males accounted for about 4,500 of those suspensions. Black females accounted for another 2,000 suspensions. Among elementary school students, Black students accounted for about 1,900 of the 2,200 suspensions. Black males accounted for about 1,400 of those suspensions.
In December I talked with former Charleston County School Board Chair Hillery Douglas who said those disparities exist because some residents in the county are “hell-bent” on insuring that progress for Black citizens is limited. That effort is played out in every aspect of daily life, including public education, he said.
“It may be hard to believe those people exist in these times, the 21st century. But there are those who would limit our gains in politics, economics, education – you name it. It’s not so pervasive in other parts of the state. But here, it’s blatant. To overcome that we must ask ourselves whether our progress will be determined more by us or that group. Do we put forth the effort to guide our children to become successful? We have kids who are smart. Will we invest more in them or in our iPhones, hair and nails? It’s a hard job to get people to be engaged. Some of our people are fighting, but so many don’t know how to fight. They don’t know how to instill in their children the things that make them successful. And there are those among us who let a few dollars influence whether or not we do the right things. We’ve got some politicians who shouldn’t be in office,” Douglas said.
The 64th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision against segregated public schools – by some estimates counted in 20-year intervals – that’s more than three generations. I applaud Noble’s willingness to address racism and inequality, to put those issues on the table as he campaigns to become S.C. governor. But then, that’s who Phil Noble is. It’s not just a discussion with him: it’s a life philosophy. I first came to know of Noble because of his positions on race and racism in our community.
The sad part is, for far too many it is just a matter of discussion. For politicians it’s a talking point. The laws and legislation they introduce and enact however says something different. Meaningful change can occur in 100 years – that’s if you mean to change. Obviously few mean to change the segregation and inequality that exists in our schools. I think the sooner we make that admission, the sooner we can move on. A definition of crazy is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result. We’re all not crazy. So when it comes to segregated unequal education, quit spittin’ on me and callin’ it rain.
We’re all not crazy. So when it comes to segregated unequal education, quit spittin’ on me and callin’ it rain.
The mostly white city of Gardendale, Ala., will end its fight to form its own school district and break off from the heavily black school system of surrounding Jefferson County.
The decision—which comes two weeks after a federal appeals court ruled that Gardendale couldn’t form its own district—draws to a close a yearslong legal battle. That ruling reversed a lower-court decision that would have allowed Gardendale to proceed with its plan, even after the judge concluded that race was the main motivator for the split.
As part of their push to break off from Jefferson County, the city formed a school board and hired a superintendent in 2014.
The campaign came to a halt last week when Gardendale’s mayor and school board president sent a letter to the Jefferson County board of education, informing the district that it will not appeal the court of appeals decision.