In 1974, white racists in Boston threw rocks and bottles at Black school children seeking an equal quality education through busing. It took a mobilization of 20,000 on Dec. 14, 1974, saying “No to racism” to turn the tide.
In the years since, the racist ruling establishment has floated many plans to turn back the clock and return to segregated “neighborhood” schools. In 2009, the Coalition for Equal Quality Education, Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts, Boston City Councilors of Color, Boston School Bus Drivers and community and progressive forces mobilized community summits, marches and demonstrations, ultimately occupying the School Committee meeting and forcing such a plan to be withdrawn.
But the community is now facing the biggest threat yet. In both 2012 and 2013, Mayor Thomas Menino made returning to “neighborhood” schools the centerpiece of his State of the City addresses. A hand-picked, mayor-appointed advisory committee has now recommended such a plan and the committee is slated to vote on it March 13.
The Coalition for Equal Quality Education held a Community Summit on Nov. 14, 2012, in Roxbury to alert parents to this dangerous racist attack. On Dec. 19 it held a demonstration at the Boston School Committee headquarters. It is now mobilizing again.
The Boston branch of Workers World Party released the following statement on March 4:
It is no historical accident that, in the same week Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be a “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” Mayor Menino’s hand-picked External Advisory Committee recommended to the appointed School Committee that Boston’s school children be assigned to schools closest to their home addresses. This would result in denying students of color equal access to quality education.
Boston’s “liberal” Globe newspaper and the big-business Municipal Research Bureau have joined to champion this “plan” for separate and unequal schools.
Racist forces across the country and at all levels of authority are seizing on the current capitalist economic crisis — rising poverty and unemployment, fiscal cliffs, sequestrations and austerity all around — to push back the gains of the historic Civil Rights Movement. In Baltimore, prosecutors decided that the police who brutally killed African-American Anthony Anderson in front of his grandchildren will face no charges or penalty.
In Boston, the struggle for the past 40 years has centered around the demands of the Black, Latino/a and immigrant communities for equal, quality education. Boston is known worldwide for its racially and economically segregated neighborhoods. Since 1974, parents have proven in federal court many times that city authorities distribute resources unequally, with predominantly white neighborhoods like West Roxbury always receiving the lion’s share compared to neighborhoods of color like Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan.
Justice-loving people should support the demands of the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts (BEAM) and the Coalition for Equal Quality Education (CEQE) that all schools in every neighborhood be brought up to high quality standards before any changes are made to student assignment choices. They advise saying “no” to the neighborhood plan.
Ironically, in the same week that a statue of Rosa Parks, who heroically sparked the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat on the bus, was placed in the U.S. capital, racist forces in Boston have made it their priority to kick school children, predominantly children of color, off the bus.
Boston’s powerful, monied elite of the 1% bemoan, like a mantra, the “three outdated, sprawling school assignment zones” that currently give parents “too many choices” of where to send their children. They are championing the high-tech “complex algorithms” of an MIT-designed, home-address-based plan. A look at their fancy, interactive website shows children being able to choose only a few schools, to which they might have to walk a mile or so.
Not one dime is in the “new” assignment plan for additional resources for Boston’s public schools, including for those schools the experts deem “underperforming” in historically under-resourced communities of color. While waiting lists grow for prized schools like Lyndon, Kilmer, Ohrenberger and Beethoven — all with state-of-the-art facilities, libraries and computer systems, and all in mayoral candidate John Connolly’s West Roxbury neighborhood — struggling schools in Roxbury and Dorchester like Marshall are being privatized and sold off to the highest-bidding charter corporation, draining millions of dollars from the Boston public school budget.
These Wall Street-backed forces and reincarnated Louise Day Hicks-style bigots with their slick PR machines and whiz-kid technocrats are railroading a return to the days of Boston’s segregated past. In their fury, they throw blame at “skyrocketing” transportation costs, “inflexible” teachers, “greedy” unions, the “need for budget cuts,” “frustrated” parents, “indecisive” superintendents and “lazy” kids who just don’t want to walk like their grandparents did.
On Dec. 14, 1974, the Black community and its anti-racist allies turned back the City Hall-organized, racist, brick-throwing mobs in Boston with a 20,000-strong national march against racism. It was the biggest civil rights march since the 1963 March on Washington.
Now in 2013, people in Boston who have been engaged for decades in the historic struggle for equal, quality education for all Boston’s families once again confront an attack meant to turn the clock back to pre-1974 conditions, this time coming from polite mayoral committees engaged in their appointed tasks.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to stand up and say, “No to racism!”