School segregation resisted in North Carolina
Published Dec 13, 2009 9:29 PM
Fighting to reverse 40 years of progressive change in the Wake County School
Board, North Carolina Republican Party candidate John Tedesco was successfully
elected to a District 2 School Board position in the Nov. 3 elections. Tedesco,
a staunch segregationist and champion of “neighborhood schools,”
and three other school board members joined incumbent Ron Margiotta to secure a
pro-segregationist majority on the nine-member board.
Anti-segregation supporters tried to link a return to neighborhood schools in
Wake, whose county seat is Raleigh, with what has happened to Charlotte, N.C.,
schools since the district abandoned busing in 2002. With more children
returning to “neighborhood schools,” the suburban schools, with
more white children, have become more affluent, while inner-city Charlotte
schools, with more people of color, have become poorer. Many of the racist
demagogues like to cloak their campaigns with arguments that busing is
“anti-parent”—meaning that busing hinders parental
involvement—to make the masses of white workers feel it is in their
interest to side with them.
In recent years Wake schools have shifted from busing children primarily based
on race to organizing schools based on income. County officials assign and bus
students in order to ensure that no school has more than 40 percent of students
receiving free or reduced lunches. According to the Raleigh News and Observer,
Wake County Public School System students, on average, spend almost 15 minutes
less on a bus each day than the state average. Eighty-six percent of Wake
students currently attend a “neighborhood school” within five miles
of their homes, and 99 percent within 10 miles. (Oct. 2)
Community stands united against racist segregation
The few policies implemented by the ruling class to help working-class and
oppressed people, such as busing to help counteract Jim Crow apartheid, are
scapegoated as the reason for budget shortfalls caused by the capitalist
economic crisis. Thus, they are seen as targets for cuts during recessions.
Oppressed groups are always disproportionately hurt by the failures of the
capitalist system, and the push to re-segregate schools by the racist right
wing is a move to increase that oppression.
Tedesco’s racist chauvinism came out in full force the night of his
election, while hanging out with Republican supporters like Garner, N.C., Mayor
Ronnie Williams. Tedesco stated that school segregation was
“generational”—a thing of the past that African-American
youth would go along with—as if Jim Crow doesn’t still exist in the
Tedesco completely underestimated the capacity of the community to respond. On
Oct. 30 the NAACP organized a march and a mass meeting in downtown Raleigh that
attracted several hundred parents, children and community members of all
nationalities. The meeting, hosted at the Martin Street Baptist Church, urged
the community to hold the school board accountable for any future plans. Later
that weekend the NAACP organized a second mass meeting at Juniper Level Baptist
Church near Garner.
“You and I here tonight know that when children are packed into the most
underfunded, most segregated, most high poverty schools, it is nothing more
than institutionalized child abuse,” the Rev. William Barber, North
Carolina NAACP president, told the crowd in Raleigh. “We won’t let
them take Wake County because it could lead to the whole state, then the whole
Barber continued: “The truth is the people use the ploy of neighborhood
schools and busing as a wedge issue to divide us. ... Their motives are rooted
in a past which all of America—including the old slave states that tried
to leave America to maintain slavery—wants to leave behind.”
The movement behind quality education and the fight against racism is growing
to resist these efforts by Tedesco and the new school board. Combined with the
fight for jobs and against budget cuts, the unity and determination of the
community will undoubtedly prevail.
Sankar attended Wake schools for eight years, and Strobino attended
Charlotte schools for 10 years.
Both are organizers in Raleigh FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand
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