Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Is Black America Any Better After Integration?

July 31, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Racial integration has failed because it has barely been tried. – John Hope Franklin, black historian and author

The screams of hatred and the horrific stares encountered in her walk to the front door of Little Rock’s Central High is a scene that Elizabeth Eckford will never forget.

To imagine that America once fought so desperately to deny African Americans the right for better education, employment or even decent living arrangements may be hard for today’s young to believe but it isn’t for those who have lived it.

The marches, the threats of violence yet the pride that black America felt when it came to requesting their right to be included in America’s world also meant melting into the white man’s world. A world that for too long had been secluded only for those who sported European features and have views of white supremacy.

Integration, the answer some African Americans thought would lead them to the “promise land”, has in turn led black America into a world of further separation and confusion.
The very effort to be included in white America’s world was suppose to mean black America had finally arrived and would finally get their piece “of the pie” that was owed them.
But we all know, not.

Decades of fighting for inclusion in a segregated world has done some good for black America. The historic 1954 Brown v. Topeka, Kas., Board of Education decision gave black Americans and others ethnicities the chance to attend public schools and universities of their choice. The 1965 Civil Rights Act was intended to cease discrimination in voting, education and the use of public facilities. The Voting Rights Act of 1968 was geared toward communities, particularly in the deep South, that made voting a deadly affair for determined blacks.

Laws governing the opportunity to own homes in neighborhoods once forbidden for black people were on the books. Affirmative action, as good as many believed, was suppose to send thousands more to the top of corporate America. Now, the clock is turning back, and affirmative action, even with the eye of conservative black U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is all but becoming a dead issue for those whites who never wanted it in the first place.

Inclusion Or Not

Integration, as good as it was intended, has not fully been realized and the reason is simple as many state: white America isn’t ready to include you in everything.

Tamar Jacoby, author of Someone Else’s House: America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration, clearly stated as a white female herself why the idea of integration, although good and successful in many ways, has become a backward spiral of hopelessness for those who desire to be included in the process:

“Only a tiny minority, black or white, have repudiated integration outright, but increasingly on both sides there is a new contrary mood. Some whites, tired of the issue and the emotion that comes with it, have grown indifferent to blacks’ problems. Others, black and white, think of integration as a sentimental notion, more or less irrelevant to the real problems of race in America — black poverty, black joblessness, black advancement.”

While integration has led black America to the very top of institutions along with the ever talked about world such as sports and its African American coaches and general managers, still America is stingy in its dealings of inclusion.

Some would argue that black America has had enough. The diversity in America’s neighborhoods, schools, company offices and newspaper staffs should be enough.
But as many realize, separation, not equality continues.

In his book, Integration or Separation: A Strategy for Racial Quality, published by Harvard University Press, Roy L. Brooks states that the problem lies not only with white America’s resistance to “melt completely” with others that look different from them, but also, black America’s seemingly ignorance in recognizing it’s role when it comes to that inclusion.

As Brooks states in Integration or Separation: “For all its moral and political appeal, however, racial integration has been an unsuccessful civil rights strategy. It has not helped most African Americans achieve racial equality, by which I mean individual dignity and empowerment in American society. Racial integration has failed to live up to its wonderful billing in numerous ways. . .”

Those ways of course, education, housing, employment and government, although improved for many African Americans, still has left large gaps for those blacks seeking to be included.

According to Brooks in his book, “The integrated schools, such as they are, have failed to fulfill Brown’s expectations of healthier self-esteem and racial esteem, of academic performance among African American students substantially equal to that of white students, and of better racial relations within public schools and in the larger society. . .”

“Housing, employment and voting come under scrutiny as well. There, I argue that, from the “black ghetto” to the “black suburbs”, residential segregation largely defines the housing experiences of African Americans under racial integration; this despite a variety of government efforts to create and maintain integrated housing. A great deal of housing segregation is driven by racial discrimination, especially in the home mortgage industry, which, because of fragmentation and specialization, may well be beyond the reach of the civil rights laws. Much of the same can be said about employment.”

Even Julian Bond, NAACP chairman once said and was quoted in a September 2004 article in The Hoya, a Georgetown university newspaper, by re-porter Kenny Martin, “(Some) whites still insist on segregation.”

Integration, as good as it sounds, still has those living in urban communities and representing some of America’s finest black organizations puzzled that through all the blood, sweat, tears and prayers, black America is still as troubled in areas of equality in housing, economic power and education than ever before.

Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, says integration has been effective for some, but not for the majority.

“Some people actually think that integration has hurt us or has weakened the black communities. Before integration, we had more (black) businesses in our community, more folks that resided in our community. And that may be true. But I wouldn’t want to go back to segregation and the practices prior to integration,” said Mrs. Grant.

“Integration was about getting and creating access to equal opportunity, so it begs a lot of questions. The issue, though, is too complex to say that integration hasn’t been good for blacks.”

Said Mrs. Grant, “What I think has been an issue for us is that there are issues we have within our own community that we need to address. Such as, taking some responsibility for the absence and breakdown of our family structures and community where we use to place much value in education, respect, supporting one another. That was one of the strengths we had before integration when we had all types of people in our community, the middle class, the poor people, living together, and therefore, poor blacks were able to see the advantages of getting an education and having a solid work ethic and investing in their own community.”

Rev. Nelson “Fuzzy” Thompson, a retired United Methodist Church minister living in Kansas City, Mo., and president of the Kansas City chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which annually sponsors the week-long King Celebration Week, stated that the problem of integration successes and failures lies with both black and white people.

“What black people need to understand is that (white people) don’t care about our situation,” said Rev. Thompson. “It’s hard for black people to understand white people don’t really care about black people.”

“In fact, they don’t really know what to do with us.”
Said Rev. Thompson, “They talk a good game but it doesn’t mean a thing. No matter what they talk about when it comes to inclusion, they aren’t really wanting to include us.”

Rev. Thompson said that a major problem black America has is its dividedness among itself. While black organizations like the SCLC, NAACP, Urban League, among countless others are good to keep the fires burning surrounding the need for racial equality, it’s individual African Americans in general who must recognize, along with black organizations, that the intent of the mainstream segment is to “divide” and “conquer” the black race. Far too often in the past 30 years, black Americans have found ways to separate themselves, creating an even greater gap between the black “haves” and “have nots”. That alone has brought into question whether integration will ever achieve its fullest meaning.

“There’s a resurgence going on right now and unfortunately, we’re moving backwards and you can see it everywhere you look,” said Rev. Thompson.

“We’re always being characterized as being disunified. But what we don’t understand is that everything is set up to disunify us,” Rev. Thompson said.

“It is the ‘Willie Lynch’ theory.. . . They’re not trying to unite us, not trying to get us together. Instead, everything is set up against us. It’s kind of like the ‘house Negroes’ versus the ‘field Negroes’. We just fall prey to the traps set for us.”

Its traps that some thought left once the fight for civil rights began and American society started integrating its military, workforces, housing and communities, and even its sports world. But little did the uninformed realize that while integrating America took great effort and saw tremendous gains, those gains are still minute even if some black Americans enjoy greater successes today than ever before.

“Black ghettos” in large metropolitan cities still exist and some are worse than 1950.

Despite the climb for many blacks in corporate America, the ceiling remains “glassy and less-than-half-full” and some offices still have less than one-hand of blacks or other minorities employed in their companies.

While the mainstream media showcases more black and others minority faces of color in American newspapers, magazines and television or radio spots, the continual decline of African American journalists and other minority journalists is obvious to media executives around America. Some media outlets still don’t have one person of color employed in their offices.

Regardless of the infiltration of black athletes in football and basketball, predominant sports enjoyed by African Americans, the small number of black NFL coaches and black NCAA football and basketball coaches, the dismal numbers of black general managers and owners, less than one hand of black athletic directors at major or small universities, or the scary departure of professional black Major League baseball players, would cause outcry among almost every civil rights icon that lived. And please, let’s not mention golf or tennis where Tiger Woods and Venus and Serena Williams are the only ones that rule.

Spike Lee, John Singleton and Tyler Perry have made headways for blacks interested in directing Hollywood’s motion picture industry. Even Denzel, Halle, Jaime, Samuel, Laurence, and others have made headways on the screen. But let’s face it: black America and other minorities are still held hostage at the door of opportunity when it comes to positions of authority in Hollywood’s screen world. But thank goodness we have Spike, John and Tyler.

Even though black America has moved into the political scene, the voices of black state and national officials still goes unheard on Washington’s Capitol Hill and state capitols around America. Just one black senator, Barack Obama, among countless white senator faces walk the chambers every morning in Washington.

Simply, integration good in some ways, bad in a lot of ways for black America.
Even with all the arguments for and against integration’s effectiveness, it’s hard to ignore the fact that black America is caught in a troubled spot and integration, good or bad, has some still wondering what it will do to African Americans future.

Coming Next: Changing business. How integration has effected black businesses that once were thriving but are now struggling to stay afloat.

By Tracy Allen

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