School segregation resisted in North Carolina
Posted by raleighfist on December 15, 2009
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 South!
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 South.”
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 Together.