Segregation still harmful to Black students

00-haroldalfordThere are very few things that are as vile and predatory than cheating young Black students out of a decent education. There are two things that quickly come to my mind when I ponder this subject. There is also a third event that has developed in the last few years.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

When school segregation was ending as the civil rights era was beginning to yield results, two groups got together and concocted a scheme. In order to quickly integrate schools, the idea of school busing evolved. It seemed like a good idea to many who thought by having their children sit next to White people, their skills would automatically improve.

Busing demeaning
Those who stood to gain from this were bus manufacturers (many more buses will be needed) and unions that would increase their membership through the increased number of bus drivers. So groups such as the NAACP and others were encouraged to lead the charge for school busing.

The busing was pretty much one-way. Whites weren’t going to send their kids on a bus to sit with Black students. When two-way busing was being forced, the White students enrolled into private schools even if they had to quickly build the private school.

Rapidly, many Black students, who enjoyed matriculating to Black schools that had great legacies, were being forced to get up early in the morning, get on a bus and arrive at a strange school that didn’t welcome them. It was psychologically demeaning and affected grades and equal opportunity.

Eventually, great legacy schools such as “George Washington Carver,” “Booker T. Washington,” “Crispus Attucks,” etc. would close wherever busing was occurring. It was a major blow to our esteem and psyches.

Dummy checks
I learned of the next evil event while traveling through the South visiting local Black chambers. At different times I would hear the term “Dummy Checks” or “Stupid Checks.”

Both former Congressman Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) and current Congressman Benny Thompson (D-Miss.) were vocal about this practice.

White school officials developed an idea that would segregate the classrooms at the expense of Black students. Officials would talk to Black parents and show them how they could qualify for Social Security disability benefits. All they had to do was declare their children very slow learners. For this, they would be assisted in applying to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for financial assistance. Some single mothers would make serious money from the monthly checks as the minds of their children wasted away.

Segregation perpetuated
Unfortunately for the declared slow learners, they were put into special education classes and taught very little. Many of the accelerated classes of the rural schools would become almost 100 percent White students, while most of the Black students would be wasting away in these special education classes. Again, segregation returned in a vicious way, thanks to fraud assisted by school officials and meddling White parents. A lot of this is still going on.

We, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, have voiced our concern about this, but little has been done. Through fraud, they brought harm to young Black students and perpetuated segregation.

Harry C. Alford is the President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.



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