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A voice for justice, 50 years later

1:49 PM  Jan 29th, 2018
by Rose Rucoba ’20

Fifty years after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., another voice is speaking out against an injustice that still remains today for African-Americans in this nation—segregated schools.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist known for her reporting on racial segregation in America’s school system, was selected as the University of Dayton 2018 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Speaker.

She spoke Jan. 23 in Kennedy Union’s ballroom about America’s broken school system and how segregation in classrooms is still haunting America, nearly 70 years after the civil rights movement.

Hannah-Jones began her speech by reminding the audience of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and how it “makes us feel good” about the progress the nation has made since the 1950’s, but that America still has a long way to go.

She went on to discuss how segregation today is the result of a long history of segregating, integrating and re-segregating America’s schools.

“In the 1950’s, there was complete segregation. Then, once we finally got serious about de-segregation, we saw a big increase in black children attending majority-white schools,” she said.

However, she added that in 1988, at the peak of the desegregation process, progress stalled.

“Really just one generation after we get desegregation going, we have decided as a country that we have done enough to erase 400 years of apartheid and that we are going to move on. And then, we start to re-segregate our schools, and now, our schools are segregating black children — particularly black children — as they were in the 1970’s. We have gone backwards,” Hannah-Jones explained.

She highlighted the fact that segregation was “not just a problem in the South.”

“Dayton was placed under desegregation rules in the 1970’s because Dayton operated entirely black schools with black teachers, and when a neighborhood would start to change, they would transfer all the white children out of the integrated school and turn it back into a segregated school,” Hannah-Jones said.

Wrapping things up, she drove home the point that the only statistically successful fix to the problem of segregation is integration.

“What integration does,” Hannah-Jones stated, “is it gets black kids what we guarantee for white children. That’s what it does. No more. No less,” Hannah-Jones said, citing research and statistics that point to all-white schools having better educational resources and funding.

She ended the speech by questioning how long it will take before change occurs, before African-American students get an education equal to that of white students.

“My question to all of you tonight, as we celebrate Dr. King, is to ask yourselves, ‘How much longer?’” Hannah-Jones said.




2 Responses to A voice for justice, 50 years later

  1. Robert Stanley says:

    Yet, many blacks I know were upset that moving their kids out of the neighborhood for school meant LESS control. Parents did. It know teachers, had less time with their children. The problem, seen statistically and personally as I me tored, is the CULTURE the students are in. If “Oreo” and “acting white” continue to be put downs, the kids mostly will fail.

  2. Kevin Curley says:

    In the 80’s and 90’s Dayton City schools still struggled with “what we guarantee for white children,” the school systems snubbed parental involvement, had poor ratings, and parents were saddled with an out-of-control system of education. I did not see any guarantee for any child, no matter what race. Knowing the window of opportunity for providing a quality educational structure was a “one chance to get it right,” I worked extra jobs to send my children to a private school. I choose to find a school system that invited parental involvement. A person of any race can choose to be involved, to get little sleep for many years while working that extra job, to fully invest themselves into their children. It is more than government mandated integration; it has to be about changing the cultural “mindset” barriers to one that 100% investment in that success.
    King worked for change, He invested himself, and He spoke his mind in an attempt to help us change ours to be a whole society. I can’t force you to change, you cannot force me to change, and government policies don’t really change our beliefs. The “how long” it will take before equality in society, which includes education, would depend on each individual changing their mindset to welcome and include those “different from themselves” people. The real question is; “When will you change within yourself?”

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