98% of the students at Johnson are minorities, while Grissom has 18%. Johnson is unranked in the state & nation, but Grissom is 7th in the state and ranks at 890 nationally. Proficiency in English and Math are at 60% for Johnson, but Grissom has about 95% for both. The district average is under 80%. And this isn’t a one year thing. This is an every year thing. Johnson always tests below district average and Grissom always ranks above average. Johnson always has an almost exclusively minority population and Grissom is always predominantly white.1
I went to Huntsville and Grissom, which are both mainly white–mainly due to white flight, which if you aren’t aware of is a racist decision a lot of white folks made to keep their precious babies away from children of color. I digress. Grissom is a nationally ranked high school and pretty much always has been. Huntsville has around 90% proficiency in reading and math. What about the predominately minority schools like Johnson and Butler? Well, they have lower rankings in reading and math. They end up in local and state news for things like failing standardized tests.
Not only that, the minority students at majority schools end up being treated like they aren’t good enough–not just by students, but by teachers. It doesn’t matter if that child is at the school because they are bused in or if they are there because their parents live in the zone for that school, the kid is always treated as less than. And when it comes to peer groups or for certain types of activities (i.e. cheerleading)? It isn’t always popular for the groups to be integrated.
There were four or five cheerleading squads at Grissom when I went there, about 10 girls on each squad, and one minority student. One of my middle school’s best cheerleaders was unable to make any squad despite being captain, being on an all-star team, being a damn good dancer and doing having kickass tumbling skills. There were white girls who made the squads who didn’t have that experience, who didn’t look like they were as good as her, and it bugged me because I always felt like she was disregarded for a position that she totally deserved.
Before I transferred with a medical transfer, I was told that I could actually get into Huntsville easier by doing percentage of race because Huntsville “needed” more white kids. (It was less than 20% minority even then.) I still went with the medical transfer and I got it approved. When I got there, it seemed like all social groups were divided on race lines. Maybe not intentionally, but it seemed that the black kids were regularly treated worse. And when I chose to sit with three black girls over a table full of white girls, it seemed to make some of the white girls uncomfortable. I felt like I fit in with those 3 girls more than that table. And I didn’t want to not sit with them because someone else was uncomfortable. If it made the 3 uncomfortable, I would have left, but they didn’t complain.2
With the tendency of people in this area to continue with the us vs. them mentality and the racial slurs and everything, I’m assuming that things have not improved in the schools. I’m assuming that things are actually worse. And knowing that the school system will not give the proper funding to the minority schools and that the white kids will never sit with non-white kids unless they have to, I think the best way is force every school to be balanced. That 20 minute bus ride that some people don’t want their kids to go through is a lot better than raising a kid who thinks that he or she is worth more or less than people of a different racial background. That is what the system is teaching kids. The schools don’t have to give minority kids the best education because they are somehow less deserving and if they aren’t deserving of that great education, then the kids end up believing they’re also not worthy of being their friends. Those kids grow up and continue to perpetuate a cycle of inequality and bigotry, which does no good for our society.
Maybe it wouldn’t fix things, but it would be better than pretending like nothing needs to be done or like things are so much better now than they could be. When you are under-educating children on purpose, you don’t get to complain about how much worse it could be. If you think a twenty-minute ride could ruin your kid’s day, then think of what not having people take that ride could mean. And think about about how that ride is already taken by some kids to get the best education possible. Why is it okay for those kids, but not yours?