ARGUMENTS ON DESEGREGATION
The challenge of desegregating schools was brought upon in 1954 by five separate court cases, ultimately joined together and called Brown v. The Board of Education. Though each case was different, they all revolved around the main argument that segregation itself violated the “equal protection under the laws” guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and had detrimental psychological effects on Negroes. Segregation was almost always initiated by whites, and initiated on the basis that blacks were inferior and undesirable. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. When blacks allowed themselves to accept their status at the separate school, the effect on their personalities was perpetually worse than any problem they might encounter in an integrated school. This element became a prominent part of the legal case against segregation (Stephan 9).
The biggest argument against desegregation was the perception that blacks were not as intelligent as whites. Since the Fourteenth Amendment did not guarantee the right to a quality education, if a school chose not to accept them, there was nothing that could be done legally. Long after the “separate but equal” doctrine became law, it was clear that blacks were indeed separate, but they were not equal. Segregation still had a firm hold in the areas of public education, public transportation, hotels and restaurants, hospitals, housing and departments of the United States Government (Stephan 7). An example was the case of McLaurin v. Oklahoma Board of Regents of Higher Education in 1950. George McLaurin was admitted on a segregated basis to the graduate school of the University of Oklahoma as a result of a federal district court order. He was required to sit in an anteroom outside of his classes and was given separate tables at the library and cafeteria (Stephan 11).
The expenditure disparity between white and black children was enormous in some areas of the country. In the South, the average expenditure for white children was $44.00, but was only $13.00 for black children. In Georgia, the figures were $35.00 versus $6.00 and in Mississippi, $45.00 versus $5.00. Considering the national average per pupil expenditure was $99.00, it was clear that the school system was separate and unequal and blacks were not receiving their fair share (Stephan 8).
There was also the cost of integrating schools to legal specifications. To minimize transportation costs and to accommodate distinctions between the suburbs and the inner city, the people who were supposed to pay those costs were those who lived near the ghetto inside the inner city limits. Even though the cost was no more than segregation had imposed on middle-class black people, the whites argued that they now had to pay more money in taxes to solve a problem that wasn’t their fault. Black children were more likely to attend an inner city school and they felt that in return for their taxes they would receive an increase in crime and a lower standard of education (Stephan 175).
Another major argument regarding desegregation was the fact that there was de jure (by law) segregation in the south and de facto (by geography) segregation in the north, with the differentiating factor being “purpose or intent to segregate.” (Stephan 91) Every standing court order related to school desegregation was based on the discoveries of de jure segregation, either in the north or south. In each case, the courts found that local school districts and occasionally state educational agencies as well, had systematically carried out policies leading to or reinforcing segregation (Stephan 122).
One of the disadvantages of desegregation, however, was the way it destroyed the ethnicity of blacks. While they were segregated, it was easy for them to maintain their African-American background. Once they became part of an integrated school system, they were forced to conform to white society’s views on dress code, religion and behavior.
The busing issue was considered to be “an educational disaster.” Whereas previously, black children had been bused long distances to segregated schools, now they were busing white children to integrated schools. It didn’t help the minority children and it hurt the middle-class children, creating conflicts where they weren’t any before. The white middle-class families who felt violated by having blacks being bused into their schools and neighborhoods fostered hostilities. When rioting broke out, it became so serious that the police and National Guard were called in to protect the black students. In addition, it increased educational costs with the addition of new buses and the salaries of the drivers, and jeopardized the health and safety of children (Stephan 123).
According to the government, the purpose of desegregation was to integrate the population with the expectation that racially, economically and socially disadvantaged children would benefit and therefore enhance their abilities of obtaining the knowledge needed to acquire higher status and better jobs. With all of the factors contributing to the problems of desegregation, it is obvious that the blacks were caught in a no-win situation. They were already considered to be mentally inferior to whites due to the white perception of them during the times of slavery. Now they were attempting to increase their intelligence level, but their inferiority was causing them to be excluded from the same education that whites were receiving. Once they were finally granted rights into the schools, the stress they were experiencing caused even more psychological problems and learning disabilities. During this time, it was forgotten that the major function of schools was and always will be to educate, and that should never be based on race, religion or color.