While many of the major gains in the South since the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education have been reversed in recent years, a new report says that, at the very least, things are not as bad as they were before the court ruled to desegregate U.S. schools.
“Contrary to many claims, the South has not gone back to the level of segregation before Brown. It has lost all of the additional progress made after l967 but is still the least segregated region for black students,” says the report, released Thursday by researchers at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.
Published just days before the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling, the report, titled “Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future,” takes a look at schools’ demographics since the days when the National Guard had to be brought in to ensure that black and white students could learn together safely. While the report says that Brown -– and subsequent court decisions on desegregation -- were initially successful, especially in the South, schools have become increasingly re-segregated since the 1990s.
The report examines the current state of school diversity by geographic region. In the Northeast, schools are more intensely segregated for black students -– meaning that in some cases they comprise 90 to 100 percent of a school’s population -- than they were before 1968. In the South, West, Midwest and Border states, however, schools are significantly less segregated than they were in the 1960s, but more segregated than they were in the late '80s and early '90s.
The graph below breaks down by region the percentage of black students in intensely segregated schools.
A subsequent graph breaks down how things look in the South, the region that had the longest way to go in terms of desegregation immediately following the 1954 Brown decision. According to the report, “claims that black students in the South are no better off than they were before Brown, in terms of segregation, are obviously wrong. They are ten times as likely to be in majority-white schools as they were when the l964 Civil Rights Act was passed.”
As America’s demographics have changed since 1954, the percentage of Latino students has increased, and so has their segregation. Although, according to the UCLA report, very little mind was given to Latino segregation at the time of Brown, rates of Latino school segregation have increased dramatically. A greater percentage Latino students than black students have ended up attending intensely segregated schools in the South and West, notes the report. But Latino students are not segregated from blacks, and the two groups tend to share the same schools -- separate from whites.
While the report maintains that “many of the changes accomplished in the civil rights era have had some enduring impact,” it expresses grave concerns about a recent retreat back to former patterns. The researchers implore President Barack Obama and his administration to take action on this issue, writing that the administration thus far has produced “no major encouragement nor incentives for working on integration.”