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Can morality be legislated?

The Dallas Examiner | 5/26/2014, 8:42 a.m.
I left Dallas in 1961 after graduating from Lincoln High School, one of three segregated high schools in the city.
Mollie Finch Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas Examiner

I left Dallas in 1961 after graduating from Lincoln High School, one of three segregated high schools in the city.

Dallas was one of the last urban cities in the South to integrate public schools after the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The city resisted integration for years, then in the 1970s began a large scale integration of schools. Finally in 2002, federal Judge Barefoot Sanders declared Dallas Public Schools integrated.

It was not until 1973 that I moved back to live in Dallas with my husband and two children.

With public schools integrated, Dallas was a very different city from the city I left in 1961.

We moved to Oak Cliff, a beautiful area with many beautiful trees and homes. When we first arrived there were “for sale” signs in almost every yard. It was a buyer’s dream. “White flight” was in full force. White families were moving north to keep their children from attending schools with Black children and for other reasons. And primarily middle-class Black families were moving into the area.

Even though the public schools were integrated, my children still attended predominately Black elementary, middle and high schools.

The White families with children who lived in Oak Cliff in the 1970’s sent their children to the Catholic schools until their families were able to sell their homes and move from the area. And this didn’t take long. Some older and retired White families without young children remained in the community.

Most Whites were not only leaving their neighborhood, homes and schools, they left their churches. Black churches previously located in North and South Dallas moved their congregations to Oak Cliff and purchased previously all-White-owned church buildings.

The migration made a big impact on everything in the community. Businesses in the area – stores, shopping strips and restaurants – closed and gradually moved to other areas as soon as their leases expired.

Many services previously available in Oak Cliff no longer exist in the area today and many Black families have moved south to Cedar Hill, DeSoto and Duncanville. Consequently, Oak Cliff now has only a few restaurants, stores and services offered in other areas of the city.

The public schools in Oak Cliff are now primarily Black and Hispanic. Additionally, many of the students attending public schools come from low-income families. According to Superintendent Mike Miles, 90 percent of Dallas ISD students receive reduced or free meals.

Many have identified poverty as a key factor in the failure of our educational system and believe that when we irradicate the poverty our children in public schools live in, many of our educational problems will be solved.

Many of the parents are unemployed or underemployed, they don’t have access to medical care for their families or the medical care is not equal, and they tend to lack proper nutrition due to the cost of feeding a family – with children missing a balanced dinner during the school year or meals during the summer.