The illusion of integration

Casey Thomas
Casey Thomas

 

By CASEY THOMAS

Dallas City Council

 

For years, the perception was that the fight for civil rights was that Black people wanted to live where White people lived, and to go where White people could go. Well, that was only part of the story. Black people actually wanted the same thing as White people. They wanted to be made whole. They wanted, as is often quoted, “An America as good as its promise.”

Black people enjoyed living amongst one another. However, if they chose to live somewhere else, they wanted to have that right. Black people enjoyed attending schools with one another. However, they wanted the same quality of facilities and quality of textbooks. Many Black people who attended segregated schools feel like they received a superior education. They just wish the school building and the textbooks would have been of the same quality.

There were several examples of the unintended consequences of segregation. One was that Black schools were closed and students were bused to White schools. This is not integration. This is assimilation.

All Black schools were closed. Black principals and assistant principals were forced, in most cases, to become teachers, because the mainstream education culture didn’t view the quality of education or educator in Black schools as the same as in White schools. Black teachers were forced to leave schools with their students that they had taught in for years, and the neighborhoods in which they lived with the parents of the students they taught. These Black schools that were named after local Black legends were closed and their names have been lost.

White principals and assistant principals were not told to come to Black schools and to live in Black neighborhoods. They were able to stay in their own neighborhoods and work in their own communities. Black students were forced to get on a bus and go to schools where they were not wanted, or respected. They were treated as other, and were forced to sit by themselves or with small groups of their classmates. White students were able to stay at schools in their neighborhoods with their friends, and were allowed to treat their “classmates” as outcasts. Many of the White students would go so far as to verbally and physically assault them. This is not integration. This is intimidation.

This experience was even worse for Black owned businesses. Once integration went into effect, many local Black-owned businesses closed. Blacks could now go to “the other side of town” and shop and eat. Also, with the passing of affirmative action, many people who worked in “Ma and Pa” shops began to go and work in corporations. Ma and Pa didn’t have any family members to take over their businesses.

Black-owned banks would soon begin closing as more Black people would go and open accounts at more mainstream banks. Today, there are very few actual Black-owned banks in the country. Without these financial institutions, it became difficult for Black people who wanted to open or grow their business to have the capital needed to make these things happen. This is not integration. This is disintegration.

While many Black people marched and protested for integration, integration never actually happened. It was all an illusion. Without the power or authority to do anything about it, Black people had to settle for assimilation. The sooner we recognize this, the sooner we can get our eyes back on the prize: real, true integration.  Black lives matter. They always have, and they always will.

 

Casey Thomas is the Dallas City Council member for District 3

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