Disclaimer: if the thought of having bold conversations about race issues is a turn-off, then read no further. If you are sensitive or thin skinned, then this article may not be for you…because my intent is not to be offensive. The Indianapolis community needs to have broad, fearless conversations about race…and in order to figure out where to go – we first need to understand where we’ve been. Here’s my attempt at an easily digestible history lesson, and food for thought about what is happening now.
1877 law stated that if no local school facility existed for black students, they could attend a school designated for whites.
An unintended consequence: by 1920, there were about 800 black students enrolled at Shortridge, Tech, and Manual High School – because there was no high school for black students at that time. Apparently the 1877 law was based on the assumption that black students would attend to the 8th grade and then leave school. When blacks sought a high school education and began to significantly populate these white institutions, some community members began to raise a fuss. This fuss raising ultimately led to the creation of Crispus Attucks High School – where black children, for decades, attended…until desegregation.
At its peak, IPS enrollment reached over 100,000 students in the late 1960’s, with 11 high schools. A federal court order mandated that desegregation of IPS schools be achieved by busing black students to townships to attend school. After several years of appeals, busing finally began in the 1981-82 school year with 5,600 students being sent out of IPS to attend school in the townships. It is notable that no students from the townships were bused into IPS to attend school. It is also notable that the busing of black students to the townships likely spurred many disenfranchised black parents, with no means of engaging in their child’s school – inaccessible, way across town. The loss of students caused the closure of Shortridge and the conversion of Crispus Attucks to a middle school. Desegregation of Indianapolis schools also undeniably caused a mass exodus of white folks who had the means and desire to flee the city to do so. They left as fast and as far as their money would carry them – to places where the schools remained homogeneous. The combination of busing and white flight over the decades has arrived at our current enrollment of around 30,000 students.
Why is this history important? What is on my mind?
The fact that my husband came home shaken at the news of a former student murdered this past March. He did not graduate.
The multitude of stories that have been confided in me by students over the years – the pre-teens who have mothered their younger siblings, the boys whose entire futures have hung, heavily suspended, in the split-second space of a trigger pull, the 12 year old girl, robbed of her innocence, telling me about the miscarriage she had two years ago.
The 15 year old boy that the police killed over the weekend. No dash cam. No body cam.
Are our educational opportunities in Indianapolis still segregated, many decades after were we ordered to change?
In every school, do we not only see faces of every race represented – but do children with varying degrees of social capital and resources attend school together? Do they not only learn from the same teachers, but maybe more importantly, learn from each other?
To take it a step further, what are the adults and the decision makers doing to create the conditions for this to take place? Where are schools being intentionally designed to serve children of all races and economic means? Give them equitable sets of “tools”?
If you see it, please let me know. Give me some examples.
Sidener (gifted and talented school) is 49% white, 26% black
CFI (school 2) downtown is 67% white, 14% black
CFI (school 84) Meridian-Kessler is 82% white, 7% black
CFI (school 27) King Park/Fall Creek is 35% white, 46% black
The entire district is 20% white, 50% black, 23% Hispanic
Source: IDOE Compass
Above I have illustrated the demographics of some of IPS’s more “in-demand” magnet programs. If we were truly desegregated, ALL of IPS schools would roughly be microcosms of our overall demographics in the district. Instead, we see pockets of white students concentrated in certain schools. District policies, such as the sibling preference policy and the neighborhood/proximity boundary preference policy ensure that these demographics don’t change much.
All I see are the conditions being created for: the expansion of gentrification, and the perpetuation of a system which continues to impoverish and further disadvantage some… and we all know that those invisible lines of socioeconomic status – are usually marked with black and brown pens.
This society was built on oppression. The U.S. was founded on inequity and inequality. Need proof? Women not being allowed to vote. Blacks being considered three-fifths of a person. It’s systemic. Does our educational system continue to foster this oppression? I think many of us would like to turn our cheeks and say, “No, this is just a part of our sordid past. This is not happening – not here, not today.”
But it IS here, and IT IS TODAY.
What are we going to do??
Maybe my anguish won’t let me see the positive right now…too many traumatic endings for me to process.
My thoughts are my own and do not reflect any entity or any other person or sets of people.
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