29 June 2007

Don't confuse these Supremes with that smooth Mo-Town Sound.

If you had any doubt to President Bush's lasting legacy on the United States, all you need to do is look at the decisions this Supreme Court has laid down in the last few days. Post columnist Eugene Robinson gets it dead right with a strongly worded condemnation of their school discrimination decision as a "turn back the clock" movement:
George W. Bush's packing the court with conservatives is likely to prove one of the more enduring aspects of his unfortunate legacy. Bush appointees Roberts and Samuel Alito have joined Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in a solid, four-justice bloc that can be reliably counted on, pretty much whatever the issue, to vote for turning back the clock.

Absolutely. And we will have these updated versions of segregationists on the Supreme Court, deciding cases of incredible importance, for decades. It's not as if Brown v. Board will be overturned; the new segregationists are far too savvy to re-install a legal system of racial discrimination, especially since it's bad for business. To me, that's where it gets interesting, because it will perhaps finally get us to look at class in this country as a significant category.

For years (for lifetimes even) researchers in the social sciences and humanities (yes, fellow MLA convention-goers, I'm talking to you) have understood the importance of including class in analyses of discrimination, immigration, racism, inclusion, exclusion, etc. However, too many in the US still believe that we are a "classless society," perhaps because we don't have a titled aristocracy, or perhaps because it's not hard to point to individuals who started in one class and ended in another.

Rather than "white" or "Black" neighborhoods, or to take the case of the anti-immigration folks interviewed in the Post this morning we could say "American" or "Mexican" neighborhoods, we should really start looking at poor v. wealthy neighborhoods as the prime factor driving school resegregation, because school funding generally relies upon the local tax base (and the donation power of the parents, which only adds to the inequalities).

This recommendation is not news, by the way, to anyone within education or sociology circles. In fact, this analysis was readily available when I was taking ed courses back in the late 80's. However, education experts aren't generally in charge of leading systemic school policy, politicians are, and it's unpalatable -- radical even -- to talk about endemic sustained inequalities in American society. Furthermore, if you look around DC these days, you realize that having any sort of education background more or less excludes you from taking part in the "grand revitalization" of Mayor Fenty. In fact, I'd be more qualified in his eyes to run a school system if I spent ten years cleaning the squishee machine at Kwik-E Mart than if I had taught for ten years.

But maybe, just maybe, in light of this court's regressive stance, wider populations in the US will recognize the persistent concentration of capital in smaller and smaller communities and individuals as the root of the problem. But probably not.

1 comment:

Momentary Academic said...

"In fact, I'd be more qualified in his eyes to run a school system if I spent ten years cleaning the squishee machine at Kwik-E Mart than if I had taught for ten years."

This is too true. Oh No. What's going to happen now?