This NYTimes piece, highlighting that school desegregation plan involving Brooklyn’s wealthy DUMBO neighborhood, has been making the rounds. It involves two schools in the area: P.S. 8, which is majority-white, and P.S. 307, which services mostly minority kids from a nearby housing project. All the area Brooklynite whites — all of whom no doubt regard themselves as progressive, diverse and inclusionary — try to send their little Ethans and Braxlees to P.S. 8, which has led to its being overcrowded. P.S. 307, on the flipside, is actually largely empty. So district administrators made the obvious choice to shift much of the DUMBO territory into 307’s zone to relieve 8’s overcrowding.
Which made affected white parents’ heads predictably explode.
But race has nothing to do with it, they will tell anyone who’s listening.
P.S. 187 in Washington Heights went through similar drama a few years ago. As a well-performing oasis within a largely underperforming district, P.S. 187 has witnessed skyrocketing demand from parents trying to send their kids in its direction. Rents within its zone (termed “Hudson Heights” by realtors, to emphasize the distinction from the rest of Washington Heights) has shot up, making it even more difficult for low-income families to move into the area. Area business also increasingly cater towards the well-to-do. Recently, a run-of-the-mill pizza place got replaced by an outfit that, and I am not making this up, offers fig and goat cheese pizza, which may be paired with a salad also containing figs and goat cheese and… wait for it… kale.
Yes, this is gentrification, although not at the feverish pace customary for Brooklyn. Interestingly, P.S. 187 remains majority-Hispanic; in addition, the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches. But its above-average test scores demonstrate that being majority-minority does not automatically doom a school, despite what P.S. 8 parents may believe. And with other schools in the area failing and in constant jeopardy of being shut down, it only makes sense that area Hispanic parents would like for their kids to attend 187 as well.
Which led to the “dezoning” showdown of 2012. District authorities contemplated abolishing geographic zones altogether, for the express purpose of making 187 open to all. The response was predictable and furious as many in 187’s significant white minority threatened to leave the district. The proposals wound up tabled indefinitely.
But, really. Aren’t these stories just two more variations of the same old tune? When faced with school desegregation in the ’60s and ’70s, whites, including white liberals, responded by fleeing to the suburbs. And when they eventually returned to Brooklyn, they put a premium in white neighborhoods like Park Slope while regarding areas like Red Hook with horror. Liberal white journalists are all gung-ho for open borders and accepting unlimited Syrian refugees — but choose to live in segregated suburbs or the melanin-challenged L-train corridor of NYC, where such immigrants will never land. Holier-than-thou, social-justice-warrior teachers love to lecture about how multiculti they are — while teaching to lily-white private schools in lily-white communities.
Jamelle Bouie took a stab at this phenomenon back in May, dismantling arguments that whites purely base decisions on where to move on class as opposed to race. Of course, race factors into decisions by all races — but, apparently, whites are the least honest about it. Contrast this with the words of one African-American backer of P.S. 307: “We know some white people don’t want to go to PS 307 because it’s predominantly black. And some of the black people don’t want this influx of white people coming in.”
Such bluntness would never be heard from a white — not unless plied with liquor first, anyway. But racial divisions in this country cannot ever heal while white people maintain this fraudulent cover of oh no, nothing in our minds is ever based on race, of course not. We must be able to address white attitudes towards living with minorities directly if this NIMBYism can ever be challenged.