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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Desegregation: good or bad?

Jesus said to them again,
"Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." 
--John 20:21-23

In 1963, 118 students - 106 black and twelve white - took their places together, constituting historic school integration at St. Joseph's Mission School. (Students returning from Mass)
I attended the first school to be desegregated in the great State of Alabama on Sept. 3, 1963, contrary to historical reports that another school was desegregated first. My school, St. Joseph's Mission, was integrated when 12 white kids enrolled in what was a previously all black elementary school. Black kids were admitted to a "white" public school six days later.

But that's not important... what is important is that white parents felt it necessary to make a statement and to integrate - and so did the Catholic diocese and priest, Father Mark, who were sued over their decision to let little white girls and boys go to school with little black girls and boys.

And the parents of the black children, mostly Christian but non-Catholic, thought desegregation was a good idea too!

Even living through that history, I often contemplate how desegregation hurt black businesses - like hotels, grocery stores, eateries, and pharmacies - which couldn't compete with white-owned businesses. The Gladys Jane Hotel, owned by a black man and named after his two daughters, closed after segregation. So did Moore's Dry Goods and Turner Pharmacy.

It all boils down to money and math, though, and whether you think "separate" can ever be "equal."

What we are dealing with now is pseudo-desegregation. On a recent visit to Orange County, Calif., I noticed few black people at attractions, restaurants, and private schools. My republican friends thought my discomfort from not seeing more people who looked like me was funny which made me angry.

Is just one or two people of color in one place truly representative of a desegregated society? I think not.  Look at our churches and places of employment at the top levels. Are we voluntarily segregating ourselves, and what will the outcome be? What does this re-segregation say about America's future?

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