The persistence of racism

In the more than five decades since the desegregation of American public schools, and the Civil Rights victories eliminating the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, the problems of racial inequity persist. James M. Jones, in the Journal of Social Issues in 1998, writes about "The New American Dilemma." Jones proposes what he calls a psychological critical race theory to explain "the gap between apparent positive racial attitudes and interracial behaviors and persistent racial inequalities." According to Jones, "Something happened on the way to racial equality."

In a 1998 PBS Frontline interview Henry Louis Gates, Jr., chair of Harvard University's Afro-American study program, recalled that

Thurgood Marshall told his associates the day of Brown v. Board, "it's all over now, boys, in five years we won't even need the NAACP, we won't even need advocacy groups, we will all be members of the American mainstream." And as we know all too painfully that didn't take place.

"There are now nine times as many African Americans in prison or jail as on the day of the Brown decision. An estimated 98,000 blacks were incarcerated in 1954, a figure that has risen to 884,500 today," according to the Washington, D.C. advocacy group The Sentencing Project in the 2004 report, "Schools And Prisons: 50 Years After Brown v. Board of Education." This and other harsh realities faced by the black community help to explain an undeniable racial achievement gap in education. "When placed within the broader context of race relations in American society, Harvard Professor Pedro A. Noguera contends:

[T]he gap is merely another reflection of the disparities in experience and life chances for individuals from different racial groups. In fact, given the history of racism in the United States, and the ongoing reality of racial discrimination, it would be even more surprising if an achievement gap did not exist. If the children of those who are most likely to be incarcerated, denied housing and employment, passed over for promotions, or harassed by the police did just as well in school as those whose lives are largely free of such encumbrances, this would truly be remarkable news. But this is not the case, and if we recognize that educational patterns generally mimic other social patterns, we should not be surprised.

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