Across the U.S. our public elementary and secondary schools are under siege from financial, ideological, political and demographic crosscurrents that threaten their survival. We are all quite familiar with these crosscurrents since they have been well documented and have been evident for more than 50 years. First came the push for racial integration during the early 1960s through late ’70s, which led, in places outside of the south, to white flight to the suburbs.
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Given the city council’s recent actions aimed at shoring up the city’s public image, I wish to revisit and confront once again two major myths or half-truths about which I have written on these pages during the last decade. Both half-truths are vitally interconnected and mutually reinforcing, and each distorts that image.
Even under the most ideal circumstances, policing and other aspects of the administration of justice in the United States can be characterized as hard work and a high-wire balancing act conducted on land. It involves the attempt by justice system officials to protect the lives and property of the broader public while simultaneously assuring that those individuals who threaten those lives and possessions are also afforded the protections of our laws and Constitution. Achieving that delicate balance is made all the more difficult when attempted on a slippery slope.
Today, many Americans are suspicious of any claims regarding the benefits of ethnic, racial, socio-economic, gender and cultural diversity. They see such claims as so much liberal hogwash aimed at justifying such policies as affirmative action in higher education and employment. The enormous diversity found in the U.S. has sometimes led to conflict. Yet it is also the source of our nation’s above average economic, political, military and socio-cultural successes, i.e., our professed exceptionalism.
As South Africa emerged from apartheid, it put in place a Truth and Reconciliation commission whose goal was to help that nation come to grips with its racist past. Many have argued that while there has been much racial progress here in the American south, we have still not come to grips with our own past.