Although Brown vs The Board of Education happened 60 years ago, many school districts today continue to be "separate and unequal."
Tuscaloosa’s schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-White schools exist anymore—the city’s White students generally attend schools with significant numbers of Black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor Black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three Black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.
Tuscaloosa’s school resegregation—among the most extensive in the country—is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes. It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of White flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city’s Black elites. And it was blessed by a U.S. Department of Justice no longer committed to fighting for the civil-rights aims it had once championed.
Certainly what happened in Tuscaloosa was no accident. Nor was it isolated. Schools in the South, once the most segregated in the country, had by the 1970s become the most integrated, typically as a result of federal court orders. But since 2000, judges have released hundreds of school districts, from Mississippi to Virginia, from court-enforced integration, and many of these districts have followed the same path as Tuscaloosa’s—back toward segregation. Black children across the South now attend majority-Black schools at levels not seen in four decades. Nationally, the achievement gap between Black and White students, which greatly narrowed during the era in which schools grew more integrated, widened as they became less so.