Thursday, April 18, 2013

Segregation in Maryland schools... increasing.

That's bad, but what caught my eye was the word "segregation". I'm not sure how I feel about the use of the word. It's obviously de facto rather than de jure segregation (although given recent prom news in some Georgia communities I guess you've really got to double check on that). Often when an objection is raised on de facto/de jure grounds the objector is trying to downplay how bad de facto segregation is - but that is not my intention.

In a lot of ways, I'm worried about the opposite problem - that calling this "segregation" minimizes the problem and how much work it will require to fix. When segregation is de jure the solution is relatively straightforward, right? It implies someone is doing something obvious and bad and so you get a bunch of people together (preferably either justices or voters) and make the person stop doing that bad thing. But when segregation is de facto the problems run much deeper. You're dealing with decades-long evolution of residential patterns, cycles of poverty, and very slight preference differentials that Schelling showed us could make a big difference.

So my concern is that people label this thing in Maryland "segregation" and jump to assuming someone "did something". Obviously segregation is illegal so maybe they just gerrymandered the school districts. So we need to stop that someone from doing that something.

School district lines may be part of it, but I suspect the problem is much deeper and that might get obscured here.

Granted, I have no idea what else to call it.


  1. Idiopathic sorting?

  2. Why is de facto racial segregation bad? I suppose it could indicate for instance that black people have less economic opportunities than white people resulting in black people concentrating in bad parts of town. But in and of itself, I don't understand why it would be bad that segregation would happen.

    1. Well, as Justice Scalia pointed out, although he had something different in mind, racial entitlements tend to persist. De facto racial segregation is evidence of previous racism, and **of its persistent effects**. Consider arguments such as, "I would gladly serve Negros at my lunch counter, but then all of my customers would leave me and my business would fail." Integration laws allowed both those who actually were glad to serve Negros to do so without losing all of their customers. And it made those who were just making excuses do the right thing.


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