Resegregation: a case study of the failure of the color blind ideal in K-12 schooling policy
Given the current trend for school districts to reorganize once unitary status is achieved, a cultural ethnography was conducted to determine how high school students experienced the inevitable resegregation in their school system. The findings of this study reinforced and extended the arguments Kenneth Clark presented about the deleterious effects of social and school segregation on Black children in the court cases leading up to Brown v. Board of Education . Like the child participants in his famous doll experiments, students assigned to the all Black high school internalized a type of social deficit theory about themselves, which they explained through race, geographic, and to a lesser extent, class identity--revealing a clear social text that marked them as less in virtually every aspect of their schooling experience. The study highlights the negative consequences of the Supreme Court's color blind ideology, as realized in the assignment of students to neighborhood schools after desegregation plans are dismantled. Despite promises of equity by school leaders resegregation has a profoundly negative effect on students, the vast majority of those involved clearly believing they were second class citizens within a caste system. Resegregated students especially noted newly created barriers to academic, social, and other curricular experiences important for their post-secondary aspirations. The meaning of racial separation for student participants was especially significant due to hidden messages associated with diversity on the emotional, psychological, and intellectual development of adolescents. It was concluded that given the racialized meaning of inequitable educational opportunities produced by resegregation, there is an urgent need to reconsider the color blind ideology undergirding the received reading of the Fourteenth Amendment to adopt more color conscious policies sensitive to the damaging effects Black students now experience through policies that unintentionally or intentionally produce racially isolated schools.