Poor language, poor thinking
Walter E. Williams
9/11/2002 12:00:00 AM - Walter E. Williams
Here's what the Harvard University Civil Rights Project's
"scholars" said in a July 2001 press release: "Almost half a century after
the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that Southern school segregation was
unconstitutional and 'inherently unequal,' new statistics from the 1998-99
school year show that racial and ethnic segregation continued to intensify
throughout the 1990s."
What's their evidence? They say that over 70 percent of black
students attend schools where the student population is predominantly black,
in some cases over 90 percent black. This, to Harvard's scholars, is
resegregation -- but let us examine the term segregation.
Blacks are about 65 percent of the Washington, D.C., population.
Reagan National Airport serves the Washington, D.C. area, and like every
airport it has water fountains. At no time have I seen anything close to
blacks being 65 percent of water-fountain users. It's a wild guess, but I'd
speculate that at the most 5 percent or 10 percent of the users are black.
Would Harvard's scholars say that Reagan National Airport water fountains
are segregated? If so, might they propose bussing blacks in from Anacostia
to integrate the water fountains?
What about ice hockey games? These are "segregated" affairs, for
at no time have I seen any significant number of black fans in the audience.
In fact, most times it was zero. There's also racial segregation at opera
performances, dressage or wine-tastings.
If you want to see some segregated states, visit South Dakota,
Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont. Not even 1 percent of their populations
What proposal might Harvard's scholars have for us? Might they
propose rounding up blacks where they're over-represented, such as in
Georgia and Alabama, and bussing them to America's segregated states? Might
they suggest drafting blacks to attend operas, dressage and wine-tastings?
Of course, being politically correct, they might feel that
blacks should not bear the burden of desegregation. Thus, Harvard's scholars
might recognize that there are two ways to skin a cat and propose that
whites leave states such as South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont
until the percentage of the black population reaches 13 percent?
America's non-scholars would easily recognize that just because
blacks aren't proportionately represented in some activity, we can't call
the activity racially segregated -- at least, in the historical usage of the
term. A non-scholar's test for segregation would be: If a black person is at
Reagan National Airport, is he free to drink at any water foundation he
pleases? If the answer is yes, then the water fountains are not segregated.
That would be true if a black person never uses the fountains.
The identical test applies to the question of school
segregation. A non-scholar would ask: If a black student lives within a
particular school district, can he attend that school? If he can, then the
school is not segregated, even if not a single black attends that school.
The same test applies to whether ice hockey games, operas and wine-tastings
are racially segregated or not.
At one time, there was racial segregation. If a black wanted to
use a water fountain, he was denied, often by law. And he was similarly
denied by law from attending certain schools. Today, none of that is true.
In turn, that means there is no school segregation. Because an activity is
not racially integrated, a better word is heterogeneous, doesn't mean that
More importantly to the issue of education, there is no evidence
anywhere that supports the civil-rights vision that black education
excellence is impossible unless white children have first been captured to
sit beside black children in school. From my view, to contend that
race-mixing is a necessary requirement for black academic excellence is