Tanner Colby has written a fascinating history of segregation/integration in America, which looks at how and why the racial integration process has utterly failed. He travels across the country to look at four key social pillars: schools, housing, the church, and the advertising industry. What he finds is that black people and white people in America are living parallel but separate lives — and that the white side of things retains a hold on power, money and influence. I will be writing a full review very soon, but in the meantime, you should pick it up.
Salon has an excerpt up today that you can check out to get a feel for the rest of the book. An excerpt of the excerpt:
Vestavia was seriously serious about education. Less than twenty years after bolting from the overcrowded classrooms of the county, our high school had risen to become, arguably, the best public school in the state. In 1991, the U.S. Department of Education officially designated us a Blue Ribbon School; some people came from Washington and gave us a flag.
But Tycely’s right: if education were really the goal, how good could our education have been if we weren’t actually educated about this integration thing in which we were supposedly the key players? Our history textbooks had improved, but barely. The entire civil rights movement had grown to a good three, three and a half pages — now with Martin Luther King and everything. Black History Month might get you a grainy, warbly filmstrip about Jackie Robinson, but then it was back to the three branches of government.
High school curricula suck everywhere, of course, not just in Alabama.
But what was uniquely perverse for us was the community’s collective, blue-ribbon ability to ignore the elephant in the classroom. The Oxmoor busing program was still in full swing. We were a living experiment intended to repair centuries of racial animosity, yet this was never discussed. Ever. I polled dozens of my former classmates, and no one can remember any official acknowledgment of or discussion about the Oxmoor kids’ situation: who they were, why they were being bused in, where they were being bused from, or even what busing was. Vestavia’s botched retreat from U. W. Clemon’s desegregation suit was the only reason our school existed. Yet as far as we were taught, God created Vestavia in six days and went golfing on the seventh.
You can buy the book here. Highly recommended. And get it soon so that when I do post the full review, we can discuss.
[Full Disclosure: Tanner is my neighbor and I sometimes dog-sit for his adorable dog. I will say that when he gave me a review copy of the book, I told him that I'd read it and give him feedback, but that I couldn't promise to write about it. What I did not say, but what I think we both understood I meant was, if it was shitty or offensive or reductive about a complicated issue, I wouldn't write about it. I read it, and it's a wonderful, thoughtful and complicated book that I'm sure will generate lots of discussion. I loved it. It's one of the most interesting pieces of writing I've read in a long time, and so I recommend it here not because Tanner is a friend, but because Some Of My Best Friends Are Black is genuinely excellent].