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Chicago’s Educational Crisis: A Product of Institutional Racism

closingschoolsIn 2013, Rahm Emanuel facilitated the closing of 49 Chicago Public schools. Emanuel insisted that it would be to the benefit of Chicago’s mostly African-American students. However, a recent study indicated that while the closing of schools destabilized students there was no improvement in academic performance of students

Today, Chicago Public Schools are in a state of absolute decay. The predominately low-income black students are given a lackluster education in a substandard environment that is infamous for its low college admission rates and low graduation rates. When one examines the deteriorating conditions of these schools—crinkled textbooks with dirty pages, decrepit computers with dusty keyboards, and overbearing security guards who occupy the halls—the truth begins to ring loud and clear: the purpose of the educational system in Chicago is not to enrich the minds of blacks; it is to entrap them in a world of white hegemony, oppression and poverty. It is to leave black students exploited, degraded, and powerless.

This disgusting history of second-rate education in the black community is not a new phenomenon, nor is it a product of mere incompetence amongst the school board. It is on purpose: an exemplification of institutionalized racism, a product of America’s social structure of white supremacy. America has consistently denied its black population a quality education.  From those brutal slave days when the limbs of black people were savagely amputated for simply reading a book to the repressive days of the present when blacks in the inner city are shoved into schools that have armed police patrolling the hallways. Even after Brown v. Board of Education, the schools in Chicago are still separate and still unequal. The government has made no tangible effort to enforce this; the Supreme Court and Chicago Public Schools continue to oppress blacks.

When blacks first came to Chicago during the great migration as a result of racist discriminatory laws and white terrorism, they were forced into the south side, which became known as the “Black Belt.” This area was treated with inconceivable neglect by the government. The houses blacks were forced to live in lacked basic plumbing and did not even receive the benefit of regular garbage disposal services.  The schools built for black students in this area lacked basic infrastructure, received significantly less funding than white schools,  and were unbearably overcrowded.   Benjamin Willis, one of the earliest superintendents of this city, was a vicious racist.  He proudly refused to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Eventually, black students begin to protest these intolerable clogged conditions in their schools.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, predominately white schools had empty seats and  plenty of room; plenty of schools had plenty of space. Since black schools were overcrowded and white schools had plenty of empty space, the simple decision would have been for white schools to take in black students in compliance with the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Instead, Benjamin Willis ordered the creation of  portable trailer-like rooms outside already decrepit schools to mitigate the crowding.  Black students were not satisfied with these portable classrooms and decided to protest. This issue came to the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, who decided to stage a march challenging inequality in Chicago. As a result of these protests, the federal government threatened to withdraw funding if Chicago failed to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.  Mayor  Richard Daley, the same racist who, in his youth, led attacks against the black community, was able to make inside deals and bribe his way out of  it to maintain segregation and inequality.  Today, Chicago Public Schools are still in a segregated state.

In 2000, half of African-American students attended schools that did not have a single white person enrolled, and 274 schools were 90% or more black.  This statistic led the Chicago Teachers Union to say that “Chicago Public Schools… [are] only a few percentage points from an experience of total apartheid.” 

Illinois has 20,000 more black males languishing away in its state prisons than enrolled in its public universities.   

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