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Daily Journal
     August 17, 2021      #90-229 KDJ

Taking nation back a half-century is

By Ron Jackson

It has been nearly 60 years since then Alabama Gov. George Wallace established himself as the leading opponent of the civil rights movement by declaring that racial segregation would never end.

In June 1963, Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to defy a federal order to desegregate the state’s flagship university. But it was in January of that year during his inauguration speech as governor that he laid the groundwork for his defiance. It was part of his famous speech when he uttered the most memorable line, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Wallace failed to keep blacks out of Alabama schools, the Civil Rights Act became law and Wallace changed his tune. We have come a long way since then. Or have we? It is 2021, and while the sentiments of segregation were not publicly shouted from the doorsteps, blatant racism was put on full display in an Atlanta elementary school. In the truest sense, it’s a case of the oppressed becoming the oppressor.

After decades of work and evolution from the dark ages of segregation in this country, we find ourselves revisiting history. Mary Lin Elementary School principal Sharyn Brisco is no George Wallace, but she put his proclamation into play in 2020. Principal Brisco is being sued by the parent of a black student who had been assigned to a black-only classroom. Principal Brisco established two classrooms for black students only and five classrooms for white students only. Offering a poor defense, the principal said segregating the classes by race would give the black students a better opportunity.

It was only after the parent of a black child filed a federal complaint against the school for not allowing her child to enter a class of white students that the absurd notion became public. Thank goodness at least one mother disagreed.

If the integrating of our public school system for more and better learning opportunities for all was the impetus for change 60 years ago, how could a black school administer believe that a return to segregation would give black students more opportunity today? Fortunately, the experiment didn’t last long. The school district conducted an investigation, took an undisclosed action and closed the matter. The parent who first shed light on this fiasco wants the principal and the school administration removed from the school.

After all the efforts that have been made in an attempt to bring racial diversity to every facet of our society, it is unfathomable that someone in a position of authority would implement a policy of “reversity,” setting us back a half-century. It has taken a year and a federal lawsuit to make this blatant racist incident public.

This little secret would not have lasted very long if the roles were reversed. There is no way a non-black school administrator could have attempted a race-based policy without it being a national story. That is part of our problem. We are selective when it comes to dealing with issues of race. Allowing one demographic to avoid accountability for implementing racist policy while holding another demographic to the proverbial fire is wrong and unproductive. Before you know it, we will disallow one group to utter specific words deemed offensive while accepting another group’s use of the same words as endearing. We will never achieve equality until we uphold everyone to the exact same standards.

It would be unfortunate if George Wallace was right about the segregation forever part. But, if he is, may it remain in his beloved Cradle of the Confederacy.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com

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