#34: ‘How The $%*!& Is That Good Enough?’

On a recent two-part story on This American Life, Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times Magazine went to Normandy High School — the struggling St. Louis County school from which Michael Brown graduated just weeks before he was killed last year in Ferguson. Normandy is the lowest-ranked high school in Missouri and nearly entirely black, and when a series of events opened the door for hundreds of Normandy kids to be bussed to Francis Howell High School, a high-performing, mostly-white high school a few towns over, the Normandy kids were greeted with massive opposition from white parents.

Nikole and I talked about her reporting on the seemingly insurmountable problem of school segregation in America’s schools, and why it makes sense to be pessimistic about America achieving racial equality. (Please pardon the sound: we were talking down the hall from a bunch of people trying to buy Prince tickets.)



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • LiLu Fufu Sexton

    love Nikole Hannah-Jones, love the honesty of this conversation! The museum anecdote is such a rich insight into the issue

  • Eli

    Frustrating conversation. The real problem is poverty and it’s barrier to access to forms of capital in poor black communities: both material capital as well as knowledge and behavioral capital. The same is true in poor communities across the country and the world. It isn’t that better schools are somehow providing something better, it’s that the families that batter schools are made up of have had the privilege of access to these forms of capital that allow them to send kids to school who are ready for success.

    I think schools can do a lot to redress poverty. But they are only a part of the picture, and we need to be realistic about what they can do. If they are serving underprivileged kids, they need vastly more resources.

    Better, finds ways of restructuring our economy so that we aren’t creating ghettos and underclasses. Massive groups of people with low levels of capital is a recipe for social problems. It isn’t fair to the people living there or their children.

    Sure, the white parents are expressing latent racism. But our continuing failure to invest in black communities and neglect of class in our economy is creating real issues of crime, drug abuse, violence, etc. that – however misguided – adds fodder to old latent racist attitudes. My bet is that if we had neighborhoods of middle class black kids with good schools, high graduation rates, etc. these parents wouldn’t be complaining. That isn’t to justify their irrational racist sentiments, but to argue that deeper problems exist that are the real drivers of inequality and discrimination.