When did segregation end in schools?

Civil Rights Act : "But we live separately"

An orange “Brazuca”, the Adidas soccer ball for the World Cup, is rolling on the yellow-brown sand at Chesapeake Bay. A white boy is kicking a ball with his father on the beach. A black boy is crouching in the sand a few meters away. He watches longingly, then comes closer and asks if he can join the game. Soon the two boys will be playing together. “Let's go into the water,” the black man calls out after a while. Side by side, the little black boy and the little bigger white boy trailed across the sand to the cold water of the Atlantic. This time the white man hesitates. The little one extends his hand and pulls him into the water. The scene that took place a few days ago at “Sandy Point Beach” in Maryland looks like a politically correct spot from the Fifa anti-racism campaign “Say no to racism”: Children overcome the separation of skin colors.

The black boy is nine years old and his name is Dequane. His stepmother Nicole is watching the scene on Chesapeake Bay, an hour's drive from the capital Washington. The 30-year-old has a friendly smile and speaks with a hard accent. Next to Nicole, who works as a medical assistant in a hospital, her daughter Aubrey is splashing around. The family lives in Remington, a district of Baltimore on the American east coast. Dequane doesn't play with white boys there. Their Remington neighborhood is firmly in the hands of African Americans.

In modern America, where an African-American is president for the first time in history, Nicole says, even 50 years after the racial laws were repealed, there is still some kind of natural law that separates black and white. “We get along well now,” she says. "But we live separately."

On July 2, 1964, then US President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. It was a historic moment: hotels, cinemas, shopping centers, baths, libraries, all public and publicly accessible facilities were no longer allowed to deny black access or to assign them special places. Discrimination in the workplace has also been banned since then. Almost ten years after segregation was banned in public schools, America ended racial segregation.

At the signing, Democrat Johnson called on Americans to "clean up the last remnants of injustice in America" ​​and "dry up the sources of racist poison."

Johnson made history, but his wish remained unfulfilled. Racism is still one of the great dividing lines in US society. Just a few weeks ago, Californian billionaire Donald Sterling shook American society when he cursed his ex-lover over the phone for not being seen with black people. Sterling, who (still) owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, has been known to discriminate against and harass tenants in his Californian empire for decades. It only became a scandal when his reactionary view was secretly recorded and published, making racism unmistakable. The white billionaire is one of those rarer prehistoric racists who to this day have not even overcome the fact that blacks not only have the same rights as whites, but are also socially accepted.

On the other hand, a new form of segregation that separates skin colors is more widespread. It's one that sifts socially, but mostly sorts out blacks. "Racial segregation now runs along social mobility," says Richard Reeves, scientist and writer for the Brookings think tank in Washington. It marks the unequal opportunities for advancement of black and white. Despite Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.

On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a department store clerk in Montgomery, Alabama, sat on a bus. She remained seated, although the driver simply defined her place as a “white” seat. Her refusal took her to the police station and sparked a social revolution. Busloads of black people poured south to protest racial segregation. Mixed student groups occupied seats reserved for whites in average American restaurants and allowed themselves to be spit at or beaten. And on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists mobilized more than 200,000 people to Washington to claim their rights.

Without Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and all the nameless demonstrators of yore, Barack Obama's presidency in the Oval Office would be unthinkable. An African-American in the White House is emblematic of how much has changed since Lyndon B. Johnson. On the one hand. On the other hand, the surroundings of the same house show how little that is still.

The social reality of America in 2014 has two completely different faces, depending on whether it's everyday life three miles northwest of the government seat at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - or three miles to the southeast.

Five bridges cross the Anacostia River in the District of Columbia. Benning Street leads southeast over one of them. On the north-western bank there are still a few dingy one-story houses. Car tires are sold in one courtyard, and another shop sells alcohol. A couple of young men with dark skin and white undershirts hang out in front of the door. Shortly before the bridge, the dusty area of ​​the local electricity supplier "Pepco" stretches for several hundred meters, transformers, electricity pylons and cables lay siege to the area. Benning Street leads over the river halfway under the metro bridge past wide empty spaces.

Beyond the bridge, only people with dark skin can be seen on the streets. Even in the cars there are only black people. At an intersection, black street vendors sell fake designer sunglasses. The houses are simple, some of them run down, old pick-up trucks are here and there on gravel spots next to the houses, as if they hadn't been moved for years. Along the street there are red-brown clinkered social housing blocks without any frills, the “Arc Gospel” temple competes with the “Free Gospel Deliverance” temple for devout souls.

The middle school on 49th Street is 99 percent black. If you want to go to school, you have to pass the metal detector lock behind the glass entrance door. In addition, a security officer is on watch, as in almost all schools here. A manicure named Vova works in the nail salon on Pennsylvania Avenue. “White hands are not part of the clientele,” she says. Opposite, a shop advertises in a row of shops with the dubious slogan: "We pay cash for cell phones."

A survey by the US Department of Education shows that the majority of African-American children attend schools that are almost exclusively attended by other African-American children and that are less well equipped than those of white children. African-American children are more likely to be suspended from school and are less likely to graduate from college than white students. Segregation is supposedly even progressing again, as a research group at the University of California has found, especially on the northeast coast of the USA and especially in New York.

Racism is also a financial problem for African Americans. The average white household has 14 times the average black household, with an average wealth of $ 91,405 versus $ 6,446. The almost 13 percent blacks of the American population make up a disproportionately high proportion at the lower end of the income scale. As figures from the Pew Institute show, black sections of the population tend to remain at the lower end of society in their social class than white groups do. "The gap," judges Richard Reeves, today "lies between the chances of a child born white and a child born black."

The excursion in the other direction, up to northwest Washington, is a contrast in every way. In Forrest Hills, the mostly two-story houses made of red and sand-colored brick or light-colored wood stand individually, each one on its own, and they are surrounded by well-tended gardens and meadows. Tall trees cast a cooling shade, just like the Americans love. But Forrest Hills isn't just green, it's mostly white. “People like to be close to those who are similar to them,” says Lucia Aron, an anthropologist who lives here in a tall building with light blue wood paneling. One factor is definitely skin color. But even more, a similar social level determines the community.

The population in the northwest belongs to the most exquisite part of the American capital. Not only do most of the embassies reside here. It is noticeable that the residents often work around the Capitol, the ministries or the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Diplomats, television stars and real estate agents complete the residents' portfolio. When black people show up in Forrest Hills, they are mostly delivering mail or packing furniture. The Latinos, who can be seen on every other lot, repair the roof or trim the lawn.

Between the white northwest and the black southeast is the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Many immigrants from South and Central America live here, they are a kind of buffer between the rich white northwest and the poor black southeast. This, too, is part of the truth of America in 2014: Latinos have now overtaken Afro-Americans as the largest minority with just under 17 percent. They pushed themselves between black and white, in districts like Mount Pleasant, but also in society as a whole.

Really exclusively “white quarters” are now a rarity, at least in metropolises. And almost naturally there is a wealthy class of successful black lawyers, lobbyists, politicians or television stars. There are areas northeast of the capital where the black upper class prefers to live. But while African-Americans can work their way up into the upper, mostly white-dominated strata of US society, they leave behind a large, closed black society like the one in Anacostia.

In his second term in office, Barack Obama has shown himself to be committed to promoting equal opportunities and social advancement like no other topic. “These statistics break our hearts,” said the president when he launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in February to support young African-Americans whom he would like to support with $ 200 million. He too belonged to the generation of black youth in the USA who fail more often than others their age. "I made wrong decisions," said Obama. He expects young people to make better decisions instead of sitting back and blaming society for their failure.

When Barack Obama was elected, many liberals in the country were hoping for a new era of skin color harmony. The feeling of departure that accompanied the election has now evaporated. Apart from announcements and speeches, not much happened. Black people criticize Obama for forgetting his roots. Mark Neal, a professor at Duke University for African and Afro-American studies, accused Obama of neglecting the systematic form of racism after announcing his initiative. And Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, also a professor at Duke University in North Carolina, said in an interview: “The Obama effect is quickly waning. Having a black president means little in our everyday life. "

Nicole, Dequane's stepmother, is standing on the beach at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, looking out over the water. She says she is happy in Remington, in her black neighborhood in Baltimore. “I like the area, I like the people. I could achieve more. ”She believes in the American dream that it is only up to your own decision to stay where you are born or to develop, maybe to make it to the top. “We just have to look at Obama and understand that everything is open to us.” But for Nicole it would mean stepping out of her own milieu, leaving Remington behind her, her black surroundings. Nicole should get a little whiter. She doesn't want any of that, she says: "I have enough of what I have."

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