Don’t Hold Your Breath

Boston Residents Protesting Busing in 1974.

Boston Residents Protesting Busing in 1974.

Jonathan Kozol seems to be one of those innumerable relentless reformers who are determined to make the world resemble their idea of what it should be. American society breeds the type like the proverbial rabbits–ever since the 1830s when New England started sending out Unitarians, abolitionists, convent-burners, free lovers, vegetarians, suffragettes, Mormons, and such. (I note Professor Kozol was born in Boston.) Kozol has established himself as one of the foremost “defenders of American children,” and especially as the semi-official authority on the progress of school integration in the U.S. The progress of integration is measured by the percentage of black children who are not still left in virtually all-black public schools. His books Savage Inequalities in 1991 and The Shame of the Nation in 2005 have won every prize you can think of.

One must give Kozol credit for having the courage of his convictions (or the virtues of his defects). Unlike most leftist crusaders he actually goes into those bad neighborhoods to see for himself what’s what. I recently came across a 2010 interview which many might find startling. He declared that there is more school segregation in the U.S. today than there was in the South in 1925. And, he reports, the most segregated states, those where black children are the least integrated in the public schools, are 1) New York, 2) Illinois, 3) Michigan, and 4) California. He points out that D.C., if it were a state, would beat out California. No statistics were mentioned for Massachusetts or New Jersey. Even casual observers of politics will note that the commonwealths cited as the most segregated are the darkest blue of blue states, those most dedicated to the vision or goal of a multicultural America.

Horrors! A full scale federal commission is needed to investigate this situation, make recommendations for improvement, and institute prosecutions for the malefactors responsible! At the least, one could hope that the news media, the Congress, and the courts might shift their focus a bit away from the South as the black hole of American racism.

Don’t hold your breath. It will never happen.

Actually, this is no revolutionary discovery. It has been obvious for years that the South is more “integrated” than the North. The extent of segregation that Kozol has described in the Deep North was probably true even in the 1950s when court-ordered integration began in Dixie. It is also pretty evident that there is less real deep-seated racial hostility in the South than in the North. That has always been true, even under slavery.

The whole Civil Rights business has from Day One been deeply tinged with hypocrisy (as well as rent-seeking). All those Republican Congressmen who voted for the civil rights legislation of the 1960s would not have done so if they had been smart enough to understand that the laws would ever apply to them rather than just to evil Dixie.

The South is the “internal other,” the evil corner which defines the righteous mainstream. The South, as imagined, has been for a long time an essential concept for the proliferating American pseudo-intelligentsia. It has always been a question of we, the good, correcting them–the bad ones, the South. What might be the actual state of race relations among the good ones has never been a consideration worthy of notice, much less correction. The self-appointed good ones, in fact, have neither the awareness of themselves nor the moral decency to consider their own shortcomings. In a real sense they need the South, without which they would hardly have any identity. After all, these are people without any religion, culture, or heritage except an imaginary tradition of a virtuous struggle to achieve the postulated perfection of America. In that melodrama, they are the heroes and the South is the indispensable villain.

About Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of www.shotwellpublishing.com, a source  for unreconstructed Southern books. More from Clyde Wilson

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