A 2001 study revealed that despite diversity efforts, the United States was becoming increasingly segregated both in housing and education. The study found that one in three Latino students were attending schools with a minority enrollment of more than 90 percent, and that 70 percent of Black students attended schools that had more than 50 percent minority enrollment. On average, white students attended schools that were more than 80 percent white. Since the study took place, the racial segregation has continued to worsen.

The implications of this segregation are many. Since minority schools tend to have higher levels of children attending who live in poverty, the level of resources and teaching suffers. On the other hand, white children suffer as they have virtually no contact with minority groups and are unprepared for what they will experience in the outside, racially diverse, world.

Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of this study, conducted only six years ago, is what little impact it has had on our education policies. It seems that Middle America is perfectly comfortable with accepting this trend. Furthermore, there seems to be a return to the “separate but equal” mentality among decision makers. The notion that schools don’t need to be integrated as long as the schooling is strong is surprisingly prevalent. The fact that “separate but equal” never means what it implies, with minority schools and resources being dismally underfunded and lackluster in comparison with white schools, seems to be completely overlooked in our new, supposedly “color blind” politics.

The truth of the matter is that nothing will be resolved with the system as it is — with schools being funded by property taxes — therefore allowing for wealthier and predominantly white children to obtain a better education than poor children. And with the segregation of American neighborhoods and the economic disparities between minority children and white children, the playing field, as of now, has little chance of being leveled.

Besides the racial and unjust undertones of the contemporary argument on race and education, also of concern to all Americans is the burden that an unequal education system has on our society. Although parents may advocate for loosening diversity rules in schools based on day-to-day inconveniences such as longer commutes, the long-term benefits far outweigh the harms.

Researchers of the report say that racially mixed schools are better for students. Education, especially early on in development, is a crucial time to begin promoting racial diversity and acceptance. Nick Johnson, the director of policy and public sector at the Commission for Racial Equality, explains that “schools are where our children first learn how to get along with people from other cultures and backgrounds.”

Our segregated school system is one of our nation’s Achilles’ heels. It stops us from moving forward as a country and allows racist behaviors and attitudes to be passed on, unchallenged, from generation to generation. It also damages our reputation abroad, with countries that have similar ethnic backgrounds looking at our education system with dismay and disbelief. In fact, an article was published by the BBC in April, which expressed fear that “Britain is in danger of becoming a kind of ‘mini-America’ as schools become increasingly segregated and turn into ethnic and religious ghettos.”

Clare Bakota is a communications assistant at the Advancement Project. This article is reprinted with permission from the organization’s blog, .

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