Reflections on Brown to Understand Milliken v. Bradley: What if We Are Focusing on the Wrong Policy Questions?
by H. Richard Milner IV, Lori A. Delale-O'Connor, Ira E. Murray & Abiola A. Farinde-Wu - 2016
Background/Context: Prior research on Milliken v. Bradley focuses on the failure of this case to implement interdistrict busing in the highly segregated Detroit schools. Much of this work focuses explicitly on desegregation, rather than on equity and addressing individual, systemic, institutional, and organizational challenges that may prevent the advancement and actualization of desegregation to benefit Black students, teachers, and communities.
Purpose/Objective: In this study, we shed light on the impacts of desegregation on Black students, teachers, and communities. We argue that Brown, Milliken, and associated policies that attempt to address segregation focus mostly on student assignment policies. Our focus instead is on highlighting the underconceptualized microlevel realities of desegregation, which include the losses of cultural and community connections, strong role models, and connections to school.
Population/Participants: This study draws from interview data collected from three experts in the field of education whose research focuses on school desegregation. The interview participants have written scholarly articles and/or book chapters about desegregation and related influences on/for Black teachers, Black students, and Black communities spanning the PreK–12 and higher education spectrum.
Research Design: This study employs in-depth qualitative interviewing.
Data Collection and Analysis: Interviews were conducted by phone and lasted approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Participants in the study were asked questions about the impact of desegregation and education on Black teachers’ experience, self-concept, dedication, and retention; Black students’ experience of schools and school-related success; experience and connection of Black communities; and “next steps” in educating Black students. An interpretive perspective was used to guide the interview analyses in this study.
Findings/Results: Analysis of the expert interviews reveals the underexplored microlevel losses and harmful effects of desegregation policies and politics on Black children, families, and communities.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Evidence from these researchers who have studied desegregation suggests that for many Black students and educators, desegregation was unsuccessful—even when there were superficial indicators of success. We suggest that both researchers and policy makers should consider drawing from the potential losses associated with desegregation and focusing on the equity, regardless of schooling location and population.
Increased attention was placed on the historic, landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) as we approached its 60th anniversary. Similarly, the 40th anniversary of Milliken v. Bradley (1974) was acknowledgedan ultimately failed attempt to implement Brown and desegregate schools in Detroit, Michigan through a cross-district busing integration plan. These cases raised questions about desegregation, student assignment policies, and the persistence of inequitable educational opportunities for Black1 students in public schools across the United States (Delaney, 1994; Wolters, 2004). Both Brown and Milliken focused on desegregation as a means of achieving equitable schooling experiences for Black students. However in the appeal (Milliken II, 1977), Milliken also explicitly affected the limitations of desegregation and the need to examine and utilize resource allocation as a potential lever for improving Black students educational experiences in schools. It is the intersection and frequent opposition of these two outcomes discussed in Milliken I and Milliken IIdesegregation and more equitable resourcesthat we explore in this article.
In an article, Can We at Least Have PlessyThe Struggle for Quality Education, Ladson-Billings (2007) posed an important question about the gaze of cases (such as Milliken) and policies focused on implementing Brown (desegregation) rather than Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) (separate but equal). Though her initial comment was tongue in cheek, her analysis suggests that exerting energy toward separate but equal might have provided more positive long-term effects especially for those most underserved in U.S. public schools than does focusing solely on desegregation at any expense. In her words, there is some merit to looking carefully at what it might mean to truly establish funding equity for those students left in our most depressed and neglected schools (p. 1280). Drawing from Ladson-Billings, we look at our largely segregated U.S. educational systems (Orfield, Kucsera, & Siegel-Hawley, 2012) and ask, should our focus be on equity rather than desegregation? We ask this question with the understanding that desegregation and equity do not need to be an either/or proposition but rather to highlight that many cases, including Milliken focused explicitly on desegregation.
Drawing from three expert voices on desegregation, we argue that Brown, Milliken, and associated policies that attempt to address segregation focus mostly on student assignment policies without necessarily addressing individual, systemic, institutional, and organizational challenges, such as discrimination and racism that may prevent the advancement and actualization of desegregation to benefit Black students, teachers, and communities. In particular, we draw from insight of these experts to highlight sites that seemed to be overlooked and/or underconceptualized regarding Black people for successful desegregation, including cultural and community connections, strong role models, and connections to school.
We further argue that public interests have been focused on resegregation patterns and failed attempts at desegregating schools rather than underlying issues, such as racism, neighborhood composition, and property tax structures that have maintained separate and unequal schools across the U.S. (Milner & Howard, 2004). Although some districts succeeded in mixing raced bodiesthat is, integrating students from different racial backgrounds in the same school building, evidence suggests that little or no efforts were made to truly desegregate the very fabric of these spaces, beyond politically charged and legally mandated efforts (Milner & Howard, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 2004; Orfield & Lee, 2004; Siddle-Walker, 2000). Moreover, evidence suggests that even when school buildings were racially integrated, tracking practices ensured that Black (and Brown) students did not take classes with White students (Green, 1999; Milner & Howard, 2004; Oakes, 1995; Tyson, 2011)even at the elementary level.
In this article, we draw on the concepts of place and race to understand interview data from three experts on education segregation and desegregation to shed light on the nature and complexity of Milliken that are underexplored in public and policy discourses and examinations. The experts analyses and critiques of desegregation policy are well situated around the nexus between macro and microlevel realities: Black students and teachers experienced high rates of negative backlash from desegregation efforts that on the surface seemed to succeed. We argue while policy examinations tend to focus on detrimental influences of segregation and resegregation, on a microlevel, there were losses and harmful effects that too often go underexplored in reference to desegregation policies and politics. Examples of probative rhetorical, conceptual, conversational, and empirical questions regarding desegregation include: What can be done to reverse resegregation patterns across the U.S.? How do we restructure student assignment policy to ensure racial integration in schools? However, analyses of the interviews from the participants in this study shaped a different set of questions that we argue should be considered as policy makers make sense of Milliken, Brown, and school resegregation: What have been the longstanding benefits of desegregation efforts to Black and Brown students? By focusing on desegregationby any means necessaryare we missing other important resulting effects and influences of desegregation efforts that perhaps more severely impacted Black and Brown students?
In the article that follows, we first review the literature on Milliken within the context of desegregation and resegregation. Next, we discuss policy and politics of place and race and their connections to Milliken and desegregation attempts more broadly. Using this background, we move to the expert interview data to better understand the implications of desegregation policies, such as Milliken. We conclude with recommendations for thinking further about this work and further about the success or failure of Milliken.
MILLIKEN AND FRAMING DESEGREGATION AND RE-SEGREGATION
In 1970, the Milliken v. Bradley case highlighted the distinction between de jure and de facto segregation in a northern metropolitan cityDetroit. The NAACP sued on behalf of parents whose children were negatively affected by the citys unwillingness to bus White children from the suburbs to Black schools in the city. Busing across urban and suburban lines became the central mechanism for de jure desegregation because the Detroit city schools were already predominantly Black. The plaintiffs case took up the arguments that (1) an interdistrict busing remedy was within the Courts authority because of the actions of the state and (2) the state had primary responsibility for public education and could exercise such control over (and across) districts (Sedler, 1986). The Sixth Circuit Court found in favor of the NAACP, specifying that it was the state's responsibility to integrate across the segregated area. The Court affirmed the need for a cross-district busing integration plan; however, they refused to take up the relationship between housing segregation and school segregationa key component in the plaintiffs case. Subsequently, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of maintaining the unintentional, de facto segregation that it indicated existed in Detroitnot allowing the practice of busing across urban-suburban lines to be enforced. Called the waters end to Browns watershed (Amaker, 1974, p. 349), the Court in Milliken, in the words of legal scholar Robert Sedler who followed the trial and decision at the time, chose the road that led away from desegregation and away from equal educational opportunities for Black children and found that neither the Detroit Public Schools, nor the state had violated any laws (Sedler, 1975, p. 570).
In the principal dissent, however, Justice Marshall stated: The District Court determined that inter-district relief was necessary and appropriate only because it found that the condition of segregation within the Detroit school system could not be cured with a Detroit-only remedy. The decision almost guaranteed schools would remain racially segregated, just as neighborhoods did (and still do) in large measure. Thus, although Milliken was about busing and the Courts decision to essentially maintain racially segregated schools, the fundamental questions surrounding Milliken concerned desegregation and the implementation of Brown (Orfield & Eaton, 1997). In fact, the Supreme Court majority in Milliken indicated that an interdistrict remedy, such as the one approved by the Circuit Court, was a wholly impermissible remedy based on a standard not hinted at in Brown I or II or any holding of this Court (Milliken v. Bradley, 1974, p. 418). With desegregation across district lines no longer an option in cases of de facto segregation, Milliken II (1977) focused on employing other means to address the negative educational effects of segregation. Because intradistrict desegregation was limited within Detroit because of the primarily Black population within the city, the Court called for funding of remedial programming, which required increased finances to be shared by both the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.
In a post-Milliken context, present data indicate that schools and districts across the U.S. are resegregating (Fiel, 2013; Glenn, 2012; Stroub & Richards, 2013). Indeed, a 2012 report from UCLAs Civil Right Project (Orfield, Kucsera, & Siegel-Hawley, 2012) indicated fully 15% of Black students . . . attend apartheid schools across the nation, where Whites make up 0 to 1% of the enrollment. Additionally, data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) showed that roughly three-quarters of Black students attend schools that are 50%100% minority.
In addition to the student racial demographics, the teaching force is also overwhelmingly White in both primarily White and primarily Black schools. According to the Schools and Staffing Survey, nearly 81% of teachers across the country are White; while just under 8% of teachers are Black (See Table 2 below; National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). Table 1 provides data that capture teacher racial demography from different contexts from urban/city to rural, providing a current picture of the teaching force across multiple contexts. Indeed, the social context (the place, as discussed below) matters in terms of where teachers teach and to whom students are exposed. Further, the absence of Black teachers matters because they historically played an important role in Black communities and offer potential role models, as well as family school connections (Foster, 1998).
Table 1. Teachers by Race/Ethnicity for 20112012
Adapted from National Center for Education Statistics Table C.1.a.-1 Number and percentage distribution of public elementary and secondary school teachers, by locale and selected characteristics: 201112. http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ruraled/tables/c.1.a.-1_1112.asp
Note: # Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50% or greater.
Further, evidence is clear that even in racially diverse schools, students are still essentially experiencing segregated learning environments and courses (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Orfield, Kucsera, & Siegel-Hawley, 2012; West, 1994) due to tracking practices that perpetuate segregated learning contexts. West (1994) identified two issues that result in segregation within desegregated building: methods of assigning students to academic programs, such as tracking, and ability grouping, and remedial pullout programs and . . . disciplinary practices that discriminate against [racial] minority students (p. 2572).
A relentless argument against the maintenance of segregated schools is about achievement datathe argument that Black students fare better academically in racially diverse environments (Rothstein, 2013). Rothstein concluded: Overall, research supports racial integration's importance in narrowing both academic and noncognitive achievement gaps. The prudent policy is to move forward to integrate schools (p. 52). However, we argue our obsession with test scores can leave us underprepared to address more nuanced perspectives of what students need and deserve. Although serious gains were made in the 1970s and early 1980s in reducing achievement disparities between White students and other racial groups of students, Darling Hammond (2014), explained that:
The Reagan era introduced a new theory of reform focused on outcomes rather than inputsthat is, high-stakes testing without investingthat drove most policy initiatives. The situation in many urban (and rural) schools deteriorated over the decades. Drops in real per-pupil expenditures accompanied tax cuts and growing enrollments. Meanwhile, student needs grew with immigration, concentrated poverty and homelessness, and increased numbers of students requiring second-language instruction and special educational services. Although some federal support to high-needs schools and districts was restored during the 1990s, it was not enough to fully recoup the earlier losses, and after 2000, inequality grew once again. (p. xii)
In this paper, then, we seek to further understand both desegregation and resegregation as connected to Milliken in terms of the concepts of race and place discussed more explicitly in what follows.
POLICY AND POLITICS OF PLACE AND RACE
With both an understanding of Milliken and an overview of current resegregation of schools in the United States, we turn now to discuss the concepts of place (environment) and race, which will be used as analytic tools to make sense of the interview insights from the experts in subsequent sections of this article and the importance of viewing Milliken with a focus on equity rather than solely desegregation. Conceptually, place and race provide particularly salient frames to understand Milliken because these concepts are at the core of the cases focus on remedying (or not) de facto segregation produced by purportedly unintentional individual and state actions connected to housing and schooling.
Milliken represents an excellent example of how place matters in the structure, system, organization, and funding of education for students within the context of school desegregation, in particular because the Milliken decision provided a clear place-based path for those seeking to avoid desegregation. Historically and contemporarily, the locations where students and their families reside influence their experiences and opportunities in education; this connection was at the core of Milliken, with housing ignored by the court and noted, in the dissent, as a false distinction (Milner, 2010; Morris & Monroe, 2009).
Historically speaking, post World War II patterns of sprawl, (Squires & Kubrin, 2005) created and exacerbated disparities between families, primarily along socioeconomic and racial lines (Osypuk & Acevedo-Garcia, 2010; Stoll & Covington, 2012), combined with historic racial discrimination in housing policies (Farley, Steeh, Jackson, Krysan, & Reeves, 1993) which negatively affected students in Detroit and other urban school districts in the U.S. Because of structural and systemic inequities and the geography of opportunitythat is the way physical geography not only influences life chances, but also peoples exposure and interactions, the topographical landscape can shape where businesses, transportation, housing, and related resources are located (Anyon, 2005; de Souza Briggs, 2005; Galster & Killen, 1995; Haberman, 1991; Kozol, 1991, 2005; MacLeod, 1995; Milner, 2013b, 2015; Tate, 2008). Closely connected, as Osypuk and Acevedo-Garcia (2010) stressed, the geography of opportunity situates residents within a context of neighborhood-based opportunities that shape their quality of life (p. 1114) and families benefit in terms of not only afforded opportunities, but also an improved sense of efficacy in opportunity-rich environments (Rosenbaum, Reynolds, & DeLuca, 2002). Thus, the broader sociopolitical landscape in terms of the types of housing communities available to people as well as the kinds of jobs in particular environments have a strong bearing on where people reside and consequently the kinds of schools available to students (Milner, 2013a). As demonstrated in Milliken, this division leads to grossly inequitable resources in schools.
As an analytic tool to understand and make sense of why efforts at desegregation had negative impacts on Black children and Black teachers, particularly during Milliken, centralizing place is essential. Students living in underresourced environments often attend underresourced schools and can experience several disheartening realities (Milner, 2013a): housing instability; hunger; health and nutrition problems; school instability; physical, emotional, and psychological abuse due to stress; family instability (Milner, 2013a, 2015; Munin, 2012); and inadequate schools and educational facilities (Tate, 2008). Inside of schools, the location of the environment (urban, rural, or suburban) also provides important predictive patterns for students in terms of their exposure to high quality support, resources, and funding. Indeed, in the context of Milliken, de Souza Briggs (2006) noted, Affluent school-communities in suburban areas face no real prospect of region-wide desegregation that might enable poor children to learn alongside their more affluent peers (p. 406). Milliken demonstrated the ways the distinction of de jure and de facto segregation manifest through placewith both the plaintiffs argument that the state had substantial control over local districts and could employ a solution that went beyond the bounds of Detroit and the Supreme Courts decision that ultimately upheld distinctly place-based (White-suburban; Black-urban) division. While place serves as one central concept for interpreting Milliken in this study, race provides another critical tool to guide our understanding.
Milliken provides obvious and not so overt opportunities to centralize, examine, and illuminate the role and salience of race in terms of where people live and who receives resources in schools. Race is not only about skin pigmentation. Race is socially, legally, historically, and physically constructed to categorize and privilege some groups over others (Delgado & Stefancic, 2012; Desmond & Emirbayer, 2009; Harrison, 1995; Mukhopadhyay & Henze 2003). However, examining race as solely a descriptive category underestimates the explanatory power race discussions could potentially provide. Practitioners, policy makers, teachers, principals, counselors, theoreticians, researchers, and citizens, writ large, still struggle to understand how race matters in society and consequently in education (Brown, 2012; Terry, Flennaugh, Blackmon, & Howard, 2014; Gooden & ODoherty, 2015; Jackson, Sealey-Ruiz, & Watson, 2014; McGee & Pearman, 2014).
Although strong racial messages and implications are pervasive in many of the challenges we face in education related to outcomes in education such as the overreferral of Black students in special education (Allen, 2013; Blanchett, 2014; Noguera, 2003), and overrepresentation in disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and expulsions (Fenning & Rose, 2007; Milner, 2013a; Skiba et al., 2014; Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002), race continues to be superficially examined, if addressed at all, in public and scholarly discourse. Even in places where segregation was never legally mandated, there are clear racial distinctions and segregated concentrations of Black and White communities. This is particularly salient in Milliken as, although race is a clear part of all desegregation arguments, in the case of Detroit the distinction is between primarily Black urban population and primarily White suburban population.
Indeed, although some believe poverty or low socioeconomic status is the culprit in the underachievement of students of color, Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) explained, there is some evidence to suggest that even when we hold constant for class, middle-class African-American students do not achieve at the same level as their White counterparts (p. 51). Thus, schools are underserving students of color across different social contexts.
In a similar vein, Condron (2009) found that roughly two-thirds of the Black/White achievement gap persists even after controlling for socio-economic status. This is a gap that SES can explain in early childhood, but that has been found to widen over time (Fryer & Levitt, 2004, 2006). Our analysis is consistent with research and theory that situate issues of race and racism as permanent and endemic to the very fabric of the United States and that has determined race matters and should thus be investigated and theorized about (Howard, 2008; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Martin, 2009). Issues of race are omnipresent, and race will continue to be an area of importance in society and consequently education policy. Attempting to get at the root causes of failed attempts of desegregation from a raced perspective means that researchers expose the persistence of White supremacy and racism that perpetuate the status quo.
In conceptualizing both place and race, the Milliken decision reified several interrelated realities. First, housing policies shape student racial demography in schools (Rothstein, 2013). As discussed but not taken up by the circuit court and asserted by Justices Marshall and Douglas in their dissents to the Milliken, housing policy yielded the segregation between Black city and White suburb seen in Milliken. Second, the Courts refusal to bus White students from the suburbs into the inner city of Detroit demonstrates their complicity in maintaining the status quo and privileging residential rights over those connected to equality. This was pointed out explicitly by Justice Marshall in his dissent, In the short run, it may seem the easier course to allow our great metropolitan area to be divided up into two citiesone white, the other blackbut it is a course, I predict, our people will ultimately regret (Milliken v. Bradley, 1974). Third, even in the midst of policy decisions that maintained segregation, policies never actually implemented separate but equalwhich means that Black and Brown students continued to be underserved with inadequate resources (Orfield, 2009; Rothstein, 2013). Although Milliken II pointed to the necessity of providing equitable funding in some domains for Detroit schools, this was not implemented more broadly to ensure that Black students would be equitably served in the educational system.
Place and race provide tools for examining the interviews below. In the following sections, we outline the methods and data collection for the study. The overarching focus of the data and analyses that follow is using experts microlevel understanding of the implications of desegregation to provide a nuanced lens from which to view the failure of Milliken to achieve interdistrict desegregation.
To understand the implications Milliken and other desegregation policies that influenced Black teachers, Black students, and Black communities, this research draws from the insights of three experts in the field of education whose research focuses on school desegregation. Six educational research experts were invited to participate in an interview to shed light on desegregation, policy, and Black students, teachers, and communities. These interviews focused on understanding experts professional judgments of the implications of desegregation. The six experts were selected based on several criteria: (a) They had engaged in research and writing about desegregation, including publishing frequently cited books and articles that have appeared in top-ranked journals; (b) they were experts and researchers who had been in their respective fields of study for longer than 10 years; and (c) they were willing to participate in the interview and follow-up interviews if necessary. Of the six invitees, three agreed to participate. All the participants who agreed to participate in the study were African American, although five African Americans and one White participant who met the above criteria were contacted for participation initially. Interviews with experts who had studied these and similar issues were designed to get their viewpoints about practice, as well as insights that often go underexplored in policy conversations regarding desegregation. The primary focus of the interviews was using micro-analysis to inform how we think about the macro, and in particular how we connect lived experience of Black students and teachers to the broader concepts of place and race.
IMPORTANCE OF INTERVIEW
Interviews are essential in qualitative data collection because they allow us to listen to the . . . voices of those normally Othered, [in] hearing them as constructors, agents, and disseminators of knowledge (Gallagher, 2007, p. 8). Berg (2007) described interviews as conversations with the purpose of gathering information and delineated three primary interview structures: (a) standardized (formal, structured) interviews; (b) semistandardized (guided, semistructured) interviews; and (c) unstandardized (informal, unstructured) interviews. The interviews with our participants were a mixture of standardized and semistandardized, because less structured interviews increase internal validity and contextual understanding, while more structured interviews allow for more comparability (Maxwell, 2013). This format allowed us to gather comparable data across interviewees, but also broach potentially new issues deemed important by participants.
The first author (Milner) conducted interviews by phone, and the interviews lasted approximately 45-minutes to an hour. In some cases, follow up calls and emails were made to the participants to clarify information and to ensure accuracy of their comments. Through member checks, all three participants were able to read and correct the excerpts identified in subsequent sections. Participants in the study were asked questions about the impact of desegregation and education on Black teachers experience, self-concept, dedication, and retention; Black students experience of schools and school-related success; experience and connection of Black communities; and next steps in educating Black students. The interview questions were deliberately broad, and they represented the goal of better understanding experiences and realities of Black students, teachers, and communities regarding desegregationespecially because the heart of results of desegregation policies such as Brown and Milliken heavily involved and influenced Black people.
ANALYSIS OF INTERVIEWS
An interpretive perspective (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Silverman, 2006) was used to guide the interview analyses in this study. All interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed. Upon reviewing the interview transcripts, themes emerged from all three interviews. In several instances, themes overlapped, and they guided much of the discussion in subsequent sections. As themes emerged throughout the interviews, coding categories were developed to better understand the issues and to organize the data (Corbin & Strauss, 2008; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). These categories were named conceptually but were, in essence, themes that were stressed and pointed out by the participants to guide further inquiry and analyses. These themes discussed in detail in the sections that follow connected strongly with the concepts of place and race discussed above. The participants focused on the damaging aspects of desegregation, particularly as it connects to place and race, provided insight into the value of privileging equity over desegregation by any means necessary and, as such, shed light on the outcomes of Milliken and Milliken II as cases where equity should have been a foundational pursuit.
In the paragraphs below, we provide an overview of the three interview participants for this study. These interview participants have written scholarly articles, books, and/or book chapters about desegregation and related influences on/for Black teachers, Black students, and Black communities spanning the PreK12 and higher education spectrum.
Jacqueline Jordan Irvine (Dr. Irvine) is the Charles Howard Candler Professor Emeritus of Urban Education in the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University. Her work is very well respected in the area of desegregation and the education of Black students. Her books include Black Students and School Failure: Policies, Practices, and Prescriptions (1990), which discusses the nexus of policy and practice to better understand the unequal experiences of Black students in U.S. schools, and Educating Teachers for Diversity: Seeing with a Cultural Eye (2003). Dr. Irvine has received numerous awards for her work, including the American Educational Research Associations Outstanding Achievement Award - Research Focus on Black Education Special Interest Group.
At the time of the study, M. Christopher Brown, II, (Dr. Brown) was the 18th president of the nations first historically Black land-grant institution, Alcorn State University. Previously, he served as executive vice president and provost at Fisk University where he was also a professor. Dr. Brown has held leadership positions at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Educational Research Association, and the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute of the United Negro College Fund. His research examines African American students experiences and outcomes in higher education, employing both qualitative and quantitative methods. He has also studied public school to higher education pipeline issues, investigating the effects of desegregation on college selection among African American students in particular.
Vanessa Siddle Walker (Dr. Siddle Walker) is Professor of History of American Education and Qualitative Research Methods at Emory University. Her research has examined historical and contemporary aspects of education for African American children. She is the author of the award-winning Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South (2000) and Hello Professor: A Black Principal and Professional Leadership in the Segregated South (2015). She has written numerous articles and book chapters, including a series of manuscripts on the segregated schooling of African American children in the South that have appeared in the Harvard Educational Review, Review of Education Research, and the American Educational Research Journal.
With a background on the methods and an overview of study participants, we move to the data from their interviews. The data focus on understanding how these experts view desegregationand in particular the potentially detrimental aspects of cases like Milliken and others focused on desegregation.
UNDERTOLD STORIES OF DESEGREGATION IN SHAPING POLICY
Several themes emerged from the interviews, which shed light on some of the challenges of desegregation that perhaps can provide critical perspectives on how we think about reconceptualizing how we think about Milliken and desegregation more broadly. Much attention has been placed on the salience and importance of desegregation and concerns about the resegregation of students in schools; however, another perspective is that in practice, the results of desegregation were somewhat detrimental to Black students, educators, and communities (Irvine & Irvine, 1983; Siddle-Walker, 1996; Tillman, 2004). The participants in this study all focused in on lossesalbeit unintentionalthat too often go underexplored in public and scholarly discourses regarding Milliken and other related cases and policies that stress the need for desegregation and moving raced bodies from one school to the next by any means necessary. Below we draw from the constructs of place and race outlined above to situate the loss of role models, instructional connections, student and teacher voice, and the lack of substantial changes in educational quality and resources that our participants discussed as negative production of desegregation. These themes were those that appeared most frequently and were most salient through our coding of the interview data. Based on these analyses, we argue that these perspectives often go underexplored in policy discussions but should be considered. This work aligns with prior work that highlights the negative aspects of desegregation on the experience of Black students, teachers and the Black community (Irvine & Irvine, 1983, 2007; Siddle Walker 1996, 2000; Tillman, 2004), but also connects explicitly with Milliken and its focus on forwarding metropolitan desegregation, as well as Milliken II, which began to explore equity in the face of continued segregation.
LOSS OF ROLE MODELS AND INSTRUCTIONAL CONNECTIONS
Race played a central role in how these experts talked about the impact of desegregation. Black teachers as well as Black students seemed to lose their Black teacher role models according to the participants. Dr. Brown explained that Black students need to see other Black teachers in order to have role models. He stated that, What people experience day-to-day effectuates how they view and vision the possibility of their lives. The desegregation efforts advocated in Milliken would have moved Black students from Detroit schools where all of their teachers and principals were Black to schools in suburban Detroit where most, if not all, of their teachers were White. The magnitude of Black students now being taught by White teachers cannot be stressed enough, according to Dr. Brown. One can only imagine the quality of instruction that Black students received from White teachers, some of whom were opposed to the very notion of desegregation and teaching Black students.
Consequently, Black teachers and prospective ones started to select alternative fields for professions. Whereas, historically, teaching, in the Black community was perceived as one of the most prestigious professions for Black people (Foster, 1998)one that would allow Black families to move into the Black middle class, the perception of the teaching profession shifted after desegregation according to Dr. Brown. In terms of place or environment, fewer Black teachers in Black communities had an influence not only on what happened inside of the school but also outside of it (a point expanded below). Dr. Brown explained that Black students and new Black teachers needed to see, interact with, and experience successful Black teachers and their instructional practices: If students are growing up in schools that they dont see Black teachers, that they dont see Black principals or Black superintendents, how the hell are they going to imagine themselves being one?
Role models are critical in helping students decide on a profession and in helping students visualize the possibilities of their life according to Dr. Brown. In this sense, Dr. Brown referenced studies that he had conducted with prospective Black teachers where they pointed to their reservation about going into a profession with so few Black teachers and one where they worried they would not be supported.
According to Dr. Brown, these prospective teachers concerns were linked to desegregation in that they expressed concerns about racism and unnecessary stress and tension they would not have had to encounter predesegregation.
Importantly, the push to recruit and to retain talented Black teachers is framed by these teachers abilities to relate to and connect to Black students, socially, academically, pedagogically, and culturally. Dr. Irvine explained:
And so Black teachers are important to have not because we want them [only] as role models, but thats important. But thats not the only reason we want [and need Black teachers]. We want them because they have a way of teaching [Black] kids that leads to achievement. They know how to come up with examples in the kids lives that make the lessons come alive, and they [Black students] retain the material.
What is clear from research about linking teachers racial and ethnic background with students is that for Black children, in particular, these matches allow students to connect with their teacher, find mentors and role models, and develop relationships with their teachers who understand these students racial experiences in ways that White teachers cannot (Easton-Brooks, 2014; Foster, 1998; Milner, 2008; Siddle-Walker, 1996). Place, in this sense, is imperative. If Black students do not have the opportunity to connect with Black teachers in school, many students would never connect with them outside of school or in their community either.
Throughout their interviews, Dr. Irvine and Dr. Brown consistently referenced the importance of cultural connections between Black teachers and their Black students as a fundamental reason to increase the Black teaching force post-desegregation. An essential component of these researchers perspectives on desegregation was the strain it (desegregation) placed on both the teaching workforce in addition to what Black students lose as a result of the displacement of Black teachers teaching Black students. Thus, focusing on actualizing Brown through Milliken seemed to be tangential to the overarching argument of these experts. In this sense, what the researchers shared was that, on a macropolicy level, when desegregation seemed to succeed (in terms of moving bodies from one building to another) in practice there were challenges that were not addressed that seemed to actually harm Black studentscausing perhaps more harm according to Dr. Brown than good. Thus, desegregation seemed to fail Black students in profound ways according to Dr. Brown in situations because they lost access to Black teachers as role models and teachers who could perhaps more effectively meet their instructional needs for achievement and as role models. Dr. Irvine was resolute and unyielding in her interview that Black teachers were able to connect instructionally and culturally with their Black students predesegregation. These findings would suggest that desegregation and busing with Milliken were not necessarily the answers to better supporting Black students because it would have led to the loss of role models and instructional connections fostered with Black teachers. This loss encompasses both placethe proximity and geographical connections that come with have teachers in the Black communities where the students livedand racethe ways Black teachers provided a role model and connected culturally with their Black students.
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS AND DISRUPTING THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM
In addition to Black teachers having the ability to construct meaningful instructional examples with Black students, Dr. Siddle Walker pointed to the connections between the hidden curriculum and Black teachers. In other words, Dr. Siddle Walker stressed the importance and benefits of Black teachers teaching Black students because there are inherent, unstated, lessons that emerge in classroom interactions that show up between teachers and students. For instance, she stressed that cultural connections are often prevalent in relationships with Black teachers and Black students. These cultural informed relationships allow Black teachers to develop meaningful, relevant and responsive curricula and pedagogy in classrooms with Black students. To elaborate, Dr. Siddle Walker stated,
It comes in subtly [or through the hidden curriculum]; it comes in the talks that they [Black teachers] had with the students. It comes up in club activities . . . so the hidden curriculum was to explain what it means to be Black in America, to [be] role models. . . . And I would add this deep understanding of culture. Its not just that I have high expectations of you and . . .believe in your capacity to achieve, and theyre [Black teachers] willing to push you [Black students]. The teachers also had an intuitive understanding of the culture because they lived it . . . I [the teacher] live in the community. I go to church in the community. You know, in this segregated world . . .
Dr. Siddle Walker discussed how Black teachers often expressed and demonstrated high expectations, deep care for Black children, [and] beliefs in their [Black students] capacity to succeed. These issues were inherent in the implicit curriculum as Dr. Siddle Walker explained, and again demonstrate the importance of both race and place as frames to understand microlevel failings of desegregation.
Stressing the importance of place, Dr. Siddle Walker goes on to explain what she refers to as the bottom line:
But the bottom line is that . . .teachers had the advantage of understanding the culture and being a part of it [during segregation]. They didnt have to be taught it. We [Black teachers] understood it. They understood you dont talk down to parents, okay?That you dont treat people negatively. I mean they understood these things, wherein after desegregation, were still trying to figure out how to understand it.
Thus, the idea is that Black teachers, by virtue of their out of school interactions and their deep cultural understanding of what it meant and means to be Black in America, often brought a level of knowledge and connectedness into the classroom that showed up in their teaching and ability to be effective with students and their families. Moreover, because of their situated interaction of place, Black teachers develop knowledge about their students situations because in many instances they lived similar experiences in the neighborhood.
To explain, because Black teachers often interacted with Black students and parents outside of school (in the grocery stores and at church, for instance) they had an insiders perspective and a place-based connection on how Black students lived and experienced life outside of the classroom, and they were able to use this knowledge and understanding in the classroom with their studentsto provide optimal learning opportunities for students. Dr. Siddle Walker explained that instead of vilifying a Black child for not performing well, Black teachers often understood what was happening with the child in her home and provide the support students needed to succeed.
Black teachers were equipped to bring cultural understanding and connections into the classroom, partly because of how they lived their lives outside of the classroom, in the social context outside of school. Opportunities for cultural learning and understanding were directly linked to place and the fact that students and their teachers mostly lived in segregated (mostly Black) communities and taught in segregated neighborhood schools.
Teaching and learning extended beyond the walls of the school as teachers found themselves sitting next to the parents of their students in church. In Dr. Irvines words,
Many of the Black teachers were also Sunday school teachers at church. They lived in the community. And so they lived in the community and went to church with these [Black] kids; these things all connected in some interesting kinds of ways . . . its not the building, necessarily. Its not the supplies, but its the relationship between a teacher and a student that is the critical piece for Black kids. When you take that out of the equation, everything else fails. It doesnt matter how fine of a building, or how nice the books are, youve got to have a confident teacher who your kids all trust and care for. And if the teacher doesnt like the kids, it all falls apart.
The relationships that existed in the classroom enabled success for teachers and students alike. These researchers interviewed stressed the importance of teachers ability to establish relationships with their students, and they believed that teachers from various backgrounds, the circumstances under which the teachers and students lived and learned, and the commitment teachers had to their students made a difference.
COLOR PIGMENTATION, DEMOTION, AND LOSS OF VOICE
Another theme that emerged related to desegregation concerns a microlevel issue that rarely, if ever, is concerned in policy examinations. Desegregation efforts, for some Black teachers, meant that their skin complexion was examined in order to decide whether they were "worthy" of being moved into all-White schools. Monroe (2013) discussed the nature of colorism in education and how skin pigmentation shaped historically students and teachers experiences. When asked about what happened to Black teachers after the Brown decision, Dr. Brown stated:
Well it depends . . . very realistically on the complexion of the teacher, whether she was light or dark. And we are primarily talking about women in this regard . . .the lighter ones, what they've categorized as light skinned, were morphed and subsumed into what they would call integrated schools. The remaining population continued to be employed in what remained as de-facto nonsegregated schools, those schools that were not closed or subsumed. The remainder of them [darker skinned Black teachers] had to seek or find employment in other areas, other parts of the community or country.
The idea was that the lighter skinned or the lighter complexioned Black teachers were supposedly more closely connected to the White students and teachers, and consequently there was less of a threat for other White teachers, community members, and students in the all White segregated schools according to Dr. Brown. Darker skinned teachers were considered too different, and somehow the complexion of a Black teacher was likened to that teacher's intellectual capacity and/or his or her ability to teach effectively in more integrated environments.
After color pigmentation was considered, the "best" Black teachers (where skills and abilities were concerned) were forced to move to desegregated schools. Not only were the best teachers moved from predominately Black schools, but Dr. Brown stressed that,
if you are talking about the best teachers . . . division heads or department heads, they were moved and were often demoted to the base level positions. Those with full time administrative responsibilities, assistant principals or principals returned to classroom [teachers] in those other settings [for instance].
Dr. Irvine also discussed how the "better" teachers in the Black schools were transferred into the White schools:
Its [Black schools] most competent and stellar teachers were sent to White schools so that basically they took the best of what the Black community had and sent them to newly desegregated schools. Then they took our best principals and leaders in our [the Black] communities and put them into these newly desegregated schools and called them assistant principals. And they were usually in charge of discipline for Black kids . . . Black boys. So it was a devastating blow.
Among the key points explained by Dr. Irvine above is the explanation that Black principals were placed in charge of discipline for Black males. Psychologically and implicitly, it seems that Black males were forced to see their Black leaders as disciplinarians whom they feared as opposed to Black leaders in whom they could admire and look to for mentorship. This practiceof having Black males in disciplinary rolesis still common in schools across the U.S (Milner & Howard, 2004).
Dr. Irvine believed that these new structural implementations were intentionally a "devastating blow" for the Black community. In essence, Dr. Irvine explained that it appeared that desegregation "took the best of what the Black community had, and we really lost what [she considers] to be the center of Black community leadership. Dr. Siddle Walker explained that Black teachers seemed to have lost a "voice" in the education of Black children after desegregation. She stressed that not only was there a diminishing presence of Black teachers in predominantly Black schools, but:
It's not just loss of presence. I think there's a lot of loss in voice. . . . Black teachers really lost voice in desegregation because nobody assumed that they were capable of really being good teachers.
In addition to the loss of voice, Black teachers seemed to have lost a sense of power and integrity. Dr. Irvine explained that
the White superintendent and the White school board, you know, they paid very little attention to what was going on in Black communities, in Black schools. They threw meager crumbs [money] here and there, but basically as long as nobody was raising any hell, the White people just came in for obligatory program(s) once a year, and they showed up at graduation. That was it. And so [Black] teachers became very powerful people in the Black community.
The teachers had what Dr. Siddle Walker explained as a "powerful voice," and what Dr. Irvine explained as a great "sense of power and integrity" prior to desegregation. And their morale was high as was the case for their commitment to the education of Black students. Dr. Irvine further explained "they [Black teachers] were held in very high esteem in the Black community. . . they did what they thought was best for Black children." After desegregation, however, Dr. Irvine described the ways that White students and White parents treated Black teachers as a form of "assault." That is, Dr. Irvine stressed that "White parents could come into the school, and they could just say anything to Black teachers about their kids. 'You gave my child a B? Who do you think you are? That didn't happen in the Black community."
Dr. Irvine summed up how many Black teachers may have felt as a result of the "disrespect" and "assaults" that they received from White students and parents:
and I can't imagine how they must have felt to all of a sudden have little White children talking back at them, saying things to them that was just inconceivable in the Black community. . . . So their professional and their personal sense of self was diminished. And once that happens in any kind of organization you can see it just trickles down to the kids and you don't feel like getting up and coming to work in the morning.
What is pertinent is the notion that the kind of desegregation proposed in Milliken, in light of the exodus of Black teachers and leaders in the Black community, resulted in "an impact on all parts of the Black community," Dr. Irvine explained.
SECRET LEARNING IN WHITE SCHOOLS VERSUS EQUITABLE RESOURCES
It is important to note that not all Black people conceived a desegregation decision as a negative for Black children and Black communities. In fact, much of the support for integration was steeped in the notion that there was some "special" or "secret" learning that was taking place in the White schools that the Black students would somehow have access to as a result of being in the same company as White students (Bell, 1976, 2004). In Dr. Brown's words,
[Desegregation] was certainly celebrated by those who believed or adhered to the mental construction that White schools were better than Black schools and that there was somehow some secret learning taking place over there that their [Black] children would now have access to . . . so you find Black children being bused into White schools. But you did not see White students being bused into Black schools, or what were predominately Black schools.
Dr. Brown stressed that "for everything good that happened on one side, something bad happened on the other side."
Brown (1994) described the quandary of the Black community regarding desegregation in the following way:
In Brown, African Americans sought equal education opportunities by requesting an upgrading of Black schools . . . African Americans knew that as a political minority they would lose control over the instruction and the socialization of Black children. The Black community would lose educators as role models and a source of income and would suffer the psychological stigma of having Black schools associated with inferior education. Blacks also saw Brown as a mechanism for attacking other forms of legalized segregation. The dilemma for the Black community was to accept the short-term losses for better long-term gains.
Moreover, Dr. Siddle Walker used a "rescue" analogy in explaining the mentality around the push for desegregation among some supporters:
desegregation happened primarily from the rescue model. Basically everything these poor little [Black] children had was bad, and so we need to go rescue them. And so we're going to rescue children and then bring them into desegregated schools so we can save them. Well, the model rests upon certain assumptions. One of the assumptions is that the teachers are bad, the curriculum was bad, the parents were bad. Everything was bad [in the Black schools and communities].
However, Dr. Siddle Walker made it clear that
the resources were bad, but the commitment of the people, their level of professionalism, the kinds of things they tried to do for children, the way in which they cared about children, the networks that they had, those things were not necessarily bad. But if you operate from the rescue model . . . then you assume that everything was bad, and so let's go rescue them.
According to Dr. Brown, even President Nixon, who changed the "spirit" of desegregation, in Dr. Brown's view, thought that the way to enhance the educational opportunities for Black children was to have them attend schools with and "sit next to" White students. Dr. Brown explains that
Basically, [Nixon] says the only way for Blacks to truly get the same education, or to benefit and make educational progress, will be for them to sit next to White children in school while they're learning, and hopefully some of it will rub off on them. And so that is when we get this whole notion of moving the bodies from where they are to some other location . . . Richard Nixon says, no, they don't need money; they don't need newer books; they don't need new facilities; they don't need infrastructure. What they need is to sit next to little White children and then they will havethey'll be using the same books and they [Black students] can benefit from being in class with them [White students].
This was, in Dr. Brown's perspective, inconsistent with the mission of the NAACP and many of the Black leaders around desegregation. The primary goal of these groups was obtaining economic access and resources, not mandated integration where Black students were being bused into White schools. In Dr. Brown's words, "They [Black families and Black leadership] wanted equal resources. That's what they asked for, equal access to resources. They wanted people to have the option of going where they wanted to go to school and not be restricted," not necessarily to have Black students moved into White schools in mass numbers as proposed in Milliken.
MORE BLACK FACES BUT NOT MEANINGFUL EDUCATIONAL CHANGE
While many Black people celebrated the Brown ruling of 1954 and pushed for desegregation as in Milliken, these efforts were met with widespread resistance on the part of many White people. With no clear outlines, means of implementation, or timetable to desegregate schools, many White schools refused to implement the Supreme Court's ruling. Even the Supreme Court recognized the ambiguity of the Brown decision, which resulted in Brown II, Milliken, and Milliken II. However, Brown II offered no clearer interpretation of how schools were to transform the curriculum and milieu to meet the needs of the significant changes. In addition, Milliken and Milliken II made it clear that the court would interpret deep-rooted residential segregation and de facto segregation as beyond the purview of Brown. Thus, in many cities, schools were slow to respond to desegregation mandates, and real changes were not made until years, and in some cases, decades after the initial ruling.
With desegregation came more Black faces in White schools, but unfortunately, it became clear through the interviews that how schooling and educational experiences with intermingled raced bodies was to be carried out was never really addressed. In Dr. Brown's words,
There were mandates from the court master but never any significant changes to the fundamental ways in which public schools operate. Public schools remain, by and large, clustered around a coagulation of neighborhood children. Neighborhoods remain primarily segregated by racial populations. Neighborhoods remain segregated by financial and fiscal capacity. Neighborhoods remain segregated by type and structure of families.
Centralizing place and race, Dr. Brown explained how the racial background of the community, family type, and income level influenced student composition. In his words,
So, despite whatever we talk about integration, these neighborhoods are clustering by race, by family type, and by income. And so the schools in those areas are therefore reflections of the neighborhoods in which they sit. We still, by and large, do property taxes the same way we did them before desegregation. Depending on the value of the home, we assess a mileage tax, you pay taxes[money] resides in a districts, school district. That district uses those tax dollars, you know, how they see fit. So, certainly there were a lot of activities that happened around desegregation, but I'm not sure that the fundamental nature and truths that were the problems and the strengths of schooling were ever addressed.
In essence, desegregation resulted, in large measure, to just [Black] bodies being moved around.
In short, while place and race matteredfundamental change was not addressed. However, one change (that of course was not meaningfully positive for Black students) was that of tracking that picked up steam after desegregation. Black teachers found themselves teaching in White schools with two different missions: a mission for the White students and a mission for Black students. To illuminate the idea of tracking and these dual missions, Dr. Irvine declared:
And so tracking really started . . . we're going to have to have them [Black students] in the school by legal mandate, [so] what we'll do is we'll create two schools within one building, a Black school and a White school. And actually that's what we still have, and that legacy continues where tracking was used as a so-called devicealthough they were in the same building, they were going to keep it as separate as they possibly could.
Clearly, according to those experts, it appears that the desegregation never really addressed meaningful strategies to enhance the educational opportunities of all students. Rather, Black students were labeled and tracked into the lowest academic areas. Dr. Irvine explained: "all of a sudden the White students magically turned into gifted children." Likewise, Dr. Siddle Walker pointed to the reality that "labels by and large reflect negativity . . . the fact that there are more Black kids in special education and fewer Black kids in gifted classes reflect general societal expectations of Black children." The point is that schools never addressed how to make schools work for all students and teachers, with such dramatic change fundamentally linked to place and race.
Desegregation did not occur via Milliken; this is a point lamented by legal and educational scholarsin particular because of Millikens prominence as a test case of Brown in a northern, metropolitan area. Such a view, however, overlooks the undertold and underexplored perspectives regarding desegregation and efforts to actualize Brown through the Milliken case. Analysis of some of the microlevel realities of attempts at desegregation reveals several interrelated insights. First, the evidence from these researchers who have studied desegregation suggests that for many Black students and educators, desegregation was unsuccessfuleven when there were superficial indicators of success. By superficial indicators of success, we mean desegregation may have failed even when school districts were successful at moving and intermingling different raced bodies into one school. In addition, these perspectives suggest Black teachers and students were actually harmed by desegregation mandates mainly because there was no deliberate, sustainable, or effective efforts to help those involved transform their worldviews, and live, teach, and learn together. And indeed the de facto segregation determination made in Milliken, as well as both the lower and Supreme Courts unwillingness to take up the link between place and race in the housing segregation that fundamentally contributed to the school segregation demonstrates that this unwillingness extended further than education. De jure desegregation forced teachers and students to interact with each other and integrate but did not shepherd or facilitate the kinds of individual, social, cultural, systemic, and structural shifts essential to shift mindsets, thinking, policies, and practices in effective ways. And Milliken further demonstrated the inability and unwillingness of the Court to take up de facto segregation and housing, which reinforced this broader lack of connection between and among races.
In addition to the measured and often mentioned disparities discussed previously, including discipline and advanced and gifted courses (Ford, 2010), policy and reform efforts did not (and do not) adequately consider the negative consequences of Black students (and teachers) displacement and what students might (and ultimately did) experience in classrooms and learning environments with White teachers who vehemently did not have the knowledge, skills, ability, and desire to teach Black students. According to Dr. Brown, Dr. Siddle Walker, and Dr. Irvine, many White teachers refused to teach Black students. In this way, in focusing on Millikens failure and our need to desegregate schools, what are we missing in the grand narrative about what matters to improve the educational conditions of Black students in the U.S.? It is not clear that the long-term losses that Brown (1994) discussed have been overturned by the long-term gains expected from desegregation. At this point in history, as we reflect on Milliken, are we able to truly determine long-term gains for Black children? Moreover, what if policies were pursued to support families and community development with jobs, transit infrastructures, family and community development centers, and housing stability to sustain vibrant neighborhoods in light of the fact that schools are a reflection of the broader, sociopolitical landscape of communities and neighborhoods?
Thus, while so much attention is being placed on the failure of Milliken to implement interdistrict desegregation, perhaps the questions we should be posing regarding Milliken are those related to equity across schools and at least getting Plessy (Ladson-Billings, 2007). The intent of Milliken, of course, was not to uphold Plessy; however, in the face of the clearly detrimental aspects of desegregation on Black students, Black teachers, and the Black community discussed above, thinking about at least separate but equal provides a different framing for the goals of Milliken. In terms of place and race, rather than trying to force White people to live in neighborhoods with and attend schools with Black students in the city, what if efforts shifted to ensure equitable policy and reform such as high quality teachers and teaching in urban environments? According to Dr. Brown, this was the initial intent and motive of the NAACP in the Brown case: for districts to adhere to Plessy by providing equal educational resources across schools whether desegregated or not. Indeed, the educational components of Milliken II did attempt to enhance the educational experience of Black students in Detroit; however, this remedial attempt did not amount to equity, but rather an extension of limited resources in the face of extreme disparities.
Based on this study, a question for both researchers and policy makers to consider is the following: In what ways might we rethink our efforts toward desegregation, drawing from lessons of loss learned from Brown and Milliken? Addressing this question will provide learning opportunities for students who continue to be grossly underserved in schoolsregardless of where they attend school and with whom they attend school.
1The terms Black and African American will be used interchangeably throughout this article.
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