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Social Justice for the Advantaged: Freedom from Racial Equality Post-Milliken

by Sonya Douglass Horsford - 2016

Background/Context: In Milliken v. Bradley (1974), the U.S. Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional a metropolitan-wide desegregation plan in Detroit that sought to achieve racial balance in part by busing white suburban students to the cityís majority black schools. In a stark departure from Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Milliken left the question of how, or even whether, to equalize education for black students up to local parents, educators, activists, school board members, state legislators, and other private and public community stakeholders.

Purpose/Objective/Focus of Study: In this article, I consider school desegregation as a form of social justice for blacks and racial equality for all, 40 years post-Milliken. Drawing from research on school desegregation as social justice and Bellís theory of interest convergence, I argue that integration and equality in the post-Civil Rights Era requires attention to the competing visions of social justice I describe as black equality and white freedom.

Research Design: Framed by distributional and relational dimensions of social justice and Bellís theory of interest convergence, this paper presents a conceptual analysis of school desegregation as social justice post-Milliken.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The competing interests of black equality and white freedom central to Milliken remain fundamental to the question of school desegregation 40 years later. In light of growing political and public support for local control, school choice, and neighborhood schools, I conclude by discussing the implications of local control for black students and racial equality within the current context of widening economic equality, political polarization, and racial isolation in the United States and the world.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 3, 2016, p. 1-18
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18249, Date Accessed: 2/28/2021 11:04:06 AM

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About the Author
  • Sonya Douglass Horsford
    George Mason University
    E-mail Author
    SONYA DOUGLASS HORSFORD is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University. Her research focuses on education policy and politics, racial inequality in schools, and community-based education reform. She is author of Learning in a Burning House: Educational Inequality, Ideology, and Reform (Teachers College Press, 2011).
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