The 21st Century Jim Crow


The Modern Day Jim Crow

Today, almost all African Americans face separation in their schools. The main problem is that the gap between the education in public schools versus private schools is enormous. Let’s start off by focusing on class size. The average student to teacher ratio for Oakland public school is 23:1; however, the average student to teacher ratio for Oakland private schools is 7:1 (Senior). Disregarding the difference between the actual education, there is no way that one teacher can focus on 23 kids equally. After you just heard those statistics, it isn’t very likely that you would want to send your kid to a public school if you had the choice of sending them to a private school; however, most families due to their economic standing don’t point that is not that option. The average annual tuition in Oakland for private schools is $18,981 (Colayco); yet, the average annual family income per family in Oakland is $68,060. (Data USA). According to the Census Bureau released in 2010, the average household size is around 3 people (US Census Bureau Public Information Office). Using these statics that would mean the average family with $68,060 a year would have to willingly be able to lose around $20,000 a year, making their annual income around $48,000. This would leave the average family with only $4,000 per month and this is only if you are on the upper end for the average annual family income in Oakland and if your local private school is on the lower end of tuition costs.

What a professional has to say.

In an article, written by Angela Hanks, she mentions how systemic oppression affects African Americans and impacts what types of jobs they can get (Hanks). Since African Americans are affected by systemic oppression, you have to take into consideration that they will most likely be on the lower side of that average; therefore, they would be even less likely to spend that money towards private schools over other things that are more important. Since this is a huge factor in who applies to private schools, it makes private school diversity harder to come across.

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Why I am interested…

Historical Problem

Image result for Congress, Library. A 1959 Rally in Little Rock, Ark. Little Rock, Ark, 1959.

The start of Jim Crow laws began in 1865, right after the change of the 13th Amendment which freed all slaves both North and South (Editors). Before Jim Crow laws were formerly known as such, they were often referred to as the Black Codes. Black codes were strict laws that told blacks when, where and how they were allowed to work in the real world (Editors). Black Codes were used throughout the South as a legal way to put blacks back into slavery. This created a situation that would take voting rights away from blacks and could control where they lived (Editors).

The real beginning of Jim Crow.

At the beginning of the new century states across the south started to enforce Jim Crow laws which would affect everyday life for blacks (Editors). According to an article written by Andrew Costly, “Jim Crow laws were based on the theory of white supremacy and were a reaction to Reconstruction” (Costly). In his theory, he addresses the idea that racism appealed to whites who feared to lose their low paying jobs to the newly freed blacks. The writer Andrew Costly says that this fear was often used as a “political strategy”. This “political strategy” slowly bled into daily life and created social segregation. This social segregation led to segregated waiting rooms in professional offices, water fountains, restrooms, cemeteries, even schools (Editors). The racial segregation in public schools that was said to be “equal quality”, hurt black children immensely(Costly). The term “separate but equal” was used to describe many schools; however, eventually, it was deemed unconstitutional when regarding the 14th amendment (Costly).

Present-Day Problem

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Where Jim Crow still exists.

The current day problem that we are facing today is a repercussion of segregation caused by Jim Crow Laws. Today’s schools aren’t segregated by Jim Crow Laws anymore, however, they are now segregated by housing discrimination in many neighborhoods (Tillotson). A Supreme Court decision made in 2016 stated that housing discrimination was not only relevant in the past but still is now (Green). In an article written by Teron McGrew, he said, “Disenfranchisement and the Affordable Housing Crisis are really aspects of the same problem; both results from housing policies that have promoted segregation along racial lines”.

The HOLC’s classification method and the reason it is a problem.

The way we split up school districts is very similar to a historical system called redlining, which was also known as housing discrimination (Green). In this system, according to Matthew Green, “Neighborhoods were classified into one of four categories based on ‘favorable’ and ‘detrimental’ influences”. In the same article written by Green, he stated, “The HOLC’s classification method was heavily influenced by a neighborhood’s racial and economic demographics”.


This alone already sets up all minorities and members of the lower class at a disadvantage. When focusing back on schools, this will disproportionately affect the future of all minorities. When you look at the diversity of public schools in the OUSD (Oakland Unified School District) you can already start to see the segregation that is caused by housing discrimination. For example, look at Carl B. Munck Elementary School and East Oakland Pride Elementary School. Although the schools are only 4 miles away from each other, Carl B. Munck Elementary School is made up of 26% minority students and East Oakland Pride Elementary School is made up of 94% minority students (Chang).

Where we start to see the problem.

Although inherently this doesn’t seem like the biggest deal, it is. The way that the government separates schools is so that all students with a lower economic status go to the same school. Having this type of separation is going to have a huge effect on how the students will create their future and what they think is possible for them to achieve. All the students who have access to more financial support will also happen to have access to more up to date learning tools, therefore, forcing schools who only get financial support from the government to just purchase the bare minimums.

Our “Call to Action”

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A micro solution.

One way that we could constructively engage with this problem on a micro-level is when you look at public schools for your child, you make sure to look at all the schools in your area. This idea was created by a man named Dirk Tillotson. In an article written by Tillotson he stated, “In some districts the rules of student assignment increase segregation, in others, they decrease it”. This would mean that a simple everyday fix for this problem could be to educate yourself on your neighborhood and see if you are a part of the problem. If you find yourself contributing to the problem, then you could do your part by looking at other public schools in your area and then choose what is best for your child after you have been educated on all of your options.

A macro solution.

One way that we could constructively engage with this problem on a macro-level would be to change the way we approach education as a whole. The way we should try to approach this problem is with the “Supply” approach. This approach was created by Professor Noguera and has already begun being used in Finland and a majority of other Nordic countries. In an article written by Mary Kate Leahy she stated, “Under this approach, education is viewed as the child’s right to receive an education, not the parent’s right to select the kind of education they want for their children. Because it is a right for the child, it is the government’s responsibility to supply the means to that education: high quality, equitable schools. Not the parents’ responsibility to demand it”. Later on in that same article Leahy states, “The keys to that approach being successful are having a universally high-quality education, regardless of where the child is, and the decision by the government that society as a whole is going to invest in its children”. The reason the United States has been unable to create a solution like this is that our government does not always have the students best interest in mind, therefore, leading many families to put their kids in predominantly white schools if they can (Leahy).


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  1. April 25, 2019 by Naman.Bharwani

    I agree with what you have stated, and your information is relevant today. In my project, I designed an app based on Racial Inequality in New York. I too had similar findings in terms of segregation in neighborhoods.

  2. April 27, 2019 by Hannah Robbins

    This page was so informative! I think that segregation is still such a major issue in the United States, but not talked about nearly enough. I really think it’s great that you raised awareness for an issue the media usually glosses over.

  3. April 29, 2019 by Mai

    I’ve always found this topic so important yet incredibly trivialised and I’m really glad you came forth to help put it into perspective for those of us who aren’t as aware of it. Honestly, a lot of the points you brought up made it easier for me to understand the underlying causes and will better equip me to explain to people I know personally who are skeptical when I tell them how segregation still exists today. Thank you!

  4. May 02, 2019 by Bella.Salathe

    A lot of times I hear my classmates argue that segregation and racial inequality is over, solely because segregation is now technically illegal in the US. I really like how your topic speaks to challenge that, and prove that segregation still exists, even if it is not as blatant as it was 60 years ago. For example, the mass incarceration of black men is another example of how our society continues to try and keep minorities down. Your presentation on the segregation of schools further supports that point. You did a great job giving historical context as well as elaborating on things that could be confusing. Good job!

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