On Jan. 29, 1973, nearly two decades after the Supreme Court's landmark decision declaring segregated dual school systems unconstitutional, the Prince George's County schools reluctantly accepted a hastily prepared desegregation plan by order of the U.S. District Court. Today, nearly a decade later, serious failures are evident.
Our efforts are directed toward assuring that the best educational opportunities are afforded all students, and specifically that access to these opportunities is not denied to black or other minority students. It is clear to us that the desegregation plan as carried out by the county school board has failed to insure stable, desegregated education.
Scant attention has been paid to the impact of faculty assignments, school construction and openings and closings of new programs on desegregation. Instead, the board has focused on busing and student assignments.
It became increasingly clear that the school board--already reluctant to continue supporting a plan that was failing --was making changes without taking steps to maintain desegregation. The board closed schools, altered transportation plans, instituted a special learning disability program that is primarily for white students and placed blacks with specific learning disabilities in other special education classes.
As matters seemed to get worse, we increased our attempts to discuss the issues related to desegregation. But we met consistent board opposition to such discussion. We were forced to gather data on our own to define the extent of the problem. We found evidence--in staff assignments as well as students' classroom and school assignments--of extensive discrimination; schools were becoming more racially identifiable.
We hope the courts will clarify the issues and that some procedures can be established to ensure that schools are not segregated, that the ingredients of quality education--curriculum, staff, services--are available in all schools. Separate will never be equal!
Discrimination is not limited to our schools. Since passage of the 1968 fair housing law, many have assumed that this form of discrimination ended. Not so. It is perhaps less blatant, but it does exist in a subtle, insidious manner. Local, state and federal government agencies do take discrimination complaints and conduct investigations to ascertain if the law has been broken. But because discrimination is illegal, those who practice it have become very adept at circumventing the law; and this places new undue hardships on both those being discriminated against and those conducting the investigations.
It appears there are still realtors who resort to "steering" practices when showing homes to prospective buyers. It appears, too, there are still lending institutions that refuse to grant mortgages in certain geographic locations--"red-lining." And there are still apartment managers who will say, "The apartment has just been rented" when the person inquiring turns out to be a female head of a household with small children.
In the business world, the Prince George's County NAACP is committed to the belief that strong minority businesses are essential to the national interest, that the development of these businesses is the best thing that has happened to our free enterprise system.
The Prince George's County NAACP considers it a responsibility and obligation to articulate to government as well as to the private sector the critical importance of forcefully carrying out existing policies and vigorously adopting still other policies to build minority partnerships. We propose a statement of preferred policy that could serve as a base from which the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies could work toward the full partnership of minority businesses in the American economic system.
Until there are fair opportunities in education, housing and business both around the country and in Prince George's, we can never hope to achieve racial harmony.