Send Donald Waldrip to the blackboard and make him write 100 times: "Desegregation and integration are not the same thing."
Better yet, have him write it on paper, so it can be photocopied and sent to the NAACP, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, some federal judges and a few others who haven't yet absorbed the distinction.
Donald Waldrip is administrator of desegregation for the Cleveland public schools. He is also author of the directive, made public last week, that "principals and basketball coaches . . . [must] recruit white students to play basketball. At least 20 percent of each basketball team should be white." Fifty percent of a school's football players must be black.
In other words, the administrator of desegregation has delivered himself of an edict demanding integration.
Segregation (by now generally recognized as an evil thing) is the arbitrary separation of people on the basis of their race, or some other inappropriate characteristic. Desegregation is simply the ending of that practice.
Integration, of the sort ordered by Waldrip, is the reverse of segregation: the conscious mixing of people on the basis of race.
It is fair to ask just what Waldrip is trying to fix. Are Cleveland's coaches choosing some players and rejecting others on the basis of their race? Or is it simply that, of the youngsters who want to play basketball at some of the schools, all or nearly all of the best ones are black?
If the former, then Waldrip should have ordered an end to the segregationist practice. He should have demanded desegregation. If the latter is the case, then there is no problem to fix, unless, subtly or otherwise, competent white athletes are discouraged from trying out for the teams.
Where is it written that every athletic team (or every school, office and neighborhood) must be of salt and pepper?
Maybe Waldrip has been misled by some of the mouthings of the civil rights establishment, which, for reasons still not entirely clear, has shifted its focus from desegregation (Minnie Jean Brown's children must not be denied the right to attend her neighborhood school on the sole ground that she is black and the school is white) to integration (Miss Brown's children not be assigned to their neighborhood school if it is too black).
Or perhaps he has been watching how we handle the tricky question of affirmative action in the work place.
As that notion first surfaced, it called for conscious attempts (affirmative action) to make certain that blacks were no longer being discriminated against. aIf an employer is found to have discriminated against blacks, the most obvious way of determining whether he had changed his policy is to see what happens to the makeup of his work force. If it remains overwhelmingly white, that fact (absent some other compelling explanation) is taken as evidence that he still discriminates.
If the record shows that he has refused to hire competent black applicants, or has not looked for any, then it's fair to order him to stop fooling around.
The legitimate goal is an end to discrimination, not some arbitrary admixture of salt and pepper.
But a lot of people want salt and pepper in the schools. For them, integration is an ideal more important than education, equality of opportunity or anything else.
Their point of view may have been voiced by the Cleveland coach who welcomed Waldrip's directive. "It will help kids understand each other," he said.
Perhaps. But I wonder what it will do for racial understanding when an outstanding formerly all-black team starts to lose a few games because it can no longer field it best players.
Waldrip has neglected that marvelous piece of advice from some anonymous sage: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.