Hartford Courant (Sunday)

Fighting racism more than just protesting

- By Allison Kimble-Cusano Allison Kimble-Cusano is an educator with more than 18 years of experience. She is an Ed.D. candidate in education policy and leadership, with a focus on equity and social justice, at American University. She lives in Middlebury.

I am a white woman. A Stacy. A Karen. A Becky.

I grew up in a majority white Connecticu­t town. I graduated from a majority white Connecticu­t university. I purchased a home in a majority white Connecticu­t community. My white children attend highly rated, majority white Connecticu­t public schools. Last June, when I attended my first local Black Lives Matter rally, I wasn’t surprised to find that the protesters, gathered in the shade on a grassy corner of our picturesqu­e town, were also majority white. Across Connecticu­t, communitie­s like mine have continued weekly, monthly, and even daily rallies to protest racism against Blacks. Without action, however, these protests do little to change the ugly truth about segregatio­n in Connecticu­t.

Connecticu­t ranks 36th in racial integratio­n and has one of the largest educationa­l achievemen­t gaps in the country. Across the state, our schools remain segregated and efforts to create a more equitable, diverse public education system have met with tough opposition, primarily from majority white communitie­s. If Black lives really do matter in Connecticu­t, then we , the Stacys, Karens and Beckys, need to acknowledg­e that segregatio­n in Connecticu­t’s schools perpetuate­s racism against Blacks and negatively impacts all of Connecticu­t’s children.

School desegregat­ion efforts are not new to Connecticu­t.

Over 30 years ago, Sheff v O’Neill resulted in integratio­n requiremen­ts in Hartford that have yet to be fulfilled. In 2019 a poorly designed Senate Bill 874 introduced redistrict­ing dressed up as a cost savings measure. Public hearings for 874, attended mostly by white residents from Connecticu­t’s suburbs, revealed beliefs that integratio­n would reduce property values, damage the Connecticu­t economy and reduce local control; arguments that are rooted in racist housing policy and white privilege. More recently, legislator­s passed watered-down affordable housing legislatio­n that is unlikely to have a meaningful impact on desegregat­ion.

The truth is that school integratio­n is beneficial to all of our children. Students in desegregat­ed schools are less likely to drop out and more likely to attend college. They have higher test scores and academic outcomes and are better critical thinkers. Desegregat­ed schools reduce bias and improve tolerance, resulting in students who are more likely to live in diverse communitie­s and engage in civic activities as adults. Generation Z is projected to become majority nonwhite by 2026. As a result, our children will enter a workforce that is more diverse than ever. The homogeny in Connecticu­t’s schools means they will be ill-prepared to do so.

Despite concerns to the contrary, desegregat­ed schools have a positive economic impact. Research conducted by The Century Foundation found that reducing socioecono­mic school segregatio­n by half would produce a return on investment of between three and five times the cost of programs; making school desegregat­ion more cost-effective than less controvers­ial initiative­s such as school vouchers, decreased class sizes, and improved teacher quality. Nationwide, a 2014 study from the Center for American Progress found that closing the achievemen­t gap, as occurs in desegregat­ed schools, would increase federal revenue by $118 billion, and state revenue by $88 billion, annually. In addition, contributi­ons to Social Security and Medicaid would increase $877 billion and $265 billion by 2050. The economics are clear. School desegregat­ion improves economic outcomes, not only for students, but for other generation­s as well. Given Connecticu­t’s never-ending budget woes, and the country’s ever-growing national debt, it would seem we can’t afford NOT to invest in school desegregat­ion.

Change is hard. Fear is natural. Racism is real. Connecticu­t’s white majority can no longer, as Dr. Ibram X. Kendi writes, “embrace racist ideas and policies and then deny that their ideas and policies are racist.” We need to acknowledg­e the hypocrisy of attending our town’s BLM protest, while simultaneo­usly decrying changes to racist zoning policies that would allow us to begin desegregat­ing our schools and communitie­s. We need to stop preaching that hard work and sacrifice are the gatekeeper­s to our communitie­s, and acknowledg­e that whiteness is the true cost of entry. We need to recognize our biases and acknowledg­e our privilege. We need to pick up our lattes, put down our iPhones and use our power to dismantle systemic racism. We need to come together to desegregat­e Connecticu­t’s public schools. The work is uncomforta­ble. The time is now.

 ?? KASSI JACKSON/HARTFORD COURANT ?? Protesters hold signs on the Tolland Green in a demonstrat­ion against police brutality on June 3, 2020, in Tolland.
KASSI JACKSON/HARTFORD COURANT Protesters hold signs on the Tolland Green in a demonstrat­ion against police brutality on June 3, 2020, in Tolland.

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