[COMM-ORG] new book on school desegregation and race

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Wed Sep 8 09:56:59 CDT 2010

  [ed:  Howell continues the discussion.]

From: Howell Baum <hbaum at exch.mail.umd.edu>

Dear Bill,
I think your observation is reasonable.  These are classical liberal 
values.  They run deeply in the American grain, such that contemporary 
"conservatives" can claim them in good faith.  Liberals put more weight 
than conservatives on equality in addition to liberty, but I think this 
individualism and proceduralism shape much American thinking.  And they 
make it difficult for liberals to respond positively to conservative 
attacks on "big government," "government programs," "limits on the 
individual," and so forth, because liberals themselves are ambivalent 
about these things and lack an explicit unambiguous language for 
recognizing groups (whether races or communities) or advocating positive 
government action.


On 9/6/2010 9:00 AM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
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>    [ed:  Bill responds to Howard's post.]
> From: "Bill Schlesinger"<pvida at whc.net>
> Interesting.  I would have said that these are classically conservative
> values.
> They saw society as made up of individuals, emphasized a procedural
> right to choose over any specific outcome, and believed government
> should not intervene in individual decisions.
> Bill Schlesinger
> Project Vida
> 3607 Rivera Avenue
> El Paso, TX 79905
> (915) 533-7057 x 207
> (915) 533-7158 FAX
> pvida at whc.net
> www.projectvidaelpaso.org
> On 9/4/2010 11:14 AM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
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>>     From:
>> Howell Baum<hbaum at exch.mail.umd.edu>
>> Dear colleagues,
>> I am pleased to announce the publication of Brown in Baltimore: School
>> Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism. The book tells the history
>> of Baltimore school desegregation and argues that school officials’
>> liberalism limited their ability to understand race and act effectively
>> to end segregation. The analysis has implications for contemporary
>> difficulties dealing with race.
>> The book’s story is this: A liberal school board voted right after Brown
>> to end segregation. However, they chose open enrollment, or freedom of
>> choice, as their strategy. The policy made desegregation voluntary, and
>> it explicitly disregarded students’ race: all students would be seen as
>> raceless individuals free to choose any school in the city. School
>> officials said they did not care what racial makeup resulted, so long as
>> students had the freedom to choose. Significantly, black leaders urged
>> the board to adopt this policy, took credit for the board’s actions, and
>> continued to endorse the policy for two decades. No civil rights group
>> ever sued the school board to do anything more.
>> The analysis interprets school officials’ actions as a good-faith
>> expression of their explicit liberalism. They saw society as made up of
>> individuals, emphasized a procedural right to choose over any specific
>> outcome, and believed government should not intervene in individual
>> decisions. Free choice embodied these culturally normal American
>> principles. The book argues that the Baltimore desegregation case shows
>> the weaknesses of liberalism in grasping race conceptually and in
>> developing deep strategies for redressing racial inequities.
>> Regards to all,
>> Howell Baum
>> Below is a description of the book from Cornell University Press and a
>> link to the Press:
>> http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=5639
>> In the first book to present the history of Baltimore school
>> desegregation, Howell S. Baum shows how good intentions got stuck on
>> what Gunnar Myrdal called the "American Dilemma." Immediately after the
>> 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the city's liberal school
>> board voted to desegregate and adopted a free choice policy that made
>> integration voluntary. Baltimore's school desegregation proceeded
>> peacefully, without the resistance or violence that occurred elsewhere.
>> However, few whites chose to attend school with blacks, and after a few
>> years of modest desegregation, schools resegregated and became
>> increasingly segregated. The school board never changed its policy.
>> Black leaders had urged the board to adopt free choice and, despite the
>> limited desegregation, continued to support the policy and never sued
>> the board to do anything else.
>> Baum finds that American liberalism is the key to explaining how this
>> happened. Myrdal observed that many whites believed in equality in the
>> abstract but considered blacks inferior and treated them unequally.
>> School officials were classical liberals who saw the world in terms of
>> individuals, not races. They adopted a desegregation policy that
>> explicitly ignored students' race and asserted that all students were
>> equal in freedom to choose schools, while their policy let whites who
>> disliked blacks avoid integration. School officials' liberal thinking
>> hindered them from understanding or talking about the city's history of
>> racial segregation, continuing barriers to desegregation, and realistic
>> change strategies. From the classroom to city hall, Baum examines how
>> Baltimore's distinct identity as a border city between North and South
>> shaped local conversations about the national conflict over race and
>> equality. The city's history of wrestling with the legacy of Brown
>> reveals Americans' preferred way of dealing with racial issues: not
>> talking about race. This avoidance, Baum concludes, allows segregation
>> to continue.
>> Reviews
>> "As a major city just below the Mason-Dixon line, Baltimore won approval
>> when it became one of the first cities in the country to comply with the
>> Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Unlike their
>> southern neighbors, white officials in Baltimore led the effort that
>> resulted in the relatively peaceful desegregation of its public schools.
>> Yet, in this wonderful book, Howell S. Baum digs deep into Baltimore’s
>> history of school desegregation to uncover how the city’s 'liberalism'
>> actually led to a pattern of political and civic abandonment. Baum
>> illustrates how 'liberalism' muffled racial conflict and consequently
>> weakened the city’s capacity to address issues of race and equality in
>> its public schools. Brown in Baltimore is a genuine tour de
>> force."—Marion Orr, Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public
>> Policy and American Institutions and the Fred Lippitt Professor of
>> Public Policy, Political Science and Urban Studies at Brown University,
>> author of Black Social Capital: The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore
>> "In this sensitive, readable, and well-researched book, Howell S. Baum
>> shows how Baltimore officials tried and failed to integrate the city
>> schools. Baltimore City officials honored freedom of choice in the
>> abstract, but that notion proved inadequate to produce schools in which
>> whites and blacks studied together. Baum writes with particular insight
>> about the working-class ethnic whites of East Baltimore, and he shows a
>> fundamental understanding of the workings of federal regulatory agencies
>> and the peculiar pace at which the courts manage social conflict. The
>> result is a wonderful combination of social science and history that
>> illuminates one of America's key social concerns."—Edward D. Berkowitz,
>> George Washington University, author of Something Happened: A Political
>> and Cultural Overview of the Seventies
>> "Howell S. Baum carefully traces the long arc of struggle over school
>> desegregation in a distinctive American city. With a storyteller's sense
>> of narrative and a scholar's attention to detail, he adroitly assays the
>> limits of classic liberal solutions to the nation's long-standing
>> dilemma of race and sociospatial inequity in urban education."—John L.
>> Rury, University of Kansas, author of Education and Social Change:
>> Contours in the History of American Schooling
>> About the Author
>> Howell S. Baum is Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the
>> University of Maryland. He is the author most recently of Community
>> Action for School Reform and The Organization of Hope: Communities
>> Planning Themselves.
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