Respect begins with understanding. This quote hangs above my white board, and it reminds students that we all have to respect and understand one another's culture. For those of you who do not know, I work at a school with a plethora of different cultures. Students come from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, and Denmark. On the other hand, we also have students from Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Ojai. Because of this mix of cultures and ethnicities, students are taught the importance of respect and understanding as soon as they enter high school. Attending private school gives you plenty of perks, and this is one of them. Unfortunately, students in public schools, specifically in the south, are not afforded this same luxury.
In my opinion, giving everyone a chance at succeeding in life starts with the education they are provided with. This is especially important for the public school system since 90% of the students in our country attend public schools. Public schools are becoming increasingly segregated, and because of this, students are not all afforded the same opportunity to succeed.
Before police killed Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Missouri, his mother was worried about him graduating from high school. She reiterated this to the local news station, “do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many.”
That quote stuck with Time's reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. So she decided to dig deeper and see what issues plaged the south when it came to education. What she found was unsettling. "Most black children will not be killed by the police. But millions of them will go to a school like Michael Brown’s: segregated, impoverished and failing. The nearly all-black, almost entirely poor Normandy school district from which Brown graduated just eight days before he was killed placed dead last on its accreditation assessment in the 2013-2014 school year: 520th out of 520 Missouri districts. The circumstances were so dire that the state stripped the district of its accreditation and eventually took over." (For an infograph that depicts the growth in national segregation in schools, read the Segregation Now article.)
As an educator, I was surprised to see how segregated our schools have become in the last twenty years. Throughout college I worked in public and low-income charter schools, but the majority of the schools where I worked had a balance to them in terms of student's ethnicity. Moving forward, I was unaware of what legislations in the south had done to reverse Brown vs. Board of Education. From Segregation Now (A MUST READ), "Tuscaloosa's schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-white schools exist anymore—the city's white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened."
If that excerpt was unsettling, it becomes even worse when thinking of how diverse our country has becoming in just the last fifteen years. The New York Time's article on Generation Z sheds light on America's growing diversity: "Between 2000 and 2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population, according to the Census Bureau. The number of Americans self-identifying as mixed white-and-black biracial rose 134 percent. The number of Americans of mixed white and Asian descent grew by 87 percent."
Each year, our country becomes more diverse. Because of that, it is imperative that we begin thinking of our interactions with other ethnicities and cultures. The problem is, a majority of the cities in the United States are largely segregated. So not only are our schools divided but so are our cities. I'm not sure if I have any answers, but being someone who is fortunate enough to be bi-coastal, I know that there are people all over the country who share the same values, passions, and beliefs, no matter the skin color. Hopefully as our country continues to become more diverse, understanding and accepting will follow.