It's time to move on

Lifting aging desegregation order will lift our community

All the faces have changed. Lots of the hearts, too.

There’s just no reason to keep Augusta schools under the cloud of a 1972 court desegregation order.

Federal Judge Dudley Bowen will hear arguments today about whether to lift the outdated order.

It’s so irrelevant these days that it’s almost irrelevant whether it’s lifted. At least legally.

But lifting it could make a huge statement about our ability and willingness to move forward as a community.

There’s no one in power who wants segregation. If there were, he’d be outvoted and ostracized. Contrary to what the media and the demagogues put forth, most of us want King’s dream of a
nation where children “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

In the big picture, the desegregation order is little more than a museum relic. Truth be known, it’s probably a surprise to most folks today that one even still exists.

The formerly majority-white district is now 73 percent black. We don’t need a judge to tell a black superintendent or a racially even and cohesive school board not to discriminate based on race.

The chief contribution of the court order today is to clog the works of an already complicated and challenged public school system with superfluous regulations that are trying to prevent what no longer goes on. Our besieged school officials have enough to worry about without having the courts view their
actions through a 1960s or ’70s lens.

Is there any evidence that the district takes any action today based on race – except to the benefit of equal opportunity? Is there a shred of evidence that the district needs the court’s hands on the wheel to keep it on the straight and narrow in 2013?

If there are vestiges of segregation in our schools today, and there most certainly are, the schools have now done their part to erase them.

The schools cannot desegregate to a larger extent than the society at large is willing to.

The rest is up to us.

Equal opportunity has to be more than a slogan or a department of a glacial bureaucracy. It has to be explained and sold and wrapped in a package that has “hope” stamped on all sides.

It’s about jobs, environmental justice, strong families, moral foundations and more.

The only remaining role of the public school system – and it’s a huge one – is a quality education.

Even if the desegregation order is lifted, the case can always be revisited at the first signs of shenanigans.

Truly, the only reason for keeping the desegregation order is fear and distrust – which, ironically enough, is what drove much of segregation.

If trust in this town is still that bad, then we have much larger problems than a yellowing legal artifact.

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