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Further Readings

The bringing together of separate elements to create a whole unit. The bringing together of people from the different demographic and racial groups that make up U.S. society.

In most cases, the term integration is used to describe the process of bringing together people of different races, especially blacks and whites, in schools and other settings. But it is also used to describe the process of bringing together people of different backgrounds. A primary purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 12101 et seq.), for example, was to more fully integrate disabled individuals into U.S. society. The House Judiciary Committee's report on the ADA described it as "a comprehensive piece of CIVIL RIGHTS legislation which promises a new future: a future of inclusion and integration, and the end of exclusion and segregation" (H.R. Rep. No. 485, 101st Cong., 2d Sess., pt. 3, at 26 [1990], reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 445, 449.7).

The term integration is most commonly used in association with the efforts of African-Americans in the United States to eliminate racial SEGREGATION and achieve equal opportunity and inclusion in U.S. society. Often, it has been used synonymously with desegregation to mean the elimination of discriminatory practices based on race. However, although similar, the terms have been used in significantly different ways by the courts, by legal theorists, and in the context of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. In general, desegregation refers to the elimination of policies and practices that segregate people of different races into separate institutions and facilities. Integration refers not only to the elimination of such policies but also to the active incorporation of different races into institutions for the purpose of achieving racial balance, which many believe will lead to equal rights, protections, and opportunities.

Throughout the civil rights movement in the United States, black leaders have held different opinions about the meaning and value of integration, with some advocating integration as the ultimate goal for black citizens, and others resisting integration out of concern that it would lead to the assimilation of black citizens into white culture and society. In 1934, a disagreement over the value of integration versus segregation led W. E. B. Du Bois—a cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a leading scholar, writer, and civil rights activist—to resign from the NAACP. Du Bois rejected the NAACP's heavy emphasis on integration, calling instead for black citizens to maintain their own churches, schools, and social organizations, and especially to develop their own economic base separate from the mainstream white economy.

After Du Bois's resignation, the NAACP adopted a full-fledged campaign to eliminate segregation and to promote integration. In 1940, NAACP leaders sent to President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, the secretary of the Navy, and the assistant secretary of war a memorandum outlining provisions for the "integration of the Negro into military aspects of the national defense program." This was the first instance in which the NAACP had specifically used the term integration in a civil rights policy pronouncement. After WORLD WAR II, the term racial integration became commonly used to describe civil rights issues pertaining to race.

On the legal front, the NAACP focused its efforts on eliminating segregation in the public schools. This campaign was led by THURGOOD MARSHALL, the first director-counsel of the NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND and later a U.S. Supreme Court justice. In 1954, Marshall successfully argued the landmark case BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873, before the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling in that case declared that racially segregated schools are inherently unequal and thus unconstitutional. Like other NAACP leaders, Marshall was strongly committed to the principle of racial integration. His arguments in Brown were heavily based on the work of Kenneth B. Clark, a black social psychologist whose research suggested that black children were stigmatized by being educated in racially segregated schools, causing them to suffer psychological and intellectual harm. Marshall used this theory of "stigmatic injury" to

Months after the Brown v. Bd. of Ed. decision, two schools at military bases in Virginia were first opened to black children. Although not yet required of public schools, the Defense Department ordered the racial integration of all schools on military posts.

persuade the Court that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal. Although the Brown decision called for an end to formal segregation, it did not explicitly call for positive steps to ensure the integration of public schools.

The desegregation momentum begun by Brown was enacted into law by the 1964 CIVIL RIGHTS ACT (Pub. L. No. 88-352, 78 Stat. 246), which denied federal funds to any program that discriminated illegally on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, or national origin, outlawing such discrimination not only in public schools but also in areas of public accommodation and employment. To ensure the support necessary for passage of the act, its writers worded the act specifically to emphasize that its purpose was to desegregate, not to integrate. "Desegregation," the act said, was "the assignment of students to public schools … without regard to their race," but "not … the assignment of students to public schools in order to overcome racial imbalance."

Nevertheless, after the Civil Rights Act was passed, judges and other federal officials enforcing it required schools to go beyond racially neutral desegregation policies to try to remedy past segregation by enforcing a greater degree of racial integration. This policy was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968 in Green v. County School Board, 391 U.S. 430, 88 S. Ct. 1689, 20 L. Ed. 2d 716, in which the Court ruled that a school district's desegregation plan was unacceptable under the Brown ruling. The Green case involved a school district that had two high schools that had previously been segregated by race. When the district changed its rules to allow students to attend the school of their choice, few black students chose to attend the traditionally white school, and no whites chose the black school, thus leaving the schools segregated. In its ruling in Green, the Court called the "freedom of-choice" plan a "deliberate perpetuation of the unconstitutional dual system" and said that school boards had an "affirmative duty to take whatever steps might be necessary to convert to a unitary system in which RACIAL DISCRIMINATION would be eliminated root and branch." Although a freedom-of-choice plan could theoretically be a viable method for converting to a "unitary, nonracial school system," the Court said, it would have to "prove itself in operation," adding that such methods as rezoning might prove speedier, and thus more acceptable. Although the Court did not explicitly require active integration, it suggested that the validity of desegregation plans would be measured by the amount of integration that they actually produced.

This emphasis on achieving specific levels of integration as proof of desegregation was reinforced by the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in SWANN V. CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG BOARD OF EDUCATION, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S. Ct. 1267, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554. In Swann, the Court ruled that schools could use methods such as involuntary busing and the altering of attendance zones to achieve specific ratios of racial mixing, as long as those ratios were established as a "starting point[s] in the process of shaping a remedy" for past discrimination.

In a 1974 case, Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717, 94 S. Ct. 3112, 41 L. Ed. 2d 1069, the Supreme Court made it more difficult for city school districts to achieve racial integration. In Milliken, the Court ruled that a federally ordered desegregation remedy could not include suburban schools when a city's school district was officially segregated for reasons other than past illegal discrimination, such as the simple demographics of its residents. In other words, if the surrounding suburban districts had not contributed to past illegal segregation, they could not be held responsible for remedying it. A cross-district remedy, the Court ruled, would be permissible only to correct a cross-district wrong. The effect of Milliken has been to allow an increasing amount of resegregation in public schools as housing patterns divide black and white residents between cities and their surrounding suburbs. More recent cases, such as Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70, 115 S. Ct. 2038, 132 L. Ed. 2d 63 (1995), have continued to impose strict judicial limits on the power of the courts to impose and enforce desegregation plans in the public schools.

Despite significant legal victories mandating greater integration, therefore, the actual amount of racial integration in the United States—in the schools and elsewhere—remains limited. In fact, in 2003, the Harvard University Civil Rights Project warned that early school integration gains were actually being reversed. In an 82-page report titled "A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?" the multidisciplinary research-and-policy think tank examined trends in federal public school enrollment data from the start of integration efforts through the year 2000. According to its analysis of these figures, the desegregation of black students progressed continuously until the late 1980s. Quantifiable gains from this policy included sharp increases in minority high-school graduations and the narrowing of differences in test scores between white and minority students. Then a process of "resegregation" began.

As argued in the report, resegregation has been marked by several disturbing statistical trends. Whites have clustered in schools with an average of 80 percent white populations, blacks have found themselves more segregated than at any time since the 1970s, and a substantial number of schools have emerged with virtually all non-white student populations. These the authors scathingly designated "apartheid schools" for their institutional resemblance—in terms of economic impoverishment, lack of resources, and social and health problems—to those found under the system of racial segregation enforced in twentieth-century South Africa. The findings also highlighted the isolation of Latino students, who have become the most highly segregated racial group in the public school system.

Most damningly, the Civil Rights Project report diagnosed an intellectual and moral failure in U.S. society to uphold the principles of integration. Not for want of public support was integration being abandoned, the authors argued. Instead, governments had essentially given up: Policy makers had erroneously concluded that enough progress had been made and that more was unattainable. Noting the absence of Congressional action since the early 1970s and the dearth of EXECUTIVE BRANCH enforcement since the Johnson era (with the sole exception of the Carter administration), the authors blamed lawmakers, the Executive Branch, and the courts for allowing integration efforts to wither while resegregation took root. The report called for a renewed focus on desegregation from both state and federal authorities to offer minority students attendance choices among better, more integrated schools.

Such failures have led many black leaders to question whether integration is indeed possible in the United States and whether it would actually benefit African Americans. Those in favor of integration follow in the tradition of Marshall and MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., who insisted that integration would lead to increased freedom, power, and opportunities for African Americans. "In our society," King insisted, "liberation cannot come without integration and integration cannot come without liberation." More recently, Andrew Young, civil rights activist, former U.N. ambassador, and former mayor of Atlanta, has emphasized that integration does not lead to assimilation. "Those who reject integration," he said, "do so because they see the black community as one-way assimilation." In contrast, he said, "integration is a two-way street, each side contributing their own values, virtues, and traditions."

Other black scholars and political leaders have followed the lead of Du Bois, questioning the value of integration for African Americans and recommending instead separate black schools, churches, and economic networks. In the 1960s, members of the black power and black nationalist movements, including MALCOLM X, argued that integration was an inappropriate strategy for blacks, who they believed could free themselves from racism and repression only by separating themselves from the mainstream white culture. Integration, they asserted, would result in African Americans being assimilated into the white community. In 1967, for example, STOKELY CARMICHAEL, a leader of the black-power movement, said, "The fact is that integration, as traditionally articulated, would abolish the black community." More recently, some legal theorists of race relations have criticized the theory of stigmatic injury that Marshall presented in Brown, contending that it rests on a notion of African-American inferiority by asserting that black children can receive an adequate education

The Most Segregated States for Black and Hispanic Students: 2000–2001
Most Segregated States for Black Students Most Segregated States for Hispanic Students
State Mostly minoritya State Mostly minoritya
a"Mostly minority" is defined as a school whose enrollment of black and/or Hispanic students is at least 90 percent of the total enrollment.
SOURCE: Harvard University, The Civil Rights Project, A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?, 2003.
1 Michigan 62.5% 1 New York 58.7%
2 New York 60.8% 2 Texas 46.9%
3 Illinois 60.1% 3 California 44.0%
4 New Jersey 50.0% 4 New Jersey 40.7%
5 Maryland 50.0% 5 Illinois 40.0%
6 Pennsylvania 48.3% 6 Florida 30.0%
7 Alabama 43.1% 7 Pennsylvania 27.6%
8 Wisconsin 42.9% 8 Connecticut 27.1%
9 Louisiana 42.2% 9 Arizona 25.6%
10 Mississippi 41.3% 10 Rhode Island 25.4%

only in the presence of white children. DERRICK A. BELL, JR., a leading legal theorist on race relations, has been a particularly vocal critic of integrated schools, insisting that they do not meet the needs of African-American children, whom, he says, would be better served by increased funding for schools in black neighborhoods, more black teachers and administrators, increased parental involvement, and higher expectations for academic achievement. Many educational experts concur, suggesting that many young black males would receive a higher-quality education by attending black male academies where the approach and curriculum were specifically designed to counter the social and cultural challenges faced by those young men in today's world.

Many of the black leaders who today advocate integration have refined the notion, insisting that it means more than simply mixing black and white students in the same school. Legal scholar john a. powell (who spells his name with only lowercase letters) said that true integration "transforms racial hierarchy" by "[creating] a more inclusive society where individuals and groups have opportunities to participate equally in their communities." Similarly, Ellis Cashmore, a leading scholar of race relations, said integration "describes a condition in which different ethnic groups are able to maintain group boundaries and uniqueness, while participating equally in the essential processes of production, distribution and government." Cashmore conceded, however, that in the United States, this type of integration "remains more of an ideal than a reality."

Cashmore and other current race-relations scholars suggest that integration no longer means simply desegregation but rather that it now includes pluralism. Pluralism, in this context, refers to a condition in which no ethnic hierarchies exist, so there are no ethnic minorities per se; instead, the various groups in society participate equally in the social system, therefore experiencing balance and cohesion rather than contention and resentment. In this sense, said scholar Harold Cruse, "the SEPARATE-BUT-EQUAL doctrine that Brown ruled unconstitutional should have been supplanted by the truly democratic doctrine of plural but equal.

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