The Unfulfilled Promise of Brown

Next week marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision desegregating schools. To be sure, much has changed since 1954 here in Pittsburgh and across the country. The Steel City now regularly tops the list of “best” cities to live in, raise a family, buy a house, and see public art. We have the best views, most dramatic entry to the city, and even the best tree canopy! [Post-Gazette, 4-28-14] But “best” for whom?

Despite our many successes, Pittsburgh remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States with trenchant social, economic, health, and educational disparities. Consider this:

  • Pittsburgh has the third-highest poverty rate among working-age (18-64) African Americans in the country (31% in 2011). [Post-Gazette, 5-5-13]
  • Nearly half (45%) of black children under the age of 18 live in poverty; and a whopping 53% of black children under the age of 5 live in poverty. [Post-Gazette, 5-5-13]
  • Compared to other cities, “African-American babies are much more likely to die here.” Pittsburgh has the largest disparity in infant deaths in the nation: the infant mortality rate for African-American babies (14.5 per 1000) is twice that for white babies (5.7), and 25% higher than the national average (11.6). [Post-Gazette, 7-7-13]
  • Pittsburgh has the highest black teen pregnancy rate in the country. [Post-Gazette, 7-7-13]
  • One recent study found that 12.1% of Allegheny County students have asthma and the black asthma rate is especially high: overall “17 percent of blacks in the county had asthma, while 9 percent of whites had the disease.” [Post-Gazette, 1-21-14]
  • Compared to all major metropolitan areas, African Americans here have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country (19% in 2011), and it’s been this way for years. That’s 1 out of every 5 African Americans who wants to work and can’t find a job, and 2.6 times the unemployment rate for whites. [Post-Gazette, 5-5-13]
  • African Americans in Pittsburgh earn significantly less than their white counterparts: “In 2011, the average African-American man with a full-time job earned $39,132 in the Pittsburgh region,” which was more than 40% less than white men. Black women earned even less (an average of $37,138). And these numbers are worse than other African-American workers nationally. [Post-Gazette, 5-5-13]
  • African Americans are stuck in low-paying occupations: “Only 23 percent of African-Americans in Pittsburgh work in management, business, science and arts occupations, the second-lowest percentage among the top 40 regions, whereas 34 percent work in service occupations, the highest percentage among major regions.” [Post-Gazette, 5-5-13]
  • Pittsburgh has become the least diverse city in the country: only 12% of the population is nonwhite, while the average among major metropolitan areas is 32%, and the country as a whole is 24% – still twice as high as Pittsburgh. [Post-Gazette, 5-5-13]

These statistics are reflected in outcomes for Pittsburgh students, with a “racial gap” in graduation rates, attendance rates, disciplinary action rates (that feed the school-to-prison pipeline), and test scores. Black students here are disproportionately in schools with the fewest resources and live in communities that have been impacted the most by multiple waves of school closures. In short, Pittsburgh has yet to fulfill the promise of the historic Brown decision as this “racial gap” illustrates a persistent opportunity gap.

That is why Yinzercation is co-sponsoring a rally on Tuesday, May 13th, at 4PM at Freedom Corner in the Hill District. As the flyer below states, “We are determined to reclaim the promise of a just nation that lives by the principles articulated in the Brown v. Board decision: equity in public decision-making, and policies that advance the hopes and dreams of all Americans, without regard to their social or economic status.” Please bring the kids over after school – we will have food and snacks, thanks to our 10 national sponsors, and 10 local sponsors, including the coalition partners of Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-Pep), the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, and the Women’s Walk for Peace Committee.

Brown v. Board of Education was a historic decision. Come be a part of more history in the making.

Brown.v.BoardFlyer

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