Saturday was a big anniversary for gay marriage. Ten years ago, when Massachusetts became the first state to let gay couples marry, it helped launch a massive social change that is still rippling across the states. But what if that broader change hadn’t happened? What if, despite the Massachusetts ruling, it had actually become more difficult for gay couples to wed?
That’s the tragic legacy of another milestone that passed this Saturday, the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, when the Supreme court struck down “separate but equal” schooling. It was a major victory in the civil rights movement and it meant that cities and states could no longer maintain separate systems for black and white students. Yet, while the social transformation that Brown v. Board set in motion did have its impact, for a time, it didn’t endure. Today, segregation is resurgent all across the country, including here in Massachusetts.
Didn’t we desegregate Massachusetts schools in the 1960s and 1970s?
At the high-water mark of desegregation, when Massachusetts was roiled by fights over court mandates and the busing crisis tore Boston apart, segregation actually increased across the northeast.
Efforts to better integrate schools were offset by the growth of largely-white, suburban areas as well as by discriminatory housing practices like redlining, which helped ensure that minority students were concentrated in particular school districts. Between 1968 and 1980, the number of black students in predominantly white schools actually went down in Massachusetts.
Over time, has segregation gotten better or worse?
By a number of measures, segregation seems to have gotten worse. One way to see this is by looking at the growth of “highly segregated” schools, meaning those schools where at least 90 percent of the student body is non-white. Massachusetts now has seven times as many highly segregated schools as it had two decades ago. And while, in 1980, just one in fifty black students attended such a highly-segregated school, the number is now one in four.
Are segregated schools also poor schools?
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