In the Name of Integration

By Michael E. Rosman

Washington Post, December 2, 2006

Ruth Marcus’s Nov. 29 op-ed column, “A Slide Toward Segregation,” is bereft of facts related to the two cases to be argued before the Supreme Court concerning racial preferences in school assignments.

In the Louisville case, when Joshua McDonald was assigned to a school for kindergarten, his mother wanted to transfer him to one that she thought would be better for him. Although the school district in Jefferson County, Ky., would have granted that request for any black student, no questions asked, it denied the request of Joshua’s mother, as it would have denied a request on behalf of any Asian, Hispanic or white student, because Joshua’s proposed transfer would have changed the proportion of non-black students in the school from 50 percent to slightly below 50 percent.

In the Seattle case, in 2000, in the absence of any racial or ethnic preferences, Franklin High School would have been about 39 percent Asian American, 34.5 percent African American, 20 percent white, 5.5 percent Latino and about 1 percent Native American. Because Seattle deemed such a school insufficiently “white,” white students entering ninth grade received preference over others who sought to attend Franklin, including over the less-well-represented Latino and Native American groups.

This is the “segregation” that these school districts are seeking to avoid and that Ms. Marcus apparently fears. One can have a healthy debate about the effects of true racial isolation and what school districts should be permitted to do to avoid it. But that discussion would have little to do with these cases or the plans adopted by Seattle and Jefferson County.