Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Bad Reporting

Headlines and leads are all too often the only part of a newspaper story that people read. In the case of the The Cincinnati Post's story from Saturday entitled "Equality remains an issue: Many local schools as segregated as ever" has a lead that along with the headline misleads the public:
Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court changed the course of history by ordering America to desegregate schools, many Greater Cincinnati schools are as racially segregated as ever.
If anyone were to read only the headline and opening paragraph they would have been subjected to a clear falsehood. What local school anywhere in this country is as segregated as ever? There are none. No public school in this country can legally segregate students based on race or ethnicity. That is the element of Brown v. Board of Education that everyone can celebrate 50 years later. Brown is a success on that front. The intention of the writer/editor may have been to say that schools are largely still divided by race, but the language used implies that the legal victory won by Brown was not achieved, and it was, so no school has the same segregation as before.

Those who see Brown as a catalyst of integration, as opposed to segregation, give it too much power and not enough reality. This country is nearly as unintegrated as it was 50 years ago, but to say it is segregated is wrong. Segregation in terms of our society has the implication of forced or required separation of the races. To use the term misleads the public, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to believe that things are largely no better than it was 50 years ago. I am sure that is what the boycotters want people to believe, that brings them power from angry people. That is not the truth. The reasons why schools today are not integrated are because most communities are not integrated. Asking why our communities are not integrated would have been a better focus of this story, if your concern is why many local schools are largely only one race.

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