Let me say from the first that I'm proud of Daily Kos. Proud that more than one point of view can be expressed in a civil manner.
I'm referring to this diary: "Even if Mark Ficken didn't egg the crowd on...."
The two points of view relate to the question of whether this man should lose his job as Superintendent of Schools over his role as MC at the Missouri State Fair rodeo (that featured the "Obama clown" who has himself now been banned from the Fair), or whether the action (or inaction -- See: "The Ox-Bow Incident") should be punished "with a slap on the wrist," after which we all should "move on." I can see both sides, but I've been recommending diary comments in favor of the former choice. And that's largely because of my perspective as a Show-Me resident in the not-too-distant past. To explain, I have to create my own diary.
I'm sorry that Al Gore has already grabbed the line, "an inconvenient truth," because I think it could have otherwise have been the perfect tag-line for conveying how I see racism in Missouri. So I'll just tip my hat to Al and say that the issue came up a few years ago in a Federal court ruling for a desegregation remedy to be applied to the large urban public school systems of St. Louis and Kansas City.
Others may have a much better grasp of the nature of this ruling, and of the reaction to it. I merely wish to offer my perspective. And it is not an insignificant detail that both the aftermath of the Missouri State Fair incident and the background behind the court's desegregation ruling have to do with public schools in the State of Missouri.
As my memory serves, the court case arose because plaintiffs in Kansas City and St. Louis were seeking some redress from continuing de facto segregation that isolated the urban districts and left them substantially underfunded. I welcome any expansion on this by other Kossacks. What I do recall is that one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs was Arthur Benson, from Kansas City. I heard him speak more than once on the reason for the suit naming the State of Missouri as defendant.
His story dates back to the Supreme Court's finding in Plessy v. Ferguson that different treatment of blacks and whites was constitutional so long as issues were to be decided in a "separate but equal" manner. That case had arisen in the South, not in Missouri, but the State was only too happy to apply the ruling with a vengeance. The State of Missouri quickly made it known that it would police local arrangements to the letter of the law/ruling, such that segregation would continue but that unequal systems would be dealt with harshly.
What did this mean? In effect, it meant that there would no longer be secondary education available for blacks in rural Missouri. Here one should know that blacks in substantial numbers lived at the turn of the century in outstate Missouri. An example cited by Benson in Kansas City was the now-suburb of Lee's Summit. This town's major employer was a railroad that repaired its damaged rail cars in a shop there which employed many skilled labor employees such as carpenters -- many of them blacks.
When the State of Missouri announced its interpretation of Plessy, the Lee's Summit school district (and many much smaller) were faced with the prospect of double taxation to support "separate but equal" school facilities for blacks and whites. One-room school houses teaching the Three R's through eighth grade were perhaps one thing, but high schools were expensive by comparison and certainly most local populations weren't about to support two of them where one had sufficed before. Guess who lost out in this?
If you didn't answer "Everybody," then you're only half right. Because the ultimate effect of all this was that middle-class blacks in Lee's Summit were not about to see their children deprived of a full education, and so families moved to Kansas City. ...where racism there created a ghetto east of Troost by virtue of real estate restrictive covenants, realtor-based "steering," etc., etc. Of course rural blacks followed in the course of time, such that rural Missouri is (or has been) pretty much 100% white in recent decades.
That was the situation leading up to the "school deseg" case. And for a remedy the plaintiffs sought to construct a plan for what an ideal solution might entail. Two educators, one from the U. of Missouri branch campus in Kansas City and one from Harvard, set about designing something that -- after the inevitable cutbacks in the budget -- would still serve to create a school system that would be attractive enough to support voluntary desegregation. "Voluntary" because white families would find what was on offer attractive enough to want their children to have the option to cross district lines and enroll.
The "Magnet Plan" that these two educators produced via their "pink report" (named for the color of the pages upon which it was printed) was a Cadillac of plans, no question! It had every bell and whistle imaginable, because of course it was fully expected that large portions of this plan would be cut. Except that they weren't. The Federal judge (from Springfield, in the conservative southwest corner of the state, no less) accepted the plan as written. AND, placed the State of Missouri on the hook to fund it!
Why the State, and not the metro area(s)? Because the State had been complicit in setting up the segregation that resulted after the Plessy case -- whites in rural areas, blacks in urban ghettos. And that was still the situation when the "deseg" decision came down.
Even non-Missouri Kossacks can readily imagine what then transpired. Outstate Missouri quickly became enraged at the prospect of State revenues being used to rebuild the urban school districts that served mostly blacks. The part about the State's role in setting up this mess was largely overlooked by State officials, the General Assembly, most newspapers, business leaders, and so on. I should mention here that the current Governor was at that time the State's Attorney General, and he took the lead in fighting "deseg" costs.
One might have thought that there might have been substantial push-back from the cities, but it was true that some black leaders were seemingly more interested in the jobs and contracts that could be had than in the potential benefit to urban students of all races and backgrounds. To their credit, I saw black parents accept whatever changes to their neighborhood elementary school might be coming, just so long as their kids would still be able to attend there (and not have to be bussed to another school). Yes, the "Magnetization" of the schools was intended to draw in white students, and cabs were sent to pick them up in ones and twos if necessary.
So, yes, the resulting system was financially extravagant. And that made it a sitting duck for all of the venom soon to be directed its way from Outstate. What's so interesting to me is how this can be so easily channeled into racism by those who have so few occasions to encounter people of color in their daily lives. But then, the Klan was no stranger to Missouri. I guess the more things change, the more they remain the same. Sigh!
And that's what comes to mind as we debate to proper outcome for a School Superintendent from Boonville, Missouri. When is Missouri ever going to deal with its "inconvenient truth" ?? My personal opinion is that, when it finally does, the time to "move on" will have arrived.