With Jena on the media radar, NPR did a story this week about the larger issue of re-segregation of U.S. schools. Citing a recent report from the UCLA-based Civil Rights Project, NPR notes that -- thanks to legal and political advocacy in the 1950s and 60s, the South had become the national leader for school integration.
But a series of Supreme Court decisions starting in the 1990s -- and most recently in the Louisville and Seattle decisions about desegregation orders -- have turned back the clock. As the UCLA report (pdf) notes:
Desegregation is often treated as if it were something that occurred after the Brown decision in the l950s. In fact, serious desegregation of the black South only came after Congress and the Johnson Administration acted powerfully under the l964 Civil Rights Act; serious desegregation of the cities only occurred in the l970s and was limited outside the South. Though the Supreme Court recognized the rights of Latinos to desegregation remedies in 1973, there was little enforcement as the Latino numbers multiplied rapidly and their segregation intensified.
Resegregation, which took hold in the early 1990s after three Supreme Court decisions from 1991 to 1995 limiting desegregation orders, is continuing to grow in all parts of the country for both African Americans and Latinos and is accelerating the most rapidly in the only region that had been highly desegregated-the South.
That's a critical backdrop to stories of race and schools like the Jena 6.