Are Some Races More Equal Than Others?

March 14, 2010 14:57

How will the Obama administration respond to a formal complaint in the wake of serious black-on-Asian violence at South Philadelphia High School?

By Abigail Thernstrom and Tim Fay Friday, March 12, 2010 at The American

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has just announced a new push to enforce civil rights laws to combat discrimination in our schools. In the last decade, he said, his department’s Office for Civil Rights “has not been as vigilant as it should have been . . . But that is about to change.” His remarks were made March 8 in a speech at the Edmund Pettus Bridge commemorating the 45th anniversary of the civil rights march on Selma, Alabama, that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is also eager to break with the allegedly lax civil rights policies of the Bush administration. Tom Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, has appointed a new education section chief, Anurima Bhargava, who comes to the department directly from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), where she had been director of education practice since 2006. “I am excited she will be joining us as we continue our efforts to restore and transform the civil rights division,” Perez declared.

Duncan wants to eliminate racial disparities in education in general, including in student discipline in particular. Undoubtedly, Perez does as well. But what will they do in response to a formal complaint filed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in the wake of serious black-on-Asian violence at South Philadelphia High School (SPHS)? AALDEF has charged that the district acted with “deliberate indifference” to the harassment of Asian students and with “intentional disregard” of their welfare.

Interethnic tension is generally ignored in the media, as is the level of violence and disorder in an appalling number of urban schools.

Will the Obama administration act aggressively to ensure Asian rights to a public education free of intimidation and actual violence—surely a basic civil right? Or will such action be taken only when blacks are the victims rather than the perpetrators? If the administration acts in the interest of the Asians, black students will be singled out as racially hostile troublemakers—a conclusion that neither the Department of Education nor the DOJ will welcome, if Duncan’s announcement means what it says.


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