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HoCo, MD votes to redistrict

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The past Thursday, Howard County, MD voted to approve a measure that would redraw their school districts to make it less segregated. The county is home to hundreds of thousands of people with a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds that are not well-integrated across the various towns. The issue of desegregation is not exclusive to just one county in Maryland. Northern states, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, all face the same issue of school segregation with links to historic geographical inequities.

The Howard County measure focuses on two high schools: River Hill and Wilde Lake. Less than five percent of River Hill’s students are from low-income families, while 46 percent of Wilde Lake’s students are from low-income families, many of whom are Black or Hispanic. Contrary to the beliefs and statements from detractors of the redraw, Wilde Lake is a good school. Wilde Lake students excel, even if their standardized test scores, useless indicators of how well a school does, are lower than River Hill’s.

Howard County’s decision is a great idea. Economic and racial diversity is important for students, and diversity makes for a better learning experience. It creates students who are more aware, and it lessens the subconscious — in many cases, overt, racist, and classist — biases that people from privileged backgrounds often hold. It is also just a good policy for the district, addressing the historical mistakes of redlining and white flight that segregated the county, while tackling the issue of overcrowding.

Some common arguments against the redistricting measure involve the ideas of inconvenience, students being separated from friend groups, and school choice. They completely miss the point. While the first two points are just individual concerns that don’t outweigh the benefits of redistricting at all, the third argument is incredibly troubling. There is no real choice for many in the first place. The low-income families whose children go to Wilde Lake can’t afford to live in the same places many of the detractors of the desegregating policy live. With the argument of school choice, the anti-desegregation movement correlates the value of the school to the price of housing. But if that’s the case, the only people with any choice are the privileged, anti-desegregation crowd.

This issue hits home for me in two different ways. The first reason is that I come from a suburb where the majority of the people are of the same demographic as a lot of the anti-desegregation movement’s proponents: privileged white “liberals” who are for social justice on paper, but would be uncomfortable seeing black people in the neighborhood. But the second reason, and what really prompted me to write this, is that one of the main figures in the anti-desegregation movement in Howard County is Indian — Dr. Hemant Sharma. It was just another reminder of the racism that plagues the Asian community.

Dr. Sharma’s main reason for advocating against the policy is that he thinks that it will harm those the policy is trying to help. He wants to make it clear that the people against anti-desegregation are certainly not racist, and that he acknowledges the concerns shared by black people. So, if he really cares about the plight of low income, non-Asian minorities, why is he against the redistricting measure? Many in the county's Asian community are against the policy. It’s not because they care about what it means or who it impacts. They just don’t want to send their kids to school with black or Hispanic kids, especially if those kids come from a less affluent background.

I can’t speak for this statistically, but I can talk anecdotally. My general experience with Asians when talking about race is infuriating. For example, I know many of my own Asian family friends were completely for the affirmative action lawsuit led by Asians against Harvard. Instead of focusing on how Harvard regularly accepts rich, white legacy students, they cited underrepresented minorities as the reason it’s hard for Asians to get into Harvard. It’s not like every Asian tiger parent in the world wants their kid to apply to Harvard, one of the reasons why the acceptance rate of Asians at Harvard would be lower. These Asian parents attack the black students because they think they’re inferior, whether they want to admit it overtly or not.

The same philosophy applies to the fake white liberals that a lot of the Asian community try to emulate. They want to keep their privilege as much as they can. Whether or not they want to admit it, that same feeling of superiority Asians have over black people is there. They are all for being white saviors and desegregating other school districts, but as soon as it’s their own, they’ll be up in arms. It’s been happening since Brown v. Board, and it’s depressing to see history repeating itself.

The worst part is how cognizant the fake white liberals are about the historical parallels between past segregationists and their movement. The website for the anti-desegregation movement tried hard to make sure it looks different from past anti-desegregation movements. Don’t say use the term “forced bussing,” but say that you don’t want longer bus rides. Say that you love your school, rather than not wanting to go to some other school. They try to make such an effort to superficially separate from themselves from racists of the past, but they’re still racist, no matter how hard they try.

Howard County made a good decision with this vote. There is not enough real action at any systemic level to deal with racism in the U.S. If you’re going to be against something that addresses this, at least own up to the fact that racism is affecting your decision. If you at least do that, we can have better discussions to effectively address the issues of systemic racism in the U.S.