The Economy Of Racial Inequity

Difference Between Integration and Desegregation

Deborah Venable



In polls being conducted all over the country right now, folks are being asked to identify the top priority issue in America today.  Hands down, the answer is usually the state of the economy.  Bottom line – the economy is what will either save us or sink us according to the current mindset.


This leads me to believe that most people tie their very freedom directly to their access to economic stability.  I can buy that.


In this economy, which is in such decline (if we are to believe what we are told) where is the economic benefit of continuing to fund racial inequity?  Believe me, if there were not some sort of economic advantage to pushing racial inequity, the issue would have long ago died out.  If true freedom were more important than anything else, our society would have accepted homogenous harmony and marginalized every organization that sought ANY race advancement. 


James Farmer put forth some very interesting thoughts, authored in 1965, (Freedom – When?) in a chapter called “Integration Or Desegregation.”  I doubt seriously if most people on the cutting edge of the race issue today has taken the time to think through the issue with as much depth as he used to explain the difference. 


The end of this excerpt is beautiful, especially if you keep in mind when it was written:


Is it divisive of me to suggest that all parties to the movement will not share identical perspectives? Some think so. But I believe that one cannot be all men at all times and remain himself. There is a two-ness, to use Du Bois’s term, in the movement as there is in the Negro, and no synthesis, as far as I can see now, is possible. Perhaps ultimately, God willing. We should not be frightened by slight ambivalences. They are a sign that we are becoming free, for freedom eludes simple definitions.


Make no mistake, James Farmer started out as a revolutionary socialist and his name was associated with the most famous organizations in the civil rights movement, from CORE to the NAACP, but he was undoubtedly brilliant in his thought processes about race inequities.  (Some might not know that he ran for congress in 1968 (as a Republican) but was defeated by Democrat, Shirley Chisholm.  He went on to serve in the Nixon administration as Assistant Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.)


The thing that sets James Farmer apart from so many more famous people associated with the whole civil rights movement is that he was a true visionary that knew what it would take to achieve stability in integrated communities.  He had distanced himself from the emerging militancy of black nationalism as early as 1966 when he resigned as the director of CORE, (Congress On Racial Equality.)  I would say that by the time he earned his Medal Of Freedom Award from Bill Clinton in 1998, he had probably done a lot more to earn it than most of his era. 


Now if you look up a textbook difference between integration and desegregation, you may still find some disagreement in terms, but generally the definitions will include these two distinctions:  desegregation (legal) mandate, and integration (social) mandate.  As the man said, “freedom eludes simple definitions.”


Many in the civil rights movement recognized this difference, and while they demanded one, ultimately rejected that they be mandated to accept the other.  In other words, they embraced “freedom” through choice.  The fact that equal opportunity could not always result in racial equity baffled many in the past and is still at the root of many of our problems today. 


The biggest trap most people who demand racial equity can fall into is that they really cannot define “racial equity” and therefore cannot realize when they may already have it.  If they were being truthful with themselves, they could admit that racial equality is NOT necessarily their goal at all, but rather racial superiority.  As long as that attitude exists in anyone, racial inequity will continue to rot the soul of racial harmony.


Michelle Obama’s recent address to the NAACP meeting is a real eye opener if you realize that the whole theme of her speech was woven around racial inequity.  From her first declaration that she and her husband “would not be standing where they are today” without the NAACP, to her lament that “African-American children are significantly more apt to be obese than white children,” and “a black child is far more likely to go to prison than a white child” - but she even erroneously used the term “inequality” instead of “inequity” – she insists on living in a world of racial inequity. 


Is it any wonder that so many Americans are still looking to the government to fix the economic and racial problems in this country through mandate, (both legal and social?)


So, while we flail around in an unstable economy, desperately try to regain our American exceptionalism, reject an overbearing and enslaving government that seeks only to subvert individualism with dependence on public redistribution, convince a spoiled, and ungrateful populace that our freedom is being squandered daily, the true value of freedom is all too often ignored.


If we can ever get a handle on this economy of racial inequity, an awful lot of our problems would evaporate.  It would have certainly prevented the election of the current Obama power cabal, which has done anything but unite us OR lead us to economic stability.  If there is nothing to be had from exploiting race to gain money or power, we will come to realize that racial equality is the real prize, and that, God willing, we will “become free” and get back to the business of running an economy that does not try to artificially demand racial equity. 



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