School Segregation in Brooklyn: Once Again, DoE Rears its Racist Head
Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 6:43PM
Challenge_DesafĂ­o

Park Slope Collegiate, a public secondary school that has led the fight against segregation and racist inequalities in the Department of Education, is now under assault by a DoE investigation of “Communist organizing” (New York Times, 5/4). The DoE has targeted anti-racist Principal Bloomberg as a member of Progressive Labor Party (which she isn’t) and accused her of recruiting students to PLP (which she hasn’t).
But the school bosses’ baseless charges are rooted in an antiracist history. Going back to the Scottsboro Boys case in the 1930s and through the Civil Rights movement and beyond, communists have led the multiracial fightback against racism in the streets, the schools and universities, the workplace, and the military.
The DoE’s attack on Park Slope Collegiate echoes the intimidation tactics of 1950s’-era communist-hunter Joseph McCarthy. Two of New York City’s most powerful liberal bosses—Mayor Bill De Blasio and DoE Chancellor Carmen Farina—are counting on anti-communism to frighten and silence anyone who stands up against their racist policies, which consign the vast majority of Black and Latin children—approximately 75 percent of the city’s 1.1 million public school student population—to a segregated, second-class education. In so doing, these bosses have yet again exposed themselves as the shameless racists they are.
The Struggle at John Jay Campus
Park Slope Collegiate (PSC) is one of four schools on the long-neglected John Jay Campus, which is located in the heart of a wealthy white neighborhood in Brooklyn. Three of the schools enroll predominantly Black and Latin students from low-income families outside the neighborhood. In 2010, the DoE announced plans to install the fourth school, Millennium Brooklyn, a selective, significantly white high school that would be given more funding and resources per student than its co-located schools. Principal Bloomberg led PSC’s effort to organize against this elitist, racist plan, and proposed instead that white students in the neighborhood be integrated into the existing schools. But the struggle failed, and Millennium Brooklyn opened in 2011—one more piece in “one of [the] most deeply segregated school systems in the nation” in “polychromatic” New York City (NYT, 5/17).
Since then, the principal and a group of anti-racist teachers and parents have led a multiracial fightback to demand the removal of metal detectors from the campus, to defend students against abuse by school security agents and the New York Police Department, and to challenge the cops who herded students out of the neighborhood at dismissal each day. Most recently, in February, Principal Bloomberg sent the DoE a complaint that documented racist inequalities in the city’s funding for varsity sports teams. The John Jay Campus sports program—which serves 1,859 students, more than 90 percent of them Black or Latin—was given only nine teams. But the Millennium sports program received 17 teams for only 1,261 students—including 641 students at Millennium High School in Manhattan, which uses John Jay’s gym facilities and is only 25 percent Black and Latin.
Two weeks after the principal made her complaint, the DoE’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) arrived at PSC and announced it was investigating “communist activities taking place at the school.”  Principal Bloomberg filed a lawsuit in federal court, charging that her civil rights and right to free speech had been violated. But “rights” under capitalism are protected only when they serve the bosses’ interests. On May 16, the OSI Gestapo invaded the school unannounced and interrogated students as young as 13, pressuring them to reveal their parents’ and teachers’ political beliefs and activities. The investigators’ witch-hunt was aided by the district superintendent and a ruthless guidance counselor. She escorted the students to her office—which had been commandeered as the interrogation room (PSC Pulse, PTA newsletter, May 16).
Why the Bosses Need Segregation
John Jay Campus is a microcosm of the racist inequalities in school systems throughout the U.S. What makes PSC different is that students, parents, and teachers at this school are fighting back.
Why is this fight such a threat to the DoE? The bosses cannot stand multiracial fightback in any form. They need to preserve school segregation to prepare Black, Latin, and immigrant children for the racism that awaits them on the job or in the military—or the prison work force. The super-exploitation of Black and Latin workers is analogous to the super-deprivation of Black and Latin students. To see Black, Latin, and white students rebelling together against racist conditions puts the bosses in a panic.  
Under Capitalism, Real Estate Trumps Learning
Public schools today are more segregated than they were in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, acknowledged that “separate” could never be equal. New York State’s schools are the most segregated in the U.S. (https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu, 2009).
De Blasio and Farina are doing their part to uphold the state’s ranking by perpetuating racist “choice” policies for secondary schools and defending elementary school zones that deliberately segregate students in the service of home real estate values for the middle class and the affluent.  As the mayor said, “You have to also respect families who have made a decision to live in a certain area oftentimes because of a specific school” (Chalkbeat, 11/6/2015). And more recently: “We cannot change the basic reality of housing in New York City” (NYT, 5/11). De Blasio, who is running for reelection this fall, relies on millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the real estate sector.
Only Option: More Fightback!
Progressive Labor Party salutes the inspirational, antiracist fightback—at John Jay Campus and everywhere workers and students are daring to fight back. In attacking Park Slope Collegiate, the bosses are exposing their true racist colors. But in fighting racism, teachers and students are learning invaluable working-class lessons. They’re also boosting workers’ confidence in our ability to resist, organize, and survive in a period of rising fascism.

Article originally appeared on The Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party (http://www.plp.org/).
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