Segregation, the Black-White Achievement Gap, and the Romneys
Continued from previous page
Although his integration efforts were suppressed by President Nixon, George Romney was not an isolated figure. Although his passion was unusual, his views on racial integration were shared by many national leaders, Republican and Democrat alike. It is hard for many of us today, unfamiliar with how far this nation has regressed in matters of racial inequality, to imagine that, for example, Vice President Spiro Agnew lectured the National Alliance of Businessmen that he flatly rejected the assumption that “because the primary problems of race and poverty are found in the ghettos of urban America, the solutions to these problems must also be found there… Resources needed to solve the urban poverty problem – land, money, and jobs – exist in substantial supply in suburban areas, but are not being sufficiently utilized in solving inner-city problems.” Nixon’s domestic policy coordinator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, contemptuously called it “gilding the ghetto” to try to ameliorate inequality simply by pouring money into urban programs: “efforts to improve the conditions of life in the present caste-created slums must never take precedence over efforts to enable the slum population to disperse throughout the metropolitan areas involved.” A commission headed by former Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner, formed after riots in over 100 cities in 1967, called for a crash program for the federal government to construct or subsidize six million units of low and moderate income housing, intended primarily for black urban families, in middle-class white suburbs. George Romney adopted this goal as HUD Secretary, but he could never begin to fulfill it.
Today, Democrats and Republicans alike unashamedly promote efforts to “gild the ghetto” with charter schools that are more segregated than regular public schools, and with compensatory education programs that have little chance of truly compensating. But the black-white academic achievement gap is unlikely to narrow much further without revisiting the imperative of residential integration in our metropolitan areas. Integration alone won’t close the gap, but without integration, other programs will continue to be frustrated.
Read the full report on which the Santow-Rothstein American Prospect article is based, with sources for those interested in pursuing these issues.