TheGrio Daily

The Integration Myth

Episode 152

“We were incorporated into a white-controlled society.” The legal case Brown v. Board of Education is considered a pivotal moment in integrating white and Black America. Michael Harriot is here to tell you we’re still not integrated. 

Full transcript below.

Announcer [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black podcast network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello. I was listening to a friend of mine talk about segregation and integration the other day, and he said something that I had heard a lot of times. That integration was the worst thing that happened to Black people. And that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily. The only podcast that will tell you why integration never existed. So I’m sure you’ve heard that somebody’s say, like, you know, we had our own before we integrated. Before integration, you know, Black people had their own neighborhoods. They could control their own neighborhoods. They controlled their own schools. And some of that is true. You’ve been listening to this podcast for a while. You know, I don’t just go off thoughts and prayers. So let’s look at the definition of integrate. And I tend to use Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary because it’s just the most common one. So like, if I use some high-paying dictionary, like there’ll be somebody listening to this will say, That’s not what my dictionary says. So I just use the most popular dictionary because, you know, they generally have interchangeable definitions. But in Merriam-Webster, integrate means it has like three basic definitions. One to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole. Well, it never happened in America with Black and white people. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:29] Okay. Two, to incorporate into a larger unit and unite with something else. You know, America was never united, and we were incorporated. And three, to end the segregation of and bring this important part into equal membership in society or an organization. Well, we know that has never happened. Right. If you look at this data on education, on school funding, first of all, like two-thirds of Black kids still attend schools that are majority Black. Black schools are underfunded per student. Even though the wealthiest majority Black schools are underfunded at rates lower than the poor is white schools. So we know that never happened. So what did we get then? What was integration? Well, what happened when integration happened was before integration. Black kids attended schools that were not just majority Black, but the administrators were Black, the principals were Black, the teachers were Black, and they taught lessons that were relevant to the students. They taught them in their own language and custom and allow them to see themselves in the information that they learned. Right. And when segregation ended, what happened was they fired all those teachers. They fired all those administrators. They didn’t incorporate them into the larger unit. They didn’t incorporate the methods of teaching into the larger unit. They didn’t allow the children to see themselves. They just sent us, our children, into white schools. And why did that happen? 

Michael Harriot [00:03:02] Well, this is the important part that people have to understand. Right. So Brown versus Board of Education, and you know, you’ve heard this on his podcast a million times. The first case, part of Brown versus Board of Education, was a case called Briggs versus Brown versus Board of Education, which desegregated schools was actually a combination of five cases. The first of which was Briggs versus Elliot in Somerton, South Carolina, where a town that was 75% Black had two schools, one Black, one white. The white school had 33  busses, the Black school had none. When the Black school asked for one bus, after they had already bought their own and it broke down, the white people, the white superintendent, Mr. Elliott, said no. So Harry and Eliza Briggs was the family that sued. And that suit became Brown versus Board of Education. But the important thing to know about all of that is the Black people never asked to go to school with the white people. They were saying, Hey, we pay the majority of taxes in this district, and the white people are stealing our money. It was a civil suit because they were not getting their representation equally. White They were not being treated equally, and their money was used to fund white people’s education. 75% Black. And the important part is they like they didn’t say we think we should be allowed to go to school with white people. All they wanted was the fair use of the funds in the tax dollars for which they funded their education system. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:43] And the reason that’s important is because in none of the cases about integration or segregation were people asking to go to white schools. That was white people’s solution. Integration or what we call integration was white people’s solution to separate but equal. And solution was to allow Black people to go into white spaces, spaces that had been built and preserved, and maintained for white people. And that’s what we call integration. But it was not really integration according to that thing called dictionary. So when we say integration of Black people, how do we know? It never happened. What we’re talking about is we had a two-tiered education system. And we had a two-tiered justice system. We had a two-tiered system of public spaces. And they were not blended, coordinated or incorporated into a functioning or a unified whole. They were not incorporated into a larger unit. They were not united. They did not bring equal membership in that society. They allowed Black people to go into, again, when they fired the teachers and the administrators, we were incorporated into a white-controlled society, institution, or organization. That is not integration. So when we say integration hurt Black people or we don’t know if it did or not, does he never integrate? What we did is put Black people in white control spaces, and that ain’t the same thing. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:22] Well, what would integration look like? Well, integration would be to allow Black people to go into spaces which their voice was heard, which they had an equal share at the pot. It would be going into spaces where you are respected, you are not discriminated against, and the people recognize you as a person. That is integration. And that has never happened. And what would desegregation look like? Well, we’ve gone through the definition of integrate desegregation to desegregate means that the white people who segregated those institutions and spaces and businesses they would have to give up some of that power. Because you can’t share something if you have all of the power. You can’t share spaces. You can’t be united if one side has power. So, necessarily desegregating means disempowering the people who created the system of segregation, disempowering the people who created those underfunded schools, or separate but equal educational institutions. And that has never happened. So, did integration hurt Black people? Well, who knows? The only way to know is to continue to tune in to this podcast and subscribe. Tell your friends about it and download that Grio app, and stay and listen to the end. Because, you know, we’re going to leave you with the famous Black saying. And today’s famous Black saying is by Martin Luther King, who said, “I fear I have led my people into a burning house.” We’ll see you next time on the Grio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five-star review, download theGrio app, subscribe to the show, and to share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions, and compliments to podcasts at the Grio dot com. 

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