Saturday, February 13, 2016

This American Life: The Problem We All Live With

Nikole Hannah-Jones is an investigative reporter that wrote about segregation and desegregation in schools in the US. She argues that the answer to educational equality, or the closest way we’ll get to educational equality, is integration. The interview, The Problem We All Live With, gives thoughtful and passionate examples of students and parents who have gone through integration and their stories of success. She showed us, the listeners, the struggles that black students and parents dealt with in order to try to get the same education as white students. “What integration does is it gets black kids in the same facilities as white kids. And therefore, it gets them access to the same things that those kids get- quality teachers and quality instruction” (Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Problem We All Live With).

The Problem We All Live With gave supportive data, which Hannah-Jones used to explain how integration is the answer to breaking the achievement gap, and changing the lives of black students.  Hannah-Jones mentioned that for black students integration “…changed their whole lives. They were less likely to be poor, they were less likely to have health problems, they live longer. And the opposite is true for black kids who remained in segregated schools”.  Hannah-Jones, told a story about a girl named Mah’Ria, a young girl that was bussed into a white school. Mah’Ria and her mother went to an open forum meeting at the white school she was about to attend and had to listen to harsh and judgmental parents speak about how children from her school should not be allowed to attend their school. This reminded me of Johnson’s article and how the parents of the white schools felt they needed to keep separation between the schools because of their discriminations, and fears.  The quote that came to mind was, “the trouble we’re in privileges some groups at the expense of others. It creates a yawning divide in levels of income, wealth, dignity, safety, health, and quality of life. It promotes fear, suspicion, discrimination, harassment, and violence. It sets people against one another” (Johnson, 9). Mah’Ria had a positive first experience with integration but Rihanna; another student did not share the same positive experience. This reminded me again of Johnson and the umbrella example we used in class. Rihanna walked into her new school, soaking wet while all the dry, white students stared at her and called her racial slurs.

I think that it would be interesting if Lisa Delpit and Nikole Hannah-Jones got together for an interview. Delpit could discuss her four aspects of the culture of power and how it relates to integration in schools and Hannah-Jones could relate them to her investigations and her own experience as a product of integration. Delpit’s 3rd aspect, “the rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power” (Delpit, 25), shows how integration would work best. I immediately thought of Delpit when Nikole Hannah-Jones said “if you’re surrounded by a bunch of kids who are all behind you, you stay behind. But if you’re in a classroom that has some kids behind and some kids advanced, the kids who are behind tend to catch up.” By bringing white and black students, advanced and non-advanced students together, by following Delpit’s ideas of integrated education methodologies, we could strive for educational equality.

It took me rereading Armstrong and Wildman’s article; Colorblindness is the Racism, to realize how desegregation is just promoting colorblindness.  “People seeking equality are not permitted to examine, or even acknowledge, that White students are generally afforded the best educational opportunities in the United States, while these benefits elude many students of color” (Armstrong & Wildman, 64). I agree with Wildman and Armstrong that “until educators teach about the importance of analyzing how privilege operates, students will graduate ill-equipped to work effectively in a diverse environment. If students to not grapple with issues of privelege while still in school, they may never acquire the insight or ability to recognize and combat racism and other subordination” (66).

I really enjoyed listening to Hannah-Jone’s interview and plan on finding more information from her. I felt as if this interview would be an eye opener for many people because the racial injustices she speaks of is all over the media, but many people (I certainly didn’t know much before this interview) don’t know how integration could help both groups above and below the power line (Armstrong and Wildman).


  1. Your connection to Johnson really connected the dots for me. It disturbed me to hear the racist comments of the white parents at the Francis Howell school meeting, but I suppose this was an example of their deep-seated fear and suspicions. Telling the story from Mah'ria's perspective truly exposed the hateful prejudices that exist today, even though those parents claimed it "wasn't a race issue."

  2. Great blog! As I was reading Delpit also came to my mind. I like the connection you made between the two. It would be very interesting to hear the conversation they would have...maybe it could be featured on This American Life :) They both want the same things for students so it would be interesting to see what Delpit thinks of integration.

  3. Bethany- I really agree with your last statement there about how much of an eye opener it was that integration is so effective. It's not something I had put much thought into before, and after hearing the experiences from Nikole I found that I was so strongly believing that integration is a very effective strategy.

  4. Interesting take, Bethany! I also thought that disintegration is truly promoting colorblindness. Comparing this "reading" to Armstong and Wildman's really puts things in perspectives when you look at both readings individually and together. Reading and listening to the parents speak at the town hall really brought their colorblindness home for me.

    Having Delpit and Hannah-Jones would also be an interesting discussion! I'd love to be in the audience for that one!

  5. Let's talk more about that in class... how desegregation promotes colorblindness! Great connections across texts.

  6. I really enjoyed how you used the umbrella analogy comparing the two students Ma-Ria and Rihanna. I didn't think about their experience in that way and it really opened my eyes to viewing the audio in that manner thanks for that!