Lack of diversity in elite NYC schools is indicative of a larger issue

Ben Borrok, Senior Writer

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Recently it was revealed that only seven of the 895 spots available for the incoming class to the elite Stuyvesant High School were filled by black students. It is a shocking number no matter how you put it, but is especially jarring compared to the demographics of New York City. Recent census data reveals that 24.3 percent of the city is black, yet the most elite public school in the city does not reflect that. Rather, the incoming freshman class at Stuyvesant will only be 0.8 percent black, quite a drastic drop from the expected diversity. But while most of the media narrative has focused on the test that functions as the determinant for entry to NYC’s most exclusive schools, it is ignoring the mechanisms in society that allow for such extreme racial disparity.

 

Stuyvesant’s issue is but a microcosm of the issues that plague the city and the state at large. As it stands today, New York is the most segregated state based on public education, with 64 percent of black students in schools that are less than 10 percent white. The importance of integration is not just to display equal treatment and teach students to coexist; rather, it is about leveling the playing field. In the United States, a vast majority of public schools are funded through local property taxes. As a result, areas that are inhabited by low-income families have underfunded schools; low-income areas contain disproportionate amounts of blacks and Hispanics, which disproportionately affects these minorities. Schools that lack proper funding result in deteriorating student performance and lower graduation rates. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that black students are not receiving entry to Stuyvesant, as they take the entrance exam at a severe academic disadvantage compared to their white counterparts. It also reveals that public criticism should go far deeper than the test itself.

 

The way that we fund our public schools is broken and only perpetuates the racial divisions we see in American society. If we continue to ignore this while attempting to put a Band-Aid on the situation through test adjustments and faulty affirmative action initiatives, we will only be kicking the can further down the road.

 

At some point, we need to reckon with the fact that America still functions as a widely unequal society. Racism and inequality did not end the day the Civil War ended or the day that Civil Rights legislation was passed. It did not end the day Morgan Freeman won an Oscar and it did not end the day Barack Obama was elected. Equality is something that we have to continue to fight for every day. In order to reach a point where black students are treated like their counterparts, it requires major societal upheaval and every day it is delayed equals another student being left behind.

 

This major societal upheaval should also not be up for debate. Our nation was supposedly founded on the idea that all man is created equal, and efforts should always be made to achieve our national identity. Specifically, equality in society should not undergo an economic analysis to check for viability. To subject equality to the modern hindrances of American politics is to say that minorities are not immediately deserving of the opportunities that are afforded to whites.

 

It is so important that New York makes a genuine push for reform to address this issue, rather than apply another Band-Aid. I love New York and grew up with pride knowing the city was an immense center for diversity and progress. In order to maintain this idea of equality in diversity, changes must be made so that the city does not fail its black students.

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