Organizing to Integrate

Written By David Kirkland

New York City, not unlike other major metropolitan regions in the U.S., faces a stubborn and layered system of segregation, which separate students by socio-economic status, ability, language background, race/ethnicity, and so on. These categories predict (almost acutely) who our schools will serve well, and who they will neglect. The NYU Metro Center is committed to partnering with NYC to find data-driven ways to resolve the wicked problem of school segregation in NYC, using research to drive policy that promises to integrate NYC schools and grow greater opportunities for vulnerable communities threatened by initiatives of separation and enacted ideologies of division. 

For nearly 40 years, NYU Metro Center has worked tirelessly in defense of the lives of our nation’s most disadvantaged populations. For decades, we have committed ourselves to a campaign of rigorous educational science and technical assistance to help unleash, for all people to enjoy, the bountiful promises of equity, dignity, and justice. Thus, in opposition to stubborn realities of separate and unequal schooling (particularly as it fuels and is fueled by fear, ignorance, and intolerance), the goal of our school integration/desegregation work is to reaffirm our collective commitment to advancing justice for all threatened groups and individuals, to supporting research, practice and policy that eventuates in our highest human ideals and more compassionate, humane, and integrated citizenry.

The objective of this work must be to transform NYC by setting in course data-supported recommendations that fundamentally shifts the demography of NYC schools through collaborative and principled intellectual activities that challenge the dominant logics and systems of exclusion. 

In the space between the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision and now, it is necessary that research be committed to publicly defending the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. As we together undertake this work, I urge us to keep in mind the intersectional identities of the new generation of students we are charged with nurturing. Many were not only Black or White or poor, they are otherwise—a new generation of people who refuse to be boxed as they perform vastly complex identities, queering and, in so many ways, upsetting the logics of homogeneity upon which segregation rests.

These new bodies embody the new civil rights campaign, which evokes a complicated set of propositions worthy of redress. Perhaps chief among them are opportunity gaps and residential segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the new discrimination against people of color. This is the very work for which NYU Metro Center exists.   

As an organization committed to extending more broadly the reach of justice, we have moved forward in our 40 years of existence as a research center, affirming our treatise to justice while encouraging others to join us in conversations that evoke healing from (the detrimental effects of) social intolerance and against intolerable acts social separation. Marc Lamont Hill has term this kind of work “wounded healing.” For Hill, wounded healing is a practice of rising (though fallen), of attending to the cares of our most vulnerable students while working to repair and move beyond the wounds that feed them.

Such a practice of healing is perhaps more important now because it lends a voice of hope for reconciling a trans-sectionality of identities—that is, the ways individuals move between spaces, our fluidities and unbound intersectionalities. It exposes how confusions, hardenings, and inaccuracies surround expressions of Segregation and incubate deeply within the logics of unreasonable frustrations, strifes, and even social violence—the same type of violence the new presidential administration has daily inflicted upon the vulnerable.

In this light, healing means accepting all aspects of us and, indeed, more so as we move in and out of labels historically used to trap us and others.  Like the vulnerable and trans-sectional communities and bodies we work hard to support, NYU Metro Center’s commitment to ending segregation while interrupting intolerance is unwavering.

We welcome the City of New York and the rest of our nation as our partners in this work.