martin luther king black civil rights activists

Black heroes’ names stuck on failing programs

When Rochester City School District leaders are looking to name a program or a school, they often reach for the black history books.

Slapping a black hero’s name on something offers the appearance of cultural sensitivity. Most of the district’s students are black and economically disadvantaged. Most teachers and staff are white and middle class.

Dealing with segregation and isolation is difficult. You know what isn’t? Naming another thing after Frederick Douglass.

So it’s no surprise that there is a special education program called The North S.T.A.R. Or that the program is “sub par at best” according to researchers hired to evaluate this and other special education programs.

I have started a little list of programs named for black leaders that make an ironic mockery of their names. Everybody knows that Martin Luther King Jr. famously dreamed of a day when black children and white children would join hands “as sisters and brothers.”

The Clinton Avenue school named after him is all but totally segregated.

Mary McLeod Bethune started a school for black children when African Americans were barred from white schools. She had little money so she made desks from old crates. “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read,” she once said.

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