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White Men's LawThe Roots of Systemic Racism$
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Peter Irons

Print publication date: 2022

Print ISBN-13: 9780190914943

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190914943.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

“The Basic Minimal Skills”

“The Basic Minimal Skills”

(p.233) 12 “The Basic Minimal Skills”
White Men's Law

Peter Irons

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the impact of segregated housing and schools on the performance of Black children on tests of academic skills, finding them lagging far behind White children. It shows that majority-Black school districts receive significantly less funding for education than majority-White districts. It then discusses in detail the 1973 Supreme Court case of San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, brought by Demetrio Rodriguez and other Hispanic parents of children in the Edgewood district of San Antonio, Texas, whose schools received less funding than majority-White districts because of state laws that based school funding largely on property taxes. Statistics showed that poor and largely Hispanic and Black districts with low property values could not match the funding of affluent White districts. The Supreme Court ruled 5–4 against this challenge, with Justice Lewis Powell writing for the majority in stating that Texas (and other states) need provide minority students only with “the basic minimal skills” to participate in civic affairs, with a passionate dissent by Justice Thurgood Marshall. The chapter then returns to Detroit, where Black students came in last in the nation in test scores; more than two-thirds could not even grasp fundamental skills in reading and arithmetic. This barrier to advanced education and good jobs stems from the systemic racism that places Black children far behind Whites in school readiness, raising the question: How can Blacks catch up with Whites when they start so far behind?

Keywords:   racial disparities, public school funding, San Antonio v. Rodriguez, Detroit schools, National Assessment of Educational Progress, school readiness, systemic racism, education

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